Discussion – Advice from the Past

For the past few years I have taught this same course in the Fall semester (it previously had the course number MAT 2071).   At the end of the 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 2019 (this class was very small, only 5 students), this link for Fall 2018, and this link for Fall 2017.

Your assignment, due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, September 7th, is to:

  1. Read through ALL the responses (there are about 30 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. suerissberger

    The advice that was most relevant to me was the importance of doing homework. I believe in the idea that practice makes perfect, or at least helps clarify understanding or misunderstandings. It’s something I’ve learned through previous math classes and when I’ve not done homework in the past, it’s impacted my grade and learning of the material. On the other side, I’ve found that when I do complete all assigned homework I not only walk away with a better understanding of the material, but it’s a deeper understanding than I anticipated. In order to avoid submitting homework last minute (I never do well when I rush), I am trying to start working on it days before it’s due so in case I have questions, there’s time to ask them and then give homework another attempt.

  2. setsandstripes

    From reading through the past students advice, one piece of guidance I find particularly helpful is to be proactive and read the material ahead of class for the lessons to be the most useful, to do the chapter problems and to not get behind. I think this is particularly helpful to work on at the start of the semester when the material isn’t as advanced, according to many of the students. Following their advice, I definitely plan to read the chapters ahead of time to be as prepared as possible during the synchronous lectures and do as many of the chapter problems in the book as I can.

    – Kim

    • Nina Melendez

      I am definitely adding to my list of goals for this semester to read the material ahead of time. I am working on allocation set time during the week & weekend that I will dedicate to the class, for practice & hw. In reading through your response I am now going to have that time split into 3; practice hw, & reading the material ahead of class. I am going to dedicate 1 hour on Sat & 1 hour on Wed to ensure I am up to date

  3. Nina Melendez

    What advice seemed most relevant to you personally? Why?

    I found multiple advice relevant. Things that stood out were; ask questions, do homework/practice, don’t get discouraged if you don’t do as well as you thought in an exam, & don’t leave things for last minute. A comment that resonated with me most was Songyu’s post in 2019, “The most important prior knowledge that you need to succeed is to do the practice on your own. … ” This felt specifically relevant as it encompasses much of the advice that had already stood out. I tend to take on too much and I consider this advice to be beneficial in reminding me to time manage better.

    Based on this advice, what changes can you make right now to help you succeed in this course?

    A change I am going to implement right now to help me succeed in this course is to allocate set times during the week(outside of class time) that I will dedicate to Proofs. In these windows of time I will do homework, practice new concepts and write questions I may have to ask them either in class or during office hours. currently I am considering dedications 1 hour on Saturday & 1 hour on Wednesday in this way to ensure I am up to date on all the work.

    • setsandstripes

      Those are such great suggestions, I’m going to try to manage my time in that way as well since I’m also taking Calculus II. I wrote down some questions for Professor Reitz from the problems in the book so I’m planning to attend his office hours to make sure I ask them 🙂

      • Jonas Reitz

        Love the strategy of writing down questions when you are reading or doing problems – sometimes if you can form a question on paper, it allows your brain to set it aside and keep working. Bring them on!

  4. Angie

    The advice that seemed most relevant to me was to always practice the material on your own. Which in a way adds to the advice that it is always important to do homework. I feel that it is significant because let’s say you don’t practice the material, and a week passes and you forget all about it. It is best to have the ability to master a topic first so you would be able to move further with the material.Also, by practicing the material, one will be able to recognize if they need help on a topic, therefore asking questions. Based on this advice, a major change that can be done to help me succeed in this course is practicing the material on my own twice a week so I can give my mind a refresher . Also to stop doing my homework last minute.

  5. Marielys Bueno

    What advice seemed most relevant to you personally? Why? (you can copy/paste a short statement, or put it in your own words)

    – The best advice I’ve read from the previous students was don’t be afraid to ask questions and also to practice the subject on your own. MAT 2071 isn’t an easy subject; this is a subject that requires a lot of attention and practice. So if you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask because as time passes, the course will become more complicated, so it’s important to get the answers you need to be able to move on to other topics in this class. Randy Cazales’ post from Fall 2019 says, “DO NOT be afraid to ask questions. You might think, oh I can just figure this out later. Nope. If you go home and just look at the homework problems assigned without understanding what was taught in class you will most likely be lost. And from there it’s a deep hole to come out of because every topic builds upon the next.” This comment stood out to me because I’ve experienced this with other courses. After skimming through our class book, I can see how much more complex the course is going to get, so just make sure to ask all the questions needed to fully understand each topic and put your best into the class. Practice makes perfect; the more time you put this course to practice the subject, the less complicated it will be.

    • Jonas Reitz

      Thanks, Marielys. Throughout my own education, I’ve always held a great regard for those awesome students who asked questions in class – so much of the time, they asked things that I was confused about too! I’ve actively worked on getting better at this myself – though I’m still not perfect. Letting go of the idea that asking questions makes you sound dumb, or sound like you’re not keeping up, is important – asking questions always makes you sound smarter from my perspective, even (or especially) when you are confused about something simple. How else do you learn? Hooray for question-askers!

  6. Jaroslav E Sykora

    Well, the not-last-minute home works sound great, and I agree it would be beneficial, important, and end with a success, but there is still a factor that we call TIME. Certainly, I plan to do my best but I also should be realistic what I am doing. Hopefully it is true about Prof. Reitz to be helpful to explain everything again and again. First of all I should find and re-discover my confidence and self-believe that I CAN DO IT. Everything else comes naturally.

  7. anik

    I think for me it’s crucial to pay attention during the classes and asking multiple questions during the lecture will play a vital role to successfully complete this course. Moreover, if I can complete all the Homeworks and classwork without getting help from others, I believe all class tests and exams will be much easier for me. Even though I don’t read my textbook that often however for this class I will try to utilize the textbook as often as I can.

  8. Norman Moncrieffe

    The advice that I find more intriguing is doing homework and office hours with the professor. Just like every other math class, homework will make you understand the course better. Homework is very important. If you do every homework assignment assigned to you, once the test comes up, you should feel more confident with the exam and the course overall. Just like me, a lot of people are not familiar with proofs so homework and looking over your notes or class recordings will help. Also office hours with the professor is better. If you have a problem understanding something, he will be explain it to you in better detail.

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