Midsemester Grades & Exam #2 grades are posted

You can find them on the “Grades” page (one of the menu items above). ¬†The Midsemester Grades sheet contains detailed grade information, including your score on Exam #2. ¬†The exams will be returned on Tuesday.

Prof. Reitz


Announcements: Exam #2 / Office Hours

  1. Exam #2 will be returned on Tuesday (sorry if there was any confusion on this question).
  2. Office hours today will be from 11am-12pm.

Prof. Reitz

OpenLab #2 Survey RESULTS

Thanks to everyone for completing the survey. ¬†I want to share the results and make some observations. ¬†I’ll follow up with another post discussing possible responses.

Questions 1-8, rate the usefulness of various activities.

Data.¬†I converted the ratings into a numerical scale from 4 = Extremely Helpful to 0 = Not At All Helpful. ¬†I calculated the average “usefulness rating” for each question – the results are presented below, with the questions listed in order according to their rating.

(Extremely Helpful = 4,
Not at all = 0,
Don’t Know = not counted)
3. Professor answering questions in class 3.94
5. Email contact with Professor 3.65
1. Lecture 3.60
6. WeBWorK assignments 3.20
4. Office Hours 3.08
2. Group work in class 3.03
8. Working with peers (friends, classmates, other students) outside of class. 2.91
7. Tutoring at CityTech 1.33

Observations.¬†I think it’s telling that the top two items are both about me responding to your questions, either in class or by email – it’s clear that this is important to you (although the one-on-one face-to-face contact provided by office hours is not quite so important, or at least is less convenient). ¬†Group work was generally thought to be useful, but not quite as useful as other activities. ¬†I was surprised to find that outside-of-class resources rated very low, both formal (tutoring) and informal (working with peers).

QUESTIONS 9 and 10

These questions were short answer, but in each case most of the responses fell into just a few different categories.  I summarized these for each question.

Q9. What is your biggest challenge in this course?  
Top Categories Number of Responses
Prior knowledge (calculus, algebra, trigonometry) 7
Distinguishing between different types of problems 6
Understanding concepts 4
Remembering steps 3
WeBWorK 3
Organizing your work 2

Observations. ¬†As I suspected, mastery of prior material (both of Calculus and other, earlier topics) is a significant challenge in this class. ¬†Quite a few people talked about the difficulty in determining “which kind of question is which” – books usually focus on one kind of problem at a time, but there is a real need to stop periodically and look at an overview of all the different problem types. ¬†Remembering the steps and keeping your work organized (combined) represent a fairly significant portion, comparable to challenges in conceptual understanding. ¬†I know WeBWorK can be a challenge for everyone, and I’m pleased to see that only three of you listed it as the “biggest challenge”!


Q10. What could be done to improve your experience of this course?  
Top Categories Number of Responses
More examples 9
More practice 8
More class time 7
Improve WeBWorK 2

Observations.  The responses here were quite clear and fairly uniform Рyou need to see more examples, you need more practice, and you need more class time!

I’ll think about what changes we might make in response to this data — look for more information in a followup post.

Prof. Reitz

Office hours today

If there is no-one in my office hours, I will be sitting in an event today from 11:30-12:30.  If you show up and would like to meet with me, send me an email at:  jonasreitz (at) gmail.com, and I should return to my office within a few minutes.

Prof. Reitz

WeBWorK error: Assignment 9, problem 4 parts (e) and (g)

Hi everyone,

There is an error in Assignment 9, problem 4, parts (e) and (g) – several students have reported entering the correct answer (which I have confirmed), but WeBWorK rejects it.

Even more strange, part f is graded correctly, even though it includes the answer that was rejected in part e.

I am following up with our WeBWorK administrator on this problem.  For now, please complete all parts of the problem except (e) and (g).

Sincere apologies for any mental or emotional harm this may have caused.

Prof. Reitz

Exam #2 Review Sheet is posted

NOTE: Problem #11 was updated on 3/24/14.

You can view it by clicking here.  Note: the answer key will be completed this week.


More on nonhomogeneous equations and WeBWorK 9

Or: ¬†What to do when everything cancels out, and I’m left with nothing….

I wanted to address a problem that shows up when solving nonhomogeneous equations.  Consider this problem, similar to those in WeBWorK 9:
y'' + 8y' +15y=2e^{-3t}

A good first guess for a solution would be: Y(t) = Ae^{-3t}.  However, there is a problem with this Рwhen you try to find the constant A, everything cancels out on the left side and you end up with something like:  0 = 2e^{-3t}.

Why is this? ¬†It’s exactly because your ¬†guess,¬†Y(t) = Ae^{-3t},¬†happens to be a solution to the homogeneous equation:
y'' + 8y' +15y=0

When this occurs, you need to adjust your guess – we do that by multiplying by t, so a correct guess in this case should be:
Y(t) = Ate^{-3t}

If this guess also fails to work (as might happen in the case of a repeated root for the homogeneous equation), multiply by t again:  Y(t) = At^2e^{-3t}

Let me know if you have any questions,
Prof. Reitz

OpenLab #2: Feedback on the course

We are currently in the eighth week of the semester.  For this OpenLab assignment, I am asking you to provide some feedback on your experience of the course so far.

Assignment (Due Thursday, March 26th, at the start of class).  Your assignment consists of two parts:

  1. Complete the survey by clicking here.  The survey consists of 10 questions, and should take 5-10 minutes to complete.  It is anonymous (I will see the answers, but I will not know who submitted them).
  2. Confirm that you have completed the survey by leaving a comment in reply to this post (for example, you could just write “I completed the survey just now”).

Extra Credit. ¬†Tell me what music you are listening to these days. ¬†What’s in heavy rotation on your iPod? ¬†Give us a brief description. ¬†I’m listening to Parov Stelar (‚Äúcompulsively listenable electroswing‚ÄĚ) and¬†Shpongle (“a unique concoction of lounge driven downtempo encased in an endless sphere of production”). ¬†¬†¬†A few ground rules: ¬†No offensive lyrics, be considerate of others, feel free to include a link but only to a legal site such as YouTube or SoundCloud.

Office Hours Thursday 3/13/14

Hi everyone,

This week I will be in my office hours only for the first half hour, 11:00 Р11:30.  I will also be available directly after class for questions.

If you’d like to find another time to meet with me, please let me know.

Prof. Reitz


A few notes on WeBWorK 5b – Euler’s Method

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to send a few comments about WeBWorK assignment 5b. ¬†The problem consists of three parts – in the first part, we use Euler’s method to generate a sequence of approximate values of y for various values of¬†t (in my version of the problem it’s¬†t=0, t=0.2, t=0.4, t=0.6, t=0.8, and¬†t=1). Of course, these values are not exactly correct – they are approximations.

In parts b and c of the problem, we compare the approximate values with the actual values – this will give you some idea of how effective Euler’s method is. ¬†In part¬†b, we find the actual solution to the differential equation (using the techniques from Exam #1). ¬†In part¬†c, we compare (for various values of¬†t), the actual value, given by the solution we found in part¬†b, and the approximate value found in part a.¬†To compare, we subtract the approximate value from the actual value (and then take the absolute value, since we don’t care about positive or negative, we only care about how far apart they are).

One more comment about notation: ¬†the symbol y with a dot over it means the same thing as y’, or dy/dt – that is, it means the derivative of y. ¬†This is fairly common notation, but we have not previously run into it this semester.

I hope this helps clear up confusion about parts b and c Рlet me know if you have questions.

Prof. Reitz