PDEs Course: Progress Update #1

My partial differential equations course has started!!  I have more students than I expected, but I have two amazing teaching assistants to help.

Students’ responses to the idea of the proficiency assessments has been all positive so far.

I’ve decided to structure each 75-minute class in the following way:

First 3 minutes of class: I highlight the work of some mathematicians, scientists, engineers who are using partial differential equations in some interesting way. I am trying to make sure to get a broad representation of people and some nice applications. (If you know of cool applications of PDEs, please let me know!) This is partly to help students see that this field of study is very large and active and that there are lots of people who make up this community of practice. Maybe that might even help to spark an interest or the feeling that they could contribute to this community too. This is also to give students some ideas for their application investigation paper/presentations (in which they have to investigate some application of PDEs).

Next 5 minutes of class: Short lesson on some aspect of Mathematica. We’re using Mathematica heavily in this class, and the learning curve is quite steep. In addition to this Mathematica training video that I created, I’ll highlight one command a day and have students try it out each class meeting. I’ve found this to be a good way to help students learn how to use mathematical software without boring them with long lectures about syntax.

Then we’ll launch into the main lecture for the day. My goal is to not talk for more than 15 minutes in one stretch and pause to include independent and group work time and small-group discussion.

We usually stop for a break halfway in the middle of class. (One student wrote to me that he needs to take a walk in the middle of class because he has ADHD.) Break usually involves this manatee video.

Another wonderful moment this week is that I got a lovely note from a former student with whom I had a very uncomfortable encounter that ended in tears. (Too difficult to explain here.) And, in addition to the note she came by my office to tell me that she is a very different person now from when I last knew her and that she was looking forward to class. It really made my day. ~~~

2 thoughts on “PDEs Course: Progress Update #1

  1. I wish I was in your class (I think I’ve told you that already!). I love the idea of the manatee video during break; I’m even thinking it could be used (more appropriate to high school or middle school) to signal the start of class – when the manatee goes squish….

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