OpenLab #1: Advice from the Past

Two years ago I taught this same course for the first time.   At the end of the semester, I gave my students the following assignment:

Imagine that you are invited to speak on the first day of MAT 2071, to give advice to entering students.  Write at least three sentences … describing what you would tell them.

To see the assignment and the students’ responses, follow this link.

Your assignment, due next Thursday, September 3th, is to:

  1. Read through ALL the responses (there are 22 of them).
  2. Write a reply to this post (1 paragraph) responding to all of the following:
    1. What advice seemed most relevant to you personally? Why? (you can copy/paste a short statement, or put it in your own words)
    2. Based on this advice, what changes can you make right now to help you with this course?

Extra Credit. For extra credit, write a response to one of your classmates’ comments.  Do you have any advice?  Be kind.

39 thoughts on “OpenLab #1: Advice from the Past

  1. After reading all the posts of the previous students, i feel a little worried yet relived at the same time. I kind of wish i hadn’t read all those replies because, i feel like i will probably be paranoid about the topics that the previous students have mentioned upon arrival. However, reading the replies have made me a little stress free, in the sense that i know what to expect. Moreover, the student replies did contain much advice. For example, i found that “ibrahimadam193” advice was the best quoted and most suited one. There advice seemed the most relevant to me because it didn’t cause me any stress or panicking of what to expect. The reply was well worded and natural. As in, they talked about practicing as much as i can, and to understand basic algebra. Also that there inst a lot of new math to learn involved. Reading that made it easier for me because i thought i would be learning more arithmetic’s, not knowing that i will most likely just be using basic algebra on a different level. However based on this advice, the change i will most likely make is to be willing to practice more, by giving more time to the homework’s, give divided yet constant attention to each occurring topic, and to not rely on the basics- but to push my self to think outside the box.

    1. Hi Rahat,
      Thanks for being first to post! I think pushing yourself to think outside the box is one of the best goals (I like the others you mention, too) – it will help you in this class especially. Best of luck!
      -Prof. Reitz

    2. Hi Rahat, I am the person who sat next to your right on Thursday. I read your comment and think that we may study together as a small group in the future. I agree with your idea that practicing as much as we could. From the old students, it is clear that this class is not like any other math course. It needs logic thinking and proving; let’s work hard and get ready for the challenging!

      1. Hey Mei! Study groups indeed! It would be awesome if we did, especially after that class work session when Prof. Reitz broke us into groups. I realized that some of the material that I wasn’t understanding due to the topics being brief but fast, I was left a little confused, but when we got into our groups the help of my peers really helped me fully digest the material taught. Also the ant example stunned me! I am so use to a teacher putting a question up on the board and looking for a actual solution, but this was so interesting because there was no solution, so that definitely opened up my mind to the idea of thinking outside the box. Conclusively, a lot of hard work and UN-average thinking needed!

    3. I agree that thinking outside the box will be very helpful. There are many people who learn one way of doing something and will stick to the same process without exploring more. In math there are various ways of arriving to the same answers and we must be open minded to all approaches. This may also lead us to new discoveries which may help us in proving things.

      1. Irania I love that you highlighted “thinking outside the box”. In my comment I discussed the feeling of true open conversation and discovery that shone through the posts of the former students and It is clear to see that they all influences each other’s experience of the class. By exploring the topics together and having openlab post to read the throughts of everyone else sitting in the classroom with me I hope to be introduced to new ways to think about concepts. Lots of thinking outside the box!

  2. After I read all the comments roughly, I feel that the former peers had difficulty in proofs and counting. I guess it might also be my weakness. However, I do believe I will be fine if I work hard enough. I like ibrahimadam193’s saying, “Understanding one’s mistakes and misconceptions can lead to a deeper and truer understanding of the material.” The reason I think it is more relevant to me because I did learn from my personal mistakes I made as well as others. Everyone makes mistakes. If a person does not realize he or she made mistakes, then he or she is going to make the same mistakes again and again. In other words, for people who know how to deal with their mistakes, they are going to be the winners. I like to share my work with other peers and discuss with them. I would be happy if they could point out the mistakes that I made. Also, I feel glad to help others check their assignments if I could. In the near future study, I think I have to know how to get along with other clas
    smates well because I can learn more from them. Also, in order to do that, I need to do the homework assignments on time. I cannot study with people if I do not have my work with me. If I have questions, I need to think briefly before discussing with other classmates. Just do not be afraid of asking questions because it can prevent us from making mistakes on the exams. Overall, always try to work hard is the way to do well in this class! Never feel bad of making mistakes because it is going to be the path that everyone is going to step on.

    1. I agree with you. I used to feel embarrassed about making mistakes and asking questions but I’m only hurting myself by withholding my concerns and questions. I still struggle with that sometimes though

    2. Asking questions is one of the most valuable habits to get into! Unfortunately, it requires overcoming the tendency that we all feel (me too!) to avoid “looking dumb” (what if everyone knows the answer but me?). Noticing this feeling arise gives you a chance to set it aside, and ask anyway – and if you do, great things can happen. Good luck – I look forward to your questions!

      1. “Asking question” is one of my weakness even though I like to ask question a lot. Pro. Reitz, you are absolutely right when you said we feel “’looking dumb’ (what if everyone knows the answer but me?)” I feel exactly that way. I tried a lot to avoid this but could not.

  3. After having read all the post from the prior students, the advice that I found most relevant and beneficial to me was do all homework. I never liked doing homework nor was I ever the type that needed to do homework to pass my math classes. Math, for the most part, comes very easy to me and so I never really felt the need to do math homework. Plus, last semester I had Linear Algebra with Prof. Elhitti who doesn’t collect homework. She encourages her students to do it but she doesn’t collect or check for completion. So i got accustomed to not having to do math homework. However, I do believe that practice makes perfect and I do not wish for my grade to suffer just because I didn’t want to put aside the time to do my homework. Another piece of advice that I found useful was work in groups. I’m a pretty introverted person. I could have class with the same group of people all year and never say a word to them unless forced to do so or approached first. But last semester I was caught in a predicament where I had to participate in study sessions and I actually found it to be very useful. Things that I did not understand, my peers were able to shed some light on those topics and it helped my grade. So I will try to take advantage of group work again in this class.

    1. Vow! You must be very smart! I am the opposite because I need to do a lot of homework in order to do well in the exams…I hope I could learn the study tricks from you because sometimes I have to struggle with time. 🙂

  4. After reading the responses posted by the previous students form previous classes, the advice I found most helpful was the completion of all the assigned homework. After starting college, I stopped doing all the homework. The professors would provide examples in class and I felt that was sufficient and didn’t feel the need of more practice. Since this is a proofs and logic class I assume it has a lot of theoretical concepts that have to be understood and practiced so I will make sure to do all the homework assigned. Most of the previous students also suggest to recap or refresh on algebra which I feel I have gotten a good grasp upon throughout practice from high school but hope to enhance the understanding I have.

    1. Hi Irania,
      Getting in the habit of doing all the homework is great suggestion – you may not always need it, but when the going gets tough the habits you have set will come through for you. Great!
      -Prof. Reitz

  5. After reading all the responses, I feel a bit worried since many students have said that this course is really difficult. I think I feel the same too. Some of the advises that the students gave are getting lots of practice and not to be afraid to make mistakes. I think that these advises are very useful. For me personally, I never do any homework in my other classes because I felt that I understand the material well enough, and of course, laziness. But I think I will do all the homework in this class. This way, I will be able to get lots of practice and understand the material more.

    1. Hi kenny, I agree with you this class needs a lot of practice. We have to do a lot of examples and that s the only way I think we are going to matser the content. Also I feel this class needs a lot focus and not ignoring any single vocabullary .
      We just started the class and Im sure everyone is going to get an A or at lease pass the class, we just need to more hard work into it.

  6. “Be responsible about looking at the answers. If one looks at the answers too much, one will rob oneself of the ability to think of original ideas, which are extremely valuable. One may also rob themselves of having a true understanding of a concept.”

    I remember the second day of class you (the Prof.) told us to use our imagination when dealing with future problems. From all the comments I realized this is more than just a math course, it is a course that not only helps you think but also challenges you to think outside the box. This was by far the best advice anyone can give.
    At this moment after reading that specific comment I will treat this course differently. Usually I breeze through math problems, well problems in general but with this class I think I might just analyze the given problems and work through them slowly to fully grasp what is being given.

    1. Hi Joe i totally agree with you. I find this response by the previous class of MAT2071 is very important. I for one like to view answers a lot to get a better idea. Which in this course seems to not be a course to do so but to think outside the box and challenge ones self.

    2. Hi Joe
      I think conceptual thinking is really fun. Like being given a toy and trying to figure out how it works. You’re right, it’s best to take it nice and slowly. This is certainly some good advice that even I forget from time to time because I am a victim of procrastination.

    3. Great! And I think you’ll find that as the class goes along, the problems get more involved, and have more subtleties to them that bear careful consideration.
      -Prof. Reitz

  7. As I read through the advice from the past students, I feel that I need to practice, do my homework, and study in groups in order to do well in class. This is actually relevant to me personally because I like to work hard to achieve a good grade in class. I like when Jean Poyo writes, “The course was a good experience for me and my fellow peers, practice, practice, and…That is how you will succeed and do well in the course.” This shows that if we try hard, we will be able success. Also, I like study in groups which I think is very helpful. We can discuss about the problems together and solve it. That is the way we can communicate when we need each other help throughout the course.
    But, sometimes I procrastinate to finish my homework and I will have to change this bad habit. I am really working hard to finish all my work on time and maintaining my timetable. Hopefully, I will do well In Profs & Logic this semester!

  8. After I read all the comment from previous student, I feel this is not an easy math class since a lot students was struggling with this class, but I like it, because this class is so fresh to me. The math classes I took before are all playing with the number and solving the equation but this class is mostly on proof and logic. I found that sona sultana’s advice is most relevant to me. He/She stated “You have to really practice the proofs. They take a lot of patience, but the more practice you get, the better you’ll do on the exams.” the reason I’m thinking this most relevant to me because I had this sort of situation. When I took abstract algebra, this class is also about proof. I remembered my professor didn’t require to do the homework(it is optional), if student get good grade on the exam then get A in the class. therefore, I never practiced and did the homework because I’m a lazy person. Every class I just focus on what professor taught us. finally, when the exam came up, I didn’t do very well because some of the problems was different with what I learn in the class. I knew it is same topic but format is different so I couldn’t figure out. However, when I compared the homework problem and exam problem I was regret, because most the problem are very similar. I believe if i did the homework, the test result would be much higher. Therefore, I value sultana’s advice and I will do all the homework and read the chapter carefully in order to get good grade.

    1. Hi Xiong,
      Thanks for the comment – your reflections on your experience in Abstract Algebra show self-awareness, and I think you will find that the mathematical challenges in this course are similar. This is a great realization to have at the beginning at the beginning of the course, while there is time to change your approach!
      -Prof. Reitz

  9. After reading all of the responses posted from the previous students who have taken MAT2071, I am left feeling the same as I did as I entered the class worried. If there’s one thing I know about myself is that I am easily confused when it comes to solving logic problems. The advice that I found most relevant to me in order to pass this course is doing all my homework, having lots and lots of practice, plus working in groups. Some MAT course that I have taken in the past did not require to hand in homework, therefore it allowed me to solve and skim through them quickly in just less than 30 minutes. So I’ll make sure to give myself time to work on the homework as ibrahimdam193 puts it not being like other math classes. Practice, something I declined in doing so in my other math courses. Stressing that one must practice I find this quite helpful because sometimes doing the homework isn’t enough to grasp the idea. Working in groups is something I’d do if the professor puts me in a group, other than that I would be for each person to their own luck. Not that I don’t like working in groups, but I’m an introvert person. I find working and studying in groups quite helpful in order to have everyone succeed in the course.

    1. Hi Daniela,
      I like your comment about being an introvert, but not disliking working in groups – sometimes the smaller group dynamics allow everyone to have a say (and introverts make tremendous contributions)!
      -Prof. Reitz

  10. The most important thing that ran true was the idea of a core foundation, specifically Algebra. In middle school and high school. I felt that I was always spoon fed information, formulas and processes. In this class, I’m expecting a different type of learning. What’s needed to pass this class, as it was stressed by many of the past students, is to practice, practice, practice. First and foremost, I need to stray away from the old style of learning in which I was just given algorithms. Also, I would like to get rid of my bad habit of procrastinating and doing things last minute.I dread the idea of “proofs” as it seems to be the most difficult part that most students struggle with. I don’t think this class will be easy but I am sure that it will be rewarding.

    1. Hi Yuyu,
      It’s true, this class is less algorithmic than many earlier math classes – and proofs can be a challenge! But never fear, they start simple and build up bit by bit – your resolution to avoid procrastination is a great one to make, and will serve you well through the process.
      -Prof. Reitz

  11. From reading through the comments from post of old students in this course, I feel the topic induction will become the most irritating to understand. It seem majority of posts mentioned induction was hard or challenging to understand, so I hope I figure out or at least understand the basic of induction. Also reading Renautha’s post, I may consider going over my Probability and Statistics notes from last semester as well, because he or she mention some old topics will be bought up during mid of semester. It funny how my Probability and Statistics class was first time I wanted to do homework in college, because the class was challenging in many ways and I had very tough professor. I remember many thing like more seventy-five of class failed first exam of class and no formulas you learn use a table to help understand binomial, hyper-geometric and other distributions. I still remember probability density function and normal distribution. At end of semester for Probability and Statistics I felt I learned a lot from this experiences, because I practice the material and I did my homework. So I agree with everyone doing your homework does help you practice the material and be more prepare when encountering questions or problems along the way.

    1. Great! It sounds like your experiences in Probability and Statistics have positioned you well for this class (and it’s true, some of the topics overlap – but only very basic things, I think).
      -Prof. Reitz

  12. I am in an interesting position that I started this class before. I have seen about half of the work and feel very comfortable and confident in Prof Reitz’s classroom. After reading the post from the former class, it’s clear to see that Inductive proofs gave everyone regardless of math confidences a bit of a run for their money. I had left the class at this point last time and I know without regular attendance and review once we start proofs its hard to stay afloat. Anyone can read you the book or work through exercises with you (showing you all the steps) but if you do enough problems until you can do one on your own without any prompting then and only then do you truly understand the concepts. I liked that multiple students said that it was simple math but unlike any math class they had taken before. I also can see from the quality of the posts that people really embraced the writing intensive nature of the class and I hope we as a class have some thought provoking dialogues as they did.

    1. Hi Sarah – welcome back! I agree, this material lends itself to interesting discussions (one of the reasons I like the course), and I look forward to seeing what kinds of ideas arise in class and on the OpenLab. It’s been great reading the responses to this initial assignment, and seeing a bit of the dialogue that has taken place!
      -Prof. Reitz

  13. Hi everyone, first of all , all the advices from the comments are useful and inspiring, they pretty much said everything that needs to be consider in order to pass the class. One advice that is most important in my opinion is to memorize the connotations because without them you will not follow up and that exactly what Abina Yevdaeva said in here comment :” most important From the begging you should memorize all the connotations, so later on, when you read the problem, you would be able to actually understand the question. So the beginning of the semester is very important”. I found that very true. This a new Math topic probably for all of us and we need to adapt a new language.
    By the way I m still working on my English so I apologize in advance if there is grammar mistake.

  14. Justin Meyer

    I agree with everything mentioned by students of the previous class. However, what holds most true for me is the advice to keep up with all the work. While the course is challenging, as long as I stay moving forward at a steady pace by reviewing what I learned and completing all assignments in a timely manner I should be able to excel at this course. I love mathematics and while many topics come easy to me, it is of the utmost importance to follow the syllabus and work assigned. Other than that, it will also be useful to review some algebra to refresh my knowledge of the subject.

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