This is a course for want-to-be engineers, math and science majors who are unprepared for calculus when starting college. This is a very vulnerable population; there are many students from very small schools in rural communities, that may not have had a talented mathematics teacher. There are a lot of students with weak mathematical skills who are not really interested in math or engineering, but whose parents want them to major in engineering so that they will get a job. There are a lot of minority students in these classes, and the heartbreaking thing is that I don’t think we serve them well at all in this environment. We cram these students in to large classes of 150 each. An instructor might have 450 students to teach during the semester. This is very depersonalizing. It inhibits conversation between instructor and students. That said, Texas A&M University has a gifted instructor dedicated to this population, Dr. Sherry Scarborough teaches this class regularly and has many streaming videos on course topics. She served as team-lead the semester I taught this class.
This is one of the most difficult classes I have taught. Not because the material was difficult, but because of the day to day heartbreak of dealing with students who might be trying their guts out, but who apparently weren’t getting anywhere. I don’t know if the trying extended to when they were out of my sight; and I hope it didn’t given the sorry grades I gave out. There were also a lot of students who were very unmotivated. I didn’t do a good job of motivating them.
If I had a do-over, I would be much more the drill-sergeant from day one. Put those laptops and phones away. Pay attention. Work on this problem while I walk around the room. I didn’t use enough active learning in this class, and I hadn’t gotten the technique yet of asking students to do something then walking around while they did it. This keeps me from trying to interrupt their thinking too soon, and it lets me see what is going on in the class. Trust me, the phones and distractions disappear more often when I walk by! I think I had this down a lot better when I taught Business Math to 300 students.