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Topic: What makes a topic unimportant?
Replies: 1   Last Post: Apr 29, 2001 7:49 PM

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Jerry Uhl

Posts: 339
Registered: 12/6/04
What makes a topic unimportant?
Posted: Apr 29, 2001 5:27 PM
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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
-Jerry Uhl
Jerry Uhl
Professor of Mathematics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Member, Mathematical Sciences Education Board of National Research Council
Calculus&Mathematica, Vector Calculus&Mathematica,
DiffEq&Mathematica, Matrices,Geometry&Mathematica, NetMath ,, and

"Is it life, I ask, is it even prudence,
To bore thyself and bore the students?"

. . . Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



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