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What makes a topic unimportant?
Posted:
Apr 29, 2001 5:27 PM


The issue of what makes a topic important is well worth debate. It is not a trivial issue and it is hard to make progress.
On the other side of the coin, it is possible to make progress on the issue of what makes a topic unimportant.
As a first screening, I offer this rule:
If most the students who have been taught a certain topic are likely to have forgotten that topic shortly after the final, then that topic is likely to be unimportant. It either needs to be reworked so that students recognize its importance or it should be dropped.
Partial fractions decomposition, Inverse Secants,convergence at the endpoints, polar equations of the conics (unless Kepler is in the course), convergence tests for series of numbers are examples of the latter. Jerry Uhl   Jerry Uhl juhl@cm.math.uiuc.edu Professor of Mathematics, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign Member, Mathematical Sciences Education Board of National Research Council Calculus&Mathematica, Vector Calculus&Mathematica, DiffEq&Mathematica, Matrices,Geometry&Mathematica, NetMath
http://wwwcm.math.uiuc.edu , http://netmath.math.uiuc.edu, and http://matheverywhere.com
"Is it life, I ask, is it even prudence, To bore thyself and bore the students?"
. . . Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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