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What my students learned in math class

By Daris Howard

       Students' greatest criticism of any math class is that they didn't learn anything. Therefore, as part of their final each year, I have the students list ten things they learned.
       These items could be anything at all in relation to the class. They are allowed to write their list ahead of time and bring it to the final if they want. Most observations are quite normal,
but some make for interesting reading.
       Here are some of the classics for this year:
       1. I learned that the lottery is a tax on the mathematically illiterate.
       2. I learned that you can do anything, though you may need help to do it.
       3. I learned that my calculator is a lot smarter than I thought it was. I think it is even smarter than I am.
       4. The section of the book that I was excited about, because I knew I would understand it, is the one we decided to skip.
       5. By the time you understand the problem enough to ask questions, you don't need to ask them anymore, because you already know the answer.
       6. I learned that I really hate negative people. I think about half of them are negative, and the other half are just stupid.
       7. I learned that a smart thing to do is to find out who in the class is getting good grades and then sit by them.
       8. The girl sitting next to me kept playing games, and then she was upset when she failed the test. She said she couldn't figure out why she did so poorly. Duh.
       9. Taking a class with my brother is fun, but annoying.
       10. If you hate a class, sit by a hot girl and you will like it better.
       11. When your teacher allows you to take a 3X5 note card into a test, it really only helps if you put the right stuff on it.
       12. What I learn in a class is actually more important than the grade I get. Though a good grade is nice, too.
       13. If you work hard and learn the material quickly, you can sit by a hot girl and help her. That impresses her a lot, and she is happy to sit by you. If you put off learning it until you have forgotten what was talked about in class, then you have to go to Professor Howard and have him help you, and that's not near as much fun.
       14. Make sure you have plenty of time to get to class without hurrying. If you have to hurry, you get sweaty and nobody wants to sit by you.
       15. It is harder to pay attention when you sit on the back row.
       16. I learned that a child is a tax deduction. Maybe not the most effective one, however.
       17. Don't date someone you take a class with because it is really awkward when you break up.
       18. If you have a hot date to do homework, it is a lot more fun and you learn a lot more. (Maybe not about math, though.)
       19. I learned why I am an art major and not a math major.
       20. I learned that the stress from worrying about doing your homework is a lot worse than actually doing it.
       21. I learned the most from your talking to us about trying again and again when you fail, especially with the number of failures you have had trying to get your books and stories published. I will never forget your quote: “You need to stretch yourself beyond what you feel you are capable of. If you are not failing now and then, you are not reaching high enough." That will always remind me to keep trying.
       22. I learned that Professor Howard was actually good looking when he was in college. (I found an old yearbook picture of you.)

       Daris Howard, who grew up on an Idaho farm, is a writer and math professor at BYU Idaho. His website is darishoward.com.

(Posted 5/8/17; Opinion: General)

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