Reflections-Math 8

Irene Klein

1) How has your view of yourself in relationship to mathematics changed over the course of the semester?

This past semester, I feel that I have begun to see a different outlook on mathematics. Often, in high school and some college courses, mathematics is restricted to numbers, and one tends to lose the visual aspects of mathematics. This course has revitalized the visual aspect of mathematics. It has shown that mathematics can be a very visual subject, not just numbers on a page. In addition, this course has brought together the humanities and mathematics, and has shown that mathematics is everywhere.

2) For you, what are the most positive and the most negative aspects of the course? Would you suggest any major changes in structure or emphasis?

I really enjoyed working on the final project in this course. The final project gave us a chance to go in depth on one topic in relationship to dimensionality. I also enjoyed linking the cross-curriculum approach this course takes in relationship to dimensionality. The most negative aspect of this course was probably the weekly responses. Though not having a specific assignment in relationship to the chapters enabled students to think freely, it was sometimes difficult for me to find something really relevant to say about some of the chapters.

3) Comment at length on the concept of the paperless course. What are the advantages or disadvantages of this approach? In what ways could such an approach work in other courses?

A paperless course seems to be one of the logical progressions from the advancements that society has made today. There are many advantages to having a paperless course. First, on the environmental side, since there is no paper used, trees are being saved. Besides this, there are many other advantages. One advantage is that all of the students' assignments are available for others to read. Students know what other students are thinking and what questions they have. In addition students can respond to other students works. In this way, students are able to interact with each other. One of the disadvantages of a paperless course though is that we are relying on computers and machines. This may cause a problem if the server handling the web space malfunctions. Though this is rare, it can cause a problem if an assignment is due at a time when the server is down. In addition, putting assignments on a web page means that students' assignments are no longer private. As a result, some students may be afraid to write some things that they would normally write if the professor was the only person who saw the assignment.

As for this approach applying to other courses, this approach has the ability to work in many other courses. For instance, in Chemistry 31 last semester, our lab manual and problem set questions and answers were on the web instead of buying a lab manual and handing out the problem set questions. Other classes at Brown, instead of dropping in assignments, either post them on a BBS or e-mail them in to the professor. Though classes such as these have been using today's technology, they could "step it up" and ftp assignments so that they are available to other students to read and comment on.

4) Comment on your experiences with the technology used in the course. What can be done to make things easier in the future?

I personally did not have a problem with the technology in this course because I already knew how to use HTML. However, some students did not and therefore were unable to get their assignments on the web. A way to make this easier for people who do not know how to use ftp programs or HTML to get their assignments on the web would be to offer a tutorial session for these students.

5) Describe your experience with the weekly assignments and the "response from Prof. B." feature. Comment on the public nature of these interchanges, and the possibility of linkings among student work and communication with the other class members. To what extent did you read the submissions of other students (and/or the professor's responses)?

The public nature of the weekly assignments enabled me to find out other students' opinions on the Chapters. However I was never able to read everyone's comments. I did read Professor Banchoff's responses to my responses, and if I read someone else's response, I read Professor Banchoff's response to that response.

6) Describe in some detail your activities as part of your final project team.

I was involved with the "Mazes" final project. My responsibilities in this project were the Introduction and Recreation and Games. The goal for the introduction was to provide an overview of Mazes and what the rest of the project entailed. For "Recreation and Games" we decided to provide a list of links for people to peruse. These links show the prevalence of mazes in society today as well as the broad base of subjects mazes are found in. As a result, our group chose to leave all of the maze links in, even if the link's relevance to mazes was small. Finally, I helped put some of the documents into HTML as well as with the layout of the page.

7) In the old days, the final project was mostly an individual effort, on the order of a ten-page paper. How would you characterize the experience of working on a team, and how did that affect your effort in the final project?

Working on a team for a final project had many advantages. First, everyone in the group had many different strengths, which we were able to pool together to complete the project. In this way, we were able to learn from each other. Also, working on a team can have a positive effect because, if a person does not do his work, he is letting the whole team down. However, team work can also have a negative effect because a person may also be able to not pull his own weight, but the rest of the team may compensated and do the rest of the work for that person. As for my own personal experience, I feel that I did not have as much of a concrete, written part of the project as some of the other people in my group. As a result, some of my work does not necessarily show up on the page. However, I thoroughly enjoyed working on the final project with a group. It was a great experience.

Prof. Banchoff's Response