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Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.

Friday, September 30, 2005

11:26
Friday Random 10 

  1. "Ladder," Joan Osborne, ONXRT Live From The Archives, Vol. 5
  2. "Title and Registration," Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism
  3. "You, Wonderful You," Gene Kelly, Summer Stock
  4. "Stockings," Suzanne Vega, WXRV Live From The River Music Hall Vol. 1
  5. "Tripping Billies," Dave Matthews Band, ONXRT Live From The Archives, Vol. 3
  6. "Garden Party," Rick Nelson, Garden Party
  7. "Ooze," Tony Levin, Live Boots
  8. "Texas Skies," The Freddy Jones Band, FM 101.9 New Music Sampler: Music to a Muse
  9. "Turn of the Century," Daniel Banas
  10. "Yellow Moon ," Neville Brothers, ONXRT Live From The Archives, Vol. 3
iTunes was apparently really into radio station CDs today.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

12:18
E-mail from student 

I am looking at the homework page, and it says that section X is due on 
September 30. But I noticed that I already did section X and had turned 
it in on September 23. Do I have to do it over again?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

21:01
Observed 

So of course it's the second class in a row of winging it that the course coordinator stops by for an unannounced observation. That said, I think I did pretty well.

07:39
Boondocks 

I'm not sure if the current Boondocks series is in bad taste (and certainly only a black cartoonist could get away with it), but it's wonderfully funny.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

18:55
Making grading bearable 

Grading bad tests is always painful. My new solution: I sort students by performance in my gradebook, then grade the students with the worst current grades first, guaranteeing that I get to end my grading on a high note.

12:07
Teaching report 

Yesterday, with no sleep and less preparation, I ended up winging my algebra classes. That said, it seemed to go remarkably well: I had students work through a number of exercises with some guidance and I could see, looking over their shoulders that they were getting it. So why did I have one student then e-mail me with a basic question (we were doing variation, and she asked what inverse, direct variation, etc. meant) after class? She was doing the exercises with everyone else. She doesn't have an accent or apparent inability to understand what's happening in class.

Meanwhile today in the liberal arts math class, we began the presentations by the students. Most notable is how much this acts as a chance to see how (and how not) to teach material. There were differing levels of ability among the students who presented today, but overall the material was presented accurately (with some small corrections needed along the way, which, to my pleasure, were supplied by the class!).

Monday, September 26, 2005

06:27
Grading follies 

Question: Write as an algebraic expression: "x is between -1 and -3."

Answer: "-3x-1"

Sunday, September 25, 2005

23:17
Meet the blogroll: Think Again 

More than any other blog Think Again has affected my teaching. I've happily stolen puzzles wholesale from the site to use in my class and will continue to do so. The philosophy of the site is best summarized with this statement from the welcome page:
If you are a math teacher or a parent you should feed your kids problems and challenges, not answers and the remote. Good problems are not easy to come by, so I will collect some here.

There's a mix of easily put into the classroom problems to random questions. I've become especially fond of the series of related puzzles presentations and have used that in my class to come up with my problems to offer the liberal arts class at the beginning of the class (which has resulted in some wonderful unplanned synchonicities).

Our guide, Jan Nordgren, is a high school math teacher, and if Think Again! is any indication, a damned good one.

23:15
I should be grading instead of doing this 

You are a

Social Liberal
(65% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(15% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Socialist




Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

12:20
Stuff and nonsense 

So far this weekend: Coming up this weekend:

Friday, September 23, 2005

09:49
Friday Random 10 

  1. "Civil War," Guns N' Roses, Nobody's Child - Romanian Angel Appeal
  2. "Close Your Eyes," Grey Eye Glances, A Little Voodoo
  3. "Bruja," Sirius, Running In Circles
  4. "Mary," Young Dubliners, FM 101.9 New Music Sampler: Sketchbook
  5. "Junior Citizen," Poster Children, Junior Citizen
  6. "New Year's Eve In A Haunted House," Raymond Scott, The Raymond Scott Project
  7. "Everytime We Say Goodbye," Betty Carter, Night And Day. The Cole Porter Songbook - Vol 1
  8. "Om Mani Padme Hum," Bija, Seeds of Prayer
  9. "Homeward Bound," Paul Simon & George Harrison, Nobody's Child - Romanian Angel Appeal
  10. "Max Graham "Airtight"," Dave Ralph, Love Parade: Berlin

Thursday, September 22, 2005

22:13
Feeling like an authority 

I work one hour a week in the math tutoring center at DCC. Until today, I've not had any tutors working with me so it's always a challenge dealing with a roomful of students who need help. Today I got two tutors to pick up some of the work load. What was most fascinating about this was that suddenly I was the authority figure. I've realized that outside of the classroom, I've really never been a boss or supervisor or anything of that ilk. It's quite the unique feeling.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

14:01
This has to suck 

So you live in New Orleans and your city is pretty much wiped out by a hurricane so you evacuate to Texas.

Where three weeks later, another hurricane swoops down on you.

I wonder who God's trying to kill.

00:12
The point is moot 

I was thinking that with all the stress of being behind after being sick that I might consider dropping one of my classes. This is a traumatic prospect for me because I'm not the sort of person who drops classes. In fact, I can list every single time I've dropped a class in my whole life: Then there was the fact that it would mess up my planned schedule for this round of grad school where I'd be finished after three semesters. And I would have a hard time picking a class to drop. Probably Complex Analysis. But then I was looking at deadlines and realized that the drop deadline was last week. I could drop with a W, but forget it. I'm committed. There's no dropping for this boy.

00:09
Teaching journal 

I've been thinking that I really need to be keeping a teaching journal. Not here, I think, if only because it would be painfully dull. I want to know things like the beamer presentation for class 8 of the algebra class was too much to fit in the 50 minute lecture period, or that students asked about X and Y. Really I should keep one for each class that I'm teaching, but I don't think that I'll do it for the liberal arts math class if only because I don't anticipate teaching the class again in the foreseeable future: The move to the other side of the megalopolis means that i won't be teaching at NCC and FCC any more.

Monday, September 19, 2005

19:30
basmati woes 

Anyone out there using basmati with Easy Grade Pro? I can't seem to get basmati to accept my basmati.txt file from EGP. I keep getting the message:
You may only submit your own files. Please log in as the appropriate user and resubmit this file OR verify that your username and password is typed correctly in your gradebook software.
And yet I've got the same username (TNAME in the basmati.txt file) and password (TID in the basmati.txt file) in the basmati.txt file that I use to log in. Any thoughts? Am I correct in my belief that classes are created by uploading basmati.txt?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

20:44
Don't forget 

Tomorrow is talk like a pirate day. Avast! Ahoy! Argh! Shiver me timbers!

20:40
Just try and buy a Prius, I dare you! 

My wife and I stopped by the local Toyota dealership today to look into buying a Prius (her commute jumps to 90 miles a day in a couple of weeks). Not surprisingly, there were none in stock. Surprisingly, the sales guy seemed to have no interest in following up on the sale. He got my name and number, but there was no, "here's how to order one," or even an attempt to check other dealerships on the computer. No Prius on the lot so he had no interest in the sale. How strange.

00:22
Spotted at the arab festival 

A booth for the FBI. I wonder what their message was. I'm debating between "we're really not that scary" and "inform on your friends and neighbors--ask us how".

Saturday, September 17, 2005

21:57
Meet the blogroll: MathForge 

MathForge bills itself as "power tools for online mathematics." It's really a hodgepodge of links to articles on mathematics from around the world. It tends to be a bit tolerant of cranks, or willing to entertain dubious possibilities (e.g., an undergraduate's simple "proof" of the four color theorem), but the readership is remarkably gentle to these things and one hopes that for the feedback that he received, the undergrad will be a better mathematician. It's updated a bit infrequently, but perhaps is better for that.

Friday, September 16, 2005

12:04
Friday random ten 

  1. "Telescope Eyes," Eisley, Laughing City
  2. "The Delivery Man," Elvis Costello, Futurama Sessions - EP
  3. "Summertime," Keith Emerson, Changing States
  4. "Octet in E Flat Major, Op. 20: III. Scherzo: Allegro leggierissimo", Emerson String Quartet, Mendelssohn: The Complete String Quartets
  5. "Back to Me," Blame Sally, Blame Sally
  6. "Sunbeam (Deepsky's Desert Sunset Mix)," Submarine, Skin Diving
  7. "In Your Eyes (Special Mix)," Peter Gabriel, In Your Eyes - Single
  8. "Es Una Maquina," Enanitos Verdes, Solo Exitos Con Los Enanitos Verdes
  9. "Bird on a Wire," k.d. lang, Hymns Of The 49th Parallel
  10. "Until I Get You Back," Kevin Gilbert, Sometimes Why

11:33
This is just wrong 

Your Superhero Profile
Your Superhero Name is The Gorilla Wombat Your Superpower is Artificial Intelligence Your Weakness is Meat Your Weapon is Your Lunar Whip Your Mode of Transportation is Kite
What's your Superhero Name?
My superhero name is Pretty Gosh Darn Good Man. My weapon is a plumbing snake. A magic plumbing snake. And my weakness is aluminum. And kites are for sissies. I get around the way all the best superheroes do: By driving a convertible.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

21:15
Proof that tetrahedron with side length n can be composed of n^3 tetrahedrons with side length 1 

Anyone know a quick and easy version of this? That the volume of the tetrahedron will be sqrt2/12n3 while the smaller tetrahedrons have volume sqrt2/12 is a nice start, it only establishes the plausibility, and not the actual constructibility (after all, I can say the same thing about, e.g., a sphere but I can't take 27 spheres with radius 1 and make a sphere of radius 3 out of them).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

20:54
Class progress 

I've received back one homework assignment in two of my classes now. I need to be a bit more careful in my proofs. In Complex Analysis I got an 85% on the first assignment. In Algebra, I only pulled 75% (horrors!). The Algebra one was a bit grating because I knew when I wrote up the homework that I was being weak at exactly the points where I was marked down.

My plan: Go back over the homework and be sure that I can do the problems where I lost points perfectly.

And Algebra has finally gotten a bit more engaging. Still nothing new, but the pace has picked up and I actually took more than 2 pages of notes today.

I'm nearly caught up from my illness of last week, but I do have two homework assignments to complete by 7p tomorrow. Neither is hard, but both are long.

20:52
I got my first crank today! 

While in the math study center, a very soft-spoken older man came in. He had been sent by the people in the department office. He believed that he had proved P!=NP. To his credit, his quest was actually to find someone who could let him know the problem with his proof. As far as I'm aware we don't have any combinatorics people in the department, so I politely referred him to Caltech.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

18:36
Book of the month club 

I'm thinking about adding a feature to the blogroll with monthly discussions about different books of interest to academics (or at least people like me). Here's the preliminary plan:

October: My Freshman Year
November: Getting What You Came For

Feel free to suggest other books in comments.

18:19
Note to self 

It makes a huge difference whether I've read ahead in the text before class or not. I'd best get on top of this. Which of course is all the harder having fallen behind.

Monday, September 12, 2005

20:08
Post-recovery notes 

So now that I'm almost back to normal an assortment of notes. * Because, come on, you're showing up at the end of the second week of classes to join my class?!
** You know, in case this whole college professor thing doesn't work out after all.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

21:53
Oh brother 

First song at mass today: "America the Beautiful." Note to self: When September 11th is on a Sunday in the future, go to Spanish mass.

10:10
The move is back on 

For February 1st, although I hope my wife makes it that long. She was offered and is accepting a position working for a dot com on the other side of the megalopolis.

It's a good thing we got her that Monster adapter for her iPod, although I think that we'll be shopping for a Prius very soon.

Friday, September 09, 2005

12:08
Meet the blogroll: Tall, Dark and Mysterious 

Möbius Stripper's account of life in academic life has of late transformed into an account of life outside of academia as she discovers that it's not that easy to hold a teaching post at the college level with a mere master's degree. She's cranky when it comes to calculators and most contemporary curricular materials, not always without justification. Perhaps the bigger surprise to me was when I realized that she was she. If you were to dig through the meet the blogroll posts thusfar, you'd discover that all of the previous bloggers were female with the exception of the community college dean, so one inference would be to assume that all the others are, but for some reason I had assumed that MS was male. This was apparently not an uncommon assumption since MS felt compelled to write a post on the topic! At least I don't think I'd ever let my ignorance become public (until now).

11:50
Friday Shuffle 

  1. "Puppet Suite (Tired Old Man)," Kevin Gilbert, Unreleased version
  2. "Gunshot Superfly," Electric Gauchos, Blue Orb
  3. "Sway," The Perishers, Sway - EP
  4. "Hungy Heart," Glass House/Scott Richards
  5. "Fly on a Windshield," Genesis, FADE 006 - Six of the Best
  6. "Goodnight Little One," Ric Ocasek, Nobody's Child - Romanian Angel Appeal
  7. "Tele-vee-shun," Stan Freberg, The Very Best of Stan Freberg
  8. "King of California," Dave Alvin, KSCA Live From The Music Hall Vol. 1
  9. "Wonderful Remark," Van Morison, Nobody's Child - Romanian Angel Appeal
  10. "Last Thing," Diana Anaid, Beautiful Obscene

Thursday, September 08, 2005

21:58
Too good not to post 

21:55
Fever 

After three days, I'm almost recovered from a nasty bout of what the doctors say was Gastroenteritis. I've got a little plastic bracelet on my wrist and an IV mark on my arm as proof of my trip to the hospital. Needless to say, this has not been an especially positive week for me in terms of teaching and academics. On the former front, I ended up having to cancel Wednesday's and Thursday's classes. On the latter, I've ended up missing all of this week's classes. I'll see how much this damages me come next week.

Monday, September 05, 2005

10:41
Virtual PC 

Because my wife has an MSDN subscription (poor dear, she has to work under Windows for a living), she was able to download a copy of Virtual PC for me.* I'm in the midst of the install. Installing VPC itself was pretty quick, but the install of Windows 2000 pro that I've had sitting around since I gave away my old PC has been taking forever. But at least I'll be able to administer MathXL which requires Windows and Internet Explorer.

* Interestingly Unsurprisingly, the MSDN web site has some typical busted JavaScript that ONLY works under Internet Explorer on Windows.

09:36
Notes from a holiday weekend 

Pleasure before pain: I spent Friday evening through yesterday having fun. My wife and I went to a street fair where I saw the most white people that I've seen in one place in a very long time. I like my school(s) better where I have a much wider range of people around me. Also at the street fair, I was spotted by one of my students. This was the first time that I've encountered by one of my students outside of school. She was really happy to see me. That's pretty cool.

Saturday I played in my last orchestra concert for a while (it would be foolish to try to meet orchestra time requirements during the coming school year). Then Sunday was a day of playing games and swimming at a party. Now it's time to get down to work and finish planning and homework for the week.

So I really shouldn't be spending much time writing here, but this is such a great way to procrastinate.

09:14
OK, an economist said it so maybe people will believe me now 

And what's more a libertarian economist.

And it? It is that cutting gas taxes only increases profits for the gas companies.

And I didn't need no stinking economics degree to know that gas taxes have very little impact on the price at the pump: I used to live on the boundary between two counties where there was a $.05/gallon differential in gas taxes. And yet gasoline was often cheaper in the higher tax county.

Friday, September 02, 2005

15:13
Odd statistic 

I'm experimenting with MathXL* for my algebra class this semester. For the first quiz the class divided** into three roughly equally-sized groups: Those who did the homework on MathXL, those who did the homework by hand, those who did not do the homework. As expected the on-line homework group performed slightly better than the off-line homework group. However, the no homework group tied with the on-line homework group. How strange!

* I'll write more about this later in the weekend or perhaps next week.
** This was a self-selection. By no means would I encourage in any way that 1/3 of the class not do homework.

Update: corrected a typo in the above. Group 3 was "did not do the homework."

09:37
Friday random 10 

  1. "You Get What You Give," New Radicals, Live At The World Cafe - Vol. 8
  2. "Lamento Boliviano," Enanitos Verdes, [live MP3 from band website]
  3. "Coming Home," The Tea Party, Edges of Twilight
  4. "My City Was Gone," The Pretenders, ONXRT Live From The Archives, Vol. 4
  5. "Headlights," Dish, FM 101.9 New Music Sampler: Sketchbook
  6. "Walk Through the Fire," Peter Gabriel, Against All Odds
  7. "Social Situation," Lone Kent, FM 101.9 New Music Sampler - Sole Music
  8. "Walk Through the Fire [unreleased version]," Peter Gabriel
  9. "The Best Laid Plans," Kevin Gilbert, The Shaming of the True
  10. "Rave4," Fractal, Continuum

09:19
Things I've seen on campus this week 

Thursday, September 01, 2005

13:08
One of these is no longer an option. 

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Your personality type is RLUAI
You are reserved, moody, unstructured, accommodating, and intellectual, and may prefer a city which matches those traits.

The largest representation of your personality type can be found in the these U.S. cities: Washington DC, Portland/Salem, Richmond, New Orleans, Norfolk, Denver, Albuquerque/Santa Fe, Kansas City, St. Louis, New York City, Indianapolis, San Antonio and these international countries/regions Slovenia, Croatia, Caribbean, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Belgium, Guam, Ukraine, Argentina, Greece, Brazil, Israel, Wales, Finland, Germany, Poland

What Places In The World Match Your Personality?
City Reviews at CityCulture.org
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