OpenLab #1: Advice from the Past

For the past two years I have taught this same course in the Fall semester.   At the end of each course, I give 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 for Fall 2016 and this link for Fall 2015.

Your assignment, due at the beginning of class next Thursday, September 7th, is to:

  1. Read through ALL the responses (there are 32 of them altogether).
  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. Zaniyasa

    The most important lessons that I gathered from reading previous posts were to do the homework and persistently ask questions. From the experience of other students it seems that the lessons progress in levels of difficulty as the course continues. Doing the homework will provide practice as well as present areas of opportunity for more clarification in areas of struggle. Before the class, I will take steps to a lot time to do my homework twice in order to better under the content. I will also set aside a place specifically for definitions in my notebook as they seem to play a large role in understanding the subject.

    • Jonas Reitz

      Hi Zaniya – thanks for being first-to-post! You are definitely right about definitions – these are absolutely essential (in fact, I think this is the first class that you really begin to appreciate the importance of definitions).

      -Prof. Reitz

    • Yasmine

      You are right. The time we will put to do the homework will help us to test our understanding before we move to the next lesson.

    • Josvenia

      Reading the past post gave me the same feeling of how hard this class will start to get and how important it is to memorize the definitions, theorems, and poofs because in doing so will be the only way to help me pass. Just like you I have started to make my own section for definitions.

    • Stephanie Cuate

      Zaniyasa, I agree about setting a place in our notebook for definitions. That’s a great idea, I feel like we should all do that since other students has said that definitions is important to know and it will add on as the course continues. An advice that I have for you is to redo all your homework and review sheets, it has helped me a lot especially when it comes to exams. Just redo them. Redoing helps remember what to do, I don’t know if you try that.

  2. Yasmine

    As I read previous posts, I felt more confident that the key to enjoy this class would be to practice, ask, take advantage of extra credit. Personally, this way makes the class easier and more understandable.
    Even though the class seems to be easy at the beginning, the previous students make me feel that it is getting more challenging by the time we move on, so I should be prepared and more mindful of concepts from the very beginning. Overall, it is secure that Professor Reitz is there for us whenever we need any clarification.

    • Jonas Reitz

      I really appreciate that you included the self-reflective comment about confidence – this gets at one of the reasons we do this assignment. Great!

    • Josvenia

      I feel the same way as you, the way Professor Reitz leads the class gives me some kind of confidence that I will not be left alone when in need of clarification but also how important practice is going to be from the start.

    • Zaniyasa

      I also noticed that there are multiple opportunities for extra credit and will take advantage as much as possible. I am both excited but also slightly terrified about how challenging the course may get.

  3. Josvenia

    Reading the post of those students made me think of all the many reasons I didn’t pass the class for first two times around: I took the class for granted, Did homework last minute or copied, never went to office hours, and I thought that understanding the subject in the classroom was enough. The students are right the class seems easy and very understandable in the beginning because as of now it is mostly numbers but when time comes along to apply the proofs and know when to use them it becomes a whole different ball game. I think that reading these post just opens my eyes to get serious about this class, to ask for help, to seriously do my homework, to study at home, and mainly to not take a good teacher for granted. Also, I hope that since there are like 3 or 4 other students that are in my education class we can become studying partners because I know in a week or two we are going to need the help from eachother.

    • Jonas Reitz

      These are great suggestions, all around. I think your experiences put you in a unique position to appreciate the challenges of this class, and it’s possible that this position could be very valuable for you and your fellow students (if you can take advantage of it, as you describe here). Great!

  4. Stephanie Cuate

    As I read through all the comments from the two previous classes, some advice that I want to keep in mind as I work my way into the course is to always do my homework on time and to ask for help from Professor Reitz. Another thing, is to go to office hour when I don’t get the material of what I learn. And most importantly to do the extra credit, as some students suggested that it will help us more just in case we get a bad grade on an exam or we just need the points. So far, this class seems easy to me and I feel like I’m able to understand what the topic is about and how to do the work because the way Professor Reitz teaches makes it easy to understand and fun to learn. I understand that this course will get harder later in the semester and to be prepared I will always pay close attention to the lecture and to keep practicing everything I learn. A change I should make right now to help me succeed since we all just got back to school from our long summer break is to don’t be lazy. I feel like this is a biggest thing to work on since at times I get lazy to do anything but for this class, I can’t be lazy. I seriously have to do all my work, homework, and review sheet, even if it means doing them over to get it stuck in my brain. Which is a biggest advice I got from reading all the comments. Since this class is a small class, I hope we all can help each other out. I honestly think we shouldn’t let anyone be left behind, especially in a group projects. I have confident that Professor Reitz is going to be there to help us through the semester.

    • Jonas Reitz

      In a way this class is harder because it starts relatively easily – it’s easy to set bad habits in the beginning! I appreciate the attention you are paying to this – it will help as you go along.

  5. Evelin

    After reading the posts from the previous students, asking questions and practicing seem to be the keys to doing well in this class. To me personally, asking questions is something I definitely have to work on since I am a very quiet student. As well as taking extra time to study the new vocabulary and theorems. For the most part, the students seemed to emphasize that the class does get challenging as it goes on. So it is crucial to fully understand the terms and/or theorems in order to create proofs. I’m a bit scared for the future topics, but I know with Professor Reitz help and patience, I know I’m in good hands.

    • Jonas Reitz

      Asking questions is such a good habit – and it’s hard for everyone. But the questions you ask definitely help others, too. Good luck!

  6. Sonam

    I personally really liked the advice written by Yuyu Chen. He stated all elements that required to be success in this class or any other classes, I summarized into 5 element. 1. Importance of attendance. 2. Ask questions when you not following in the class. 3.Do all the homework. 4. Finish all project together with your partner. Last, Practice what you have leaned.

    But, How can one accomplish the list above? From my experience I leaned that one must have a system in order to do all the things one need to done for the day. Because many of us are full time students also has part time job or full time job. There is some many things to do in one day. So, it is important for us to come up a system to arrange our time. For example,One should have a plan book that listed all the thing you need to do. Never rely on your brain, because you will forget, specially if have a terrible short term memory like me. I leaned many lesson on that. Everyone should have their own system to study. But the most important is you can persist in your system, when it became your habitat, means you are not far away from success in your class.

    • Jonas Reitz

      Very coherent and well-organized response – thanks, Sonam!

  7. Miralia

    If I was invited to give advice to entering students on the first day of Mat 2071 I would tell the students to always be prepare for class, and pay attention to the teacher when he or she is explaining the course. I would tell them to come in class at time, and do not miss a lot of days in order for them to keep in track. I would also advise them to always ask questions when they don’t understand something, and keep practicing the subject in class and also at home which would help them to progress and also succeed in the subject.

    • Nk

      I agree we should always be prepared. But even if we are not prepared we should be aware of what we are missing and how much we need to catch up on. That way we can make up at-least some work that we are missing.

  8. Nk

    Read through ALL the responses (there are 32 of them altogether).
    Write a reply to this post (1 paragraph) responding to all of the following:
    What advice seemed most relevant to you personally? Why? (you can copy/paste a short statement, or put it in your own words)
    Based on this advice, what changes can you make right now to help you succeed in this course?

    The most relevant pieces of advice are the following:
    “Be organised and take note of the checklist Professor Reitz writes on the right side of the board (and Openlab)”
    “Do all of the WebWork, there is a surplus that counts for extra credits should you need a fallback.”
    ” Seize every opportunity for extra credit that Professor Reitz offers, and he offers a lot!”
    I didn’t realize that WebWork makes up such a large percentage of our grade and I should’ve be taking advantage of it.

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