Instructor: Tara Holm
Quantitative Evaluation:
 Lectures:
 Clarity of lectures: 7.87
 Organization of material: 8.23
 Willingness to help: 9.44
 Recitations:
 Clarity of recitations: 8.66
 Organization of material: 8.16
 Willingness to help: 9.53
 Teaching Assistants:
 Clarity of TA explanations:
7.93
 TA patience: 8.43
 TA willingness to help: 9.21
 Overall course:
 Overall course rigor and challenge:
7.72
 Course organization and design:
7.98
 Clear relationship to curriculum:
7.67
 Administration:
 Administrative friendliness:
9.12
 Administrative responsiveness:
8.39
Qualitative Evaluation:
On the whole, the first
month of ArsDigita University has been quite successful. A great deal of material
was covered in the first three and a half weeks. The content is equivalent
to most of the material in two courses at MIT (18.001 and 18.006). The
students feel that ADU is a collaborative, supportive and noncompetitive environment.
The students were asked to evaluate
not only on the program content but also the faculty and staff with whom they interacted.
Lectures (Tara):
Overall the lectures were
very clear. Tara effectively met the challenge of teaching an audience
with an extremely wide range of mathematical sophistication (we have Ph.D’s
in engineering and students who last saw math at age 15 in high school). Most
of the students agree that Tara did a fine job of presenting the material. She not
only laid out the material in an organized fashion but she was also very receptive
to questions and provided helpful and responsive answers.
The only common suggestion is that
Tara should provide a more clear and careful overview of where each lecture
is heading, and where each lecture fits into the whole course. Many
students complained that they were occasionally disoriented by this omission.
Having the lecture notes was very
helpful since it reduced note taking considerably. Printing out lecture notes
and distributing them to students was a good idea.
Tara’s adhoc review sessions
towards the end were very helpful and highly appreciated. Perhaps something
like this could be integrated into the curriculum regularly.
Recitations (Shai):
Most of the students feel
that the lecture/recitation format as it is envisioned is sound. They
liked the change from Tara to Shai. Shai’s informal recitations were
useful, not only for addressing questions, but also for introducing interesting
applications of the material. The recitations were enjoyed by most of
the students for their informality and their interactivity.
Problem Sets:
Regarding problem sets,
the general impression was that they were more difficult than the exams. They
were hard, they required a lot of conceptual exploration, and they encouraged
explaining things back and forth. They were challenging enough that people who
had already some understanding of the subject had to think in order to finish
them, but were not so challenging that the beginners had no hope of finishing.
According to one of the student
“the problem sets were the definite highlight of the course”.
Exams:
The exams were a little
bit on the easy side conceptually and did little to distinguish the top students.
This is partly because many of our students have studied this material at the
college level before. None of the students who were seeing this material
for the first time, had this particular complaint.
A large percentage of students
recommended more word problems to be on the exams, since they require the
ability to decode a problem. This feedback was available early
and was implemented even this year in the later stages of the course, especially
in Linear Algebra. We plan to implement this change throughout the course
next year.
Books/Texts:
The “Quick Calculus”
book by Daniel Kleppner and Norman Ramsey was well received, but the “Matrices
and Transformation” by Petfrezzo was unanimously criticized.
In particular, it was missing treatment of certain topics completely, and it
was too detailed in other places. They did find the reference text, “Introduction
to Linear Algebra” by Gilbert Strang, to be valuable, but Strang is too
theoretical for our treatment.
Relation to Computer
Science:
Most of the students were
not sure how Calculus fits into computer science. To them, it just seemed merely
a traditional prerequisite to any kind of engineering discipline. They felt
that Linear Algebra was more directly correlated with computer science.
Teaching Assistants
(Mike, Dimitri, Ben and Rif):
According to the students,
the TA’s were excellent, and often conducted minilectures to reexplain
lecture and section material. So helpful were those lessons that the class now
has a calculus and linear algebra toolkit that includes things with names like
“Dimitri’s Method” and “Rif’s Explanation”.
System Administration:
It was generally felt that
though the computer support was adequate for the math class (which was all done
on paper), but this level of computer support will definitely be inadequate
for next month’s curriculum.
The network works very poorly if
at all, the workstations are subject to random failures, computers often fail
to boot properly, and students have no access to their machines to install
favorite programs, or indeed simply to tinker as students of computer science
are wont to do.
A major demand on the part of the
students is to have onsite email accounts (arsdigita email accounts).
Most helpful staff:
Though the entire teaching
staff was stellar, Dimitri and Ryan were singled out as exceptionally helpful
teaching fellows and received major thumbs up.
Future changes to
the course:
There should be more exploration
of the concepts such as differential equations, linear programming and game
theory.
The most important improvement
would be to replace the unhelpful Pettofrezzo book.
A general suggestion was that the
pace of calculus section could be picked up a bit, in order to have more time
to explore applications of linear algebra.
There should be more evening tutorials
for those who need a bit more grounding on fundamentals. The informal atmosphere
of small TAled recitations would be useful for students feeling left behind.
Rather than putting up hints directly
on the exam, the exam could be set up so that a student could ask for the
hint and lose some portion of the credit.
The schedule of when teachers and
TA’s will be in should be made available to the students. The reason
is that certain TA’s have been able to explain different types of questions.
Some more optional practice sets
which are not graded for students who had the time and inclination.
One relatively hard problem could
be included at the end of each set (for extra credit).
A more concise syllabus with readings
and topics listed in advance. Being able to preread can be a great aid in
not getting lost during the lecture.
Some kind of “math vocabulary,
terminology and symbolism” handout would be useful.
Problem set solutions to be posted
more promptly.
Use of Matlab which would lead
to less time spent in mechanical manipulations in linear algebra and more
time in problem solving.
