OpenLab #1: Advice from the Past

A year ago I taught this same course.   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 at the beginning of class next Thursday, September 1st, is to:

  1. Read through ALL the responses (there are 19 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 succeed in this course?

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


  1. Ismail Akram

    I found Yuyu Chen’s post most helpful, as it had a motivating quality about it. Everyone implored that you should do your homework, which I plan to do and go for the extra credit wherever possible.
    “Do not falter. The difficulty spikes when it comes time for proofs, like induction. However, simply giving up is not an option. I believe that with increased difficulty comes an increased feeling of accomplishment. ”

    I’ll keep this in mind should I find difficulty in this class.

    • Jonas Reitz

      Hi Ismail,
      Thanks for being first-to-post, and welcome!. I like that you highlighted the quote “with increased difficulty comes an increased feeling of accomplishment” – that’s a great motivator to keep in mind when things feel tough.
      -Prof. Reitz

    • Armando

      I liked that line too, It stuck in my head, I remember that this semester!

  2. Armando

    The most important advice I see from the responses are 1) Homework is a must. Homework really helps prepare you and gives you lots of practice for the exams. 2) Learn Definitions. Remembering certain definitions can make the class easier like definition of Relation, Z, N, R, Symmetric, Reflexive etc. 3) Visit Prof. Reitz’s office hours, as one person said, “Dr.Reitz is available in and out of class to answer questions and help out. Going through the semester without talking to him at least once is like shooting yourself in the foot”. One change that will be coming for me is a log of just definitions that will be in the back of my note book and a lil calendar that helps me plan and space out sue dates of his assignments to make sure all work that I can possibly get done, gets done.

    • Jonas Reitz

      Great – thanks Armando! Always happy to have folks come to my office hours (it gets lonely in there otherwise), and it can help a lot.

      I see you created a new blog post as well as this comment – I’ll delete the blog post and keep the comment, but we’ll be using the blog feature later in the class (so you have a headstart).

      Prof. Reitz

      • Jonas Reitz

        And I see now that you deleted that post ahead of me – thanks for being on top of it!

  3. Violanda

    I read all the thoughts from the first to the last one.While I was reading each of them,I was thinking that every comment was similar to another one,so that students have the same thoughts for the class and the professor Reitz.This let me to understand prof.Reitz has “one straight line”,and he wants every of his students to follow in order to pass the course successfully.With concept “one straight line” that I mentioned above,I wanted to say that if you do your homework regularly,if you participate on class,if you ask questions for everything that you do not understand,as Mei Zhu said:”If you have any questions,never mind!Ask questions!Prof.Reitz loves questions!”,if you try hard to solve every problem that is given to you,you will pass the course.Even though every student sees Mat 2071 as a very difficult class,they agree that prof.Reitz makes the class easy to every student.Another thing that got stuck on my mind is the importance of being in class.As Yuyu Chen claimed:”Missing a class will definitely hurt your chances of keeping up with difficult topics later on in the semester…”,which leaves me to understand it is better not to miss a class,cause after it will be more difficult to catch the topic.However,I think that by working as harder as we can,and by following professor’s rules,everyone of us will achieve the goal of passing this class and getting good grades.Good luck to everybody!…

    • Jonas Reitz

      Thanks, Violanda! I *do* welcome your questions, as Mei pointed out – bring ’em!

  4. Hanan Abuhashish

    I really enjoyed reading all of the responses. I thought that it was all great advice. I appreciated Yuyu Chen’s advice the most. “Practice. Homework and classwork is assigned for practice and to show that you can implement what you’ve learned.” Yuyu also said “Missing a class will definitely hurt your chances of keeping up with the difficult topics.” I found both of these pieces of advice helpful. I also found Kenny’s post helpful. “The more practice, the easier it becomes.” One change i can make right now is to do all of my work on time and be responsible for it. I should be doing homework and practicing because it is something that will help me. It shouldn’t be treated as just something to get out of the way.

    • Jonas Reitz

      These are great resolutions! As I’m sure you’ve experienced, the challenge is always keeping them going later in the semester when the pressures start to mount from every side. Taking a moment to consciously commit to them in the beginning can make a real difference later on – that’s one of the things this assignment is for. Good luck!

  5. Gary

    After reading the advice from the students that took this class before I learned that homework is a essential way to passing the tests and this course. I also learned that if you missed a day of class you would be having trouble catching back up and also that the professor can help you with any question you have with any topic that you learned or having trouble with. You need to study everyday because if you don’t study than when we start doing logic’s latter on in the course you would be having a hard time. Based on the advice I believe that when I don’t understand something I would ask the professor or another student that understands the topic better than me and also study the materials I learn daily.

    • Jonas Reitz

      Your fellows students are one of the best (maybe THE best) resource – I encourage you all to seek help from one another! And it doesn’t always have to be someone who understands better than you (although that is helpful) – it’s surprising how much talking over a problem with someone else can help, even if they are as stuck on it as you. The extra perspective sometimes allows you to move forward regardless!

  6. Jpitt

    What I learned from the former students is that you need to keep practicing everything that is taught in this class. Practicing can determine if you would struggle or breeze through this class. Also I learned that homework is very essential in getting a good grade plus it helps to prepare you for the exams. All of them said that Prof. Reitz is the best source to learn and really expand your knowledge on proofs from this class and that makes sense since he is a very enthusiastic Professor who really captivates your attention in class. One thing I know I won’t do is miss a lecture or that can be the draw point to me failing or passing the course. I will also do all of my homework on time and make sure to ask questions if I run into any problematic homework problems. These advices give you great leverage for this class, so thank you Professor.

    • Jonas Reitz

      Glad to hear it – good luck, Jeron!

  7. Jose De Leon

    Prof. Reitz I appreciate the way you motivates us to be better students in class.I like your feedback when some of us cannot understand clearly any topics no matter how difficult can be to solve a problems.Doing homework provide the best resources to assimilate easier each time as long as I put efforts.I already have read Violanda’s comment, “I think that by working as harder as we can,and by following professor’s rules,everyone of us will achieve the goal of passing this class and getting good grades” With the guidance of advisement I will be successful to be able to pass MAT 2071 with your energy and smiling even more being hardworking student.Happy always everyone!!

    • Jonas Reitz

      Your positivity is makes me smile – fantastic!

    • Tyniqua

      I totally agree with you Jose, because I was kind of lost after I took a week off from classes and the professor was cery patient and willing to clear up any confusion I may have had about any topic in class and after class. I greatly appreciate that.

  8. Leonardo

    Wow so many great responses for Professor Reitz! I would definitely like to say this class consists of effort, motivation, participation, etc. Never intend to miss a class or you will stay behind and can never succed. The main point to achieve your goals is to always be prepared doing things on time, like coming to class on time and doing your homework to become consistent. Likewise for everyone, do not be hesitant and ask the professor any questions on any particular topic. We are all here to listen, work, and pass together at the end. It won’t be easy to accomplish this course but if you can overcome these challenging obstacles by practicing, even if its with many tries, you will be able to reach to the finish!!!

    • Jonas Reitz

      Agreed. Off to a good start!

  9. ahmad alsawah

    After reading through all the comments from past students, the most cemented and recurring piece of evidence is to complete homework assignments and practice. What I find most beneficial to me was the few responses that mentioned that the class seems easy and simple at first. I also thought that the class was straight forward and simple after the first few days, and I realized after today’s class that it will definitely get harder. After reading the responses I understand just how much it will change. Knowing this now is much more comforting than finding out through my own experiences. From this point on I can put the necessary focus on compelling homework and practicing, as well as asking questions.

    • Jonas Reitz

      Having a sense of what’s coming can be very helpful – and anticipating challenges is good for both mental and emotional preparation. The course does get harder, but it never becomes impossible!

    • Kevin Truong

      Yeah, right now the class seems pretty easy, but I know that’s going to be a myth soon. HAHAHA….. I guess we all have to work really hard for it!!

  10. Sonam

    I am glad that I got the chance to read experiences of former students, I believe these experiences shows us how can we be more successful in Professor Reitz’s class. After reading through all the comments, I realized in order to succeed in this class, there are three things must be done, no absent, complete all the homework and keep practice, I totally agree whit them, because Mathematic is just like a chain, you always have to put all of your knowledges together to solve one problem, you can’t miss any part. Also from some comments they mentioned Professor Reitz likes question, which is a great news to me, because I love to ask questions.

  11. Kevin Truong

    Wow… These advises are great! Most of them have something in common, which is that it requires lots of practice. I know that any math class requires lots of practice, according to these responses I know that I have to give my extra attention to this course. One thing that caught my attention is from Mei Zhu saying “Never over-think about a question which might show again on your test if you don’t study and get it done”. I totally agree with this, math can’t be done within one try, math requires a boatload of practice. I will keep in mind that practice makes perfect (maybe close to perfect).

  12. Tyniqua

    I love the advice your previous students gave for us newcomers. One specific student of yours named Mei stood out to me, knowing Mei personally because we had a previous MAT Edu class together and another this semester I know first hand that she is an excellent student. Furthermore, if she gives any of iz advice we had better take it because she is a hard worker and has a great understanding of mathematics. So, Mei says make sure we complete homework assignments as a form of practicing, I think I will take heed to her advice. Also, she mentions the importance of the recognition and understanding of key terms and their symbols, such as, real numbers and integers, and if we don’t we will run into trouble in our class. I totally agree with her and the other students who shared the same sentiments. I definitely will be practicing a lot more based on their advice and the experience I’ve this semester thus far.

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