
Re: Failing Linear Algebra:
Posted:
Apr 29, 2004 11:47 AM


In article <1qp1901bp0lbpc55iq0l2s13a5l0oh1ghv@4ax.com>, David C. Ullrich <ullrich@math.okstate.edu> wrote:
>>>PS  This student's definition is no worse than the average that I >>>would get here from a student preparing for our final exam. >> >>So why am I not getting a C? > >What gives you the idea that if you're doing as well as the average >student in the class you have a C coming?
Actually, only about half of our linear algebra course focuses on the underlying theory, that is, half of the final exam reads "Prove...", "Show..." or "Explain..."; the other half reads "Find...", or "Calculate..." and students who are really adroit at matrix calculations (eigenvalues, GramSchmidt, etc.) can still get a C in the course with a very halting command of linear independence and so on. We have tried to be responsive to the departments like meteorology and economics whose students never see vectors in any other format than column vectors in R^n. (Can you say, "Rochester"?) Sad but true. I prefer to think of it as "being on the cutting edge of moral flexibility".
Of course as David Ullrich is perhaps suggesting, there's no reason to think that the average student needs to get a C in a course. The university's description of the letter grades suggests that there is a "curve" for all classes, e.g. that C means "average", but in the math department at least, grades are usually assigned against an absolute standard, e.g. C means "acceptable" or something like that. It is often the case that the average student performance is unacceptable (and occasionally true that the average performance is excellent, i.e. the average student in a class gets an A ).
dave

