Homework Notebook

// What is the class policy on homework?

The single most important determining factor for your grade in this class will be the amount and quality of homework that you complete on a daily basis. By learning and practicing skills with homework problems every day you will prepare yourself to do well on the two Midterm Exams and the Final Exam. Every thing you struggle with and then learn while doing homework is another thing you won’t get wrong on the next quiz or test.

In addition, I want you to learn how to take responsibility for your own learning, as that will be much more reflective of the expectations you will face in your future daily life. You will be expected to learn what you need to learn on your own, and, in particular, this will mean identifying what you don’t yet know and then working to learn it.

// Will homework be graded?

For both of the reasons above, I will not be collecting, grading, or giving points for homework. I have found that students do better work when they do homework for themselves rather than to “tick a box” to get points from the instructor.

Instead of having particular pre-assigned homework problems from each section, you will choose exercises yourself as needed to bolster and increase your own unique skill level in each topic. Instead of handing in your homework, you will record all work in a special class Notebook that you will use throughout the course.

// Yaay!  …Wait, oh no!

Having “no homework” sounds great until you realize that you do actually have homework, and lots of it, but that you are the one responsible for figuring out exactly what you need to do and then actually making sure that you do it every day. It’s kind of like going to college and being excited that your parents are no longer making you do chores every day, but then realizing that you still have to clean your dorm room all the time unless you want to live in a pile of filth.

// Getting it done

It can be difficult to choose your own homework problems, so here is some advice. When choosing problems, don’t just do the first few problems in each block; instead choose a wide range of problems to work on. Remember to push yourself to learn how to do problems that you don’t yet know how to do, rather than just practicing what you know. To reward you for looking broadly over all of the homework problems, I pledge to create the vast majority of quiz and test questions from the problems in the book, possibly with numbers or features changed slightly. All exercises from each section are fair game except for those that I call out as not being part of the material for this course.

I sympathize with the fact that it can be difficult to motivate yourself to do work on a daily basis without a hard deadline, especially given the rigorous demands you face in college from other courses and activities. To help you stay on track, and to reward you for your ability to do so, you will be allowed to use your Notebook for each Daily Quiz, for occasional Homework Quizzes, for the last ten minutes of every Test, and for the last twenty minutes of the Final Exam.

// A warning

Be careful! Because I won’t be collecting homework every day, you will be the only person responsible on a daily basis for making sure that you aren’t falling behind in the course. Most of your grade in this class will be determined by your performance on quizzes and tests, and if you fall behind on your homework then you will not be able to perform well on those exams.

I have found that failure to do a sufficient amount of homework is by far the most significant factor that contributes to students failing the first test. Please see me as soon as possible if you are having trouble keeping up with the homework. Don’t wait until it is too late!

// Notebook rules

There are only three rules for your class Notebook:

  1. Everything in the Notebook must be physically written by you in your own handwriting.
  2. Your notebook must be spiral-bound or otherwise permanently bound; loose pages, taped-in pages, or photocopied/pre-printed pages are not permitted.
  3. You can write absolutely anything you want in your notebook.

Be smart about what you put in your Notebook. Ask yourself: What would you want to see in your Notebook during the last 10 minutes of a Test? What would help you the most? Note that “answers copied from the back of the book with no reasoning or work” is never going to be the answer to that question.

// Minimum Notebook requirements

I recommend that you include the following in your Notebook for each section we cover in class:

  • Notes from doing the reading before class
  • Notes taken during class
  • A wide selection of exercises, including at minimum:
    • Thinking Back — as needed
    • Concepts — T/F + Examples + at least 5 more
    • Skills — A wide variety of at least 20 problems
    • Applications — At least 1 problem
    • Proofs — At least 2 problems
    • Thinking Forward — as desired
    • Chapter Review Problems — suggest doing all of these
  • Summary or guidepost information to help you on quizzes and tests

I am happy to talk with you anytime about your Notebook and how to best use it to support your learning. Please bring your Notebook with you to every class, and every time you visit me in office hours.