Monday, June 13, 2011

Amazing sentences: Calculus

I'm reading a paper that attempts to identify the best intermediate microeconomics textbook in terms of student outcomes at a Canadian university. Since I just learned I will be teaching intermediate micro next semester, I thought this was an important question. Among the variables they look at are the grades of prerequisite courses: intro micro, intro macro, and intro calculus. If a student took a prerequisite multiple times, they sensibly use the most recent course since that probably best reflects the student's current knowledge. Okay, fine. Then there's this line:
"Some students attempted introductory microeconomics and introductory macroeconomics up to four times and Calculus I seven times."
Four times in intro economics? Four? Clearly, someone never learned about decreasing marginal utility and comparative advantage (and hence needed to retake the course) or else they would have decided their comparative advantage led elsewhere.

Calculus I seven times??? SEVEN TIMES?? When the Lovely and Gracious gets back home, I will have to ask her what a career counselor would advise a student taking any course seven times. I vacillate between admiration, stunned incredulity, and pity.

Now someone might argue that I took Calc 1 twice. I took Calc for Business in my freshman year despite the advice of the economics dean to take the real Calc 1. Suffice it to say, there was a girl involved in the decision, a girl who eventually turned me down when I finally asked her out. Oh well. I took Calc 1 for Nerds two years later when I returned from my mission. I aced both courses and didn't particularly enjoy either experience -- my later math courses were some of my least enjoyed at BYU -- but it was probably a good outcome for me, refreshing and expanding on what I learned earlier.

I can see taking some courses multiple times. I took advanced social ballroom dance 3-4 times because there were different dances (and different dance partners!) every time. It was fun.

The same intro calculus course? Seven times? I cannot imagine putting myself through such an ordeal. Why punish yourself like that? If you're planning on going into a profession that needs it, and you just can't learn it, that ought to suggest a change in plans. If you're not going into a profession that needs it, why are you taking it? This poor person!

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