Math 8 End-of-Semester Reflections

Please answer the following questions electronically in the Week 14 slot by Sunday, May 5, at midnight. Comments on group projects will be available by May 9 at the end of your Week 14 file. If you prefer to answer one or more of these questions privately, you may respond to me by e-mail.

0) Have you submitted responses for weeks 5 through 13? (This is the minimum requirement for satisfactory completion of the course. Folders should be complete by Sunday May 5 at midnight.)

I have a chapter summary for each chapter from week 5 onward. I also have the dimensionality story (story.html), though I didn't do the mid-semester reflections (w8.html).

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

In terms of my relationship to mathematics, the course has helped me to not only look at different, everyday events in a more "dimensional" way, but also, the course has enabled me to appreciate the work that is going on now in the field of mathematics and the multitude of ideas that are still to be explored.

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?

Positives would include making the course entirely electronic though at least one class period should be set aside to teach people how to "html"ize documents. I didin't learn this until the end of the course and I know I could have done a lot more if I'd learned earlier. Other positives include the use of different visual aids, and the comfortable nature of the class which allowed much discussion. The only negative might be that some of lectures did not seem too organized and as a result seemed to just ramble on. I wouldn't suggest any major changes structurally because, as a whole, the course is just fine.

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?

The advantages of a paperless course include: (among the obvious) the saving of paper, a better understanding of the world wide web (which will be vital in the future), and a general sense of accomplishing something by taking a course such as this one which challenges the student by forcing them to tackle the problems that result from a paperless course. As for disadvantages, those who are not inclined to use a computer frequently will have that much extra work, but, it is definitely worth the extra effort. This approach would be useful in just about any course, but it would be important to understand the goals of the course and analyze how they are attainable with the use of a paperless course. (In my environmental studies class during the first semester (ES 11), the majority of our work was turned in electronically and the course went very smoothly.)

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

I briefly touched on this in question two, but I think the only thing I can emphasize is that the more help you give people with the technological aspects of the course, the better they will be able to actually participate and share their ideas.

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)?

I would skim through the other submissions, but usually I would not respond to others work. For some reason, I felt somewhat uncomfortable about that. As for Prof. B.'s comments, in all honesty, I never looked at them. This was probably because I felt most of the questions that I brought up in my summary were answered in class.

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

Alright, this is the most important of these questions. Well, our group was lucky in the sense that everyone seemed to have different interests so we were all able to work on our own areas. I was interested in the artistic and literary aspects of higher-level geometry. This didn't coincide with anyone else so I was able to work on this by myself. I also found enough information on the basic history of geometry (with respect to literature and art) that I thought it would helpful to add that section. So, I finished with the historical, artistic, and literary perspectives of Geometry Updated/Extended. Before the deadline, our group got together at the CIT to work on the finishing touches, such as scanning in pictures, etc. I had never 'html'-ized a document before so I learned very quickly, and once that was done, we were able to put everything together. As a quick note, one thing that I would like to do would be to interweave the final projects so my section could have links to say Jenny's art page in the maze project or Tim's literature section on mazes.

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?

I think the creation of groups was a good idea because it allows a wide variety of people with many different ideas to come together. Our group had a good mixture of people in terms of abilities, from drawing to writing to dealing with higher-level mathematical concepts to interests in literature and art. If each group has a good mix, then the projects should be all that much better. If, however, there isn't a good mix, I can foresee that being a problem. That would be the only negative I would have about the group experience.

Prof. Banchoff's final response