This was the first course I taught at Texas A&M. I thought it was going to be easy; it wasn’t.
Preparing for class took a lot more time than I thought it would; selecting good examples and preparing how to teach them wasn’t easy.
The counting and probability problems can be really difficult. I remember deciding to do one in class the next day. I wrote up a solution, and I thought up another way to do the problem. “Great!” I thought, “I’ll check my work.” I got a different answer. Then I thought up a third way to do the problem, figuring this would tell me which of my two previous answers was correct. I got a third, different, answer. Needless to say, I chose another example to do in class.
The next day, I hunted down several other instructors of this course. It was only when I consulted with Dr. Janice Epstein, one of the textbook authors, that I became convinced that I understood the problem and the reason it was solved the way it was. I’ve since found Joe Kahlig to valuable help in understanding why various counting and probability problems work the way they do; he can usually help me put together a clear explanation as to why a “wrong solution” that is attractive to students doesn’t work.
My teaching was rough this semester. I learned a lot. One of the most important lessons was to respect even the easy material. Another was that I do have an excellent set of colleagues to call on to discuss problems. A third was to bring me back to reality in terms of what non-mathematical freshman students can be expected to know.