Nostalgia, Potted Plants, and Zombie Mathematics

So… another quarter is done.

I get a little  nostalgic at the end of the quarter.   All of the work is done and graded… all of the students are off to better things.   Or will be repeating things again.   Whatever.

No two classes are alike.     Every collection of students is unique, and has their own distinct personality.  Here is one deep dark secret of teachers:  none of us like teaching a class full of potted plants.

You know the classes I mean.  The slightly spooky quiet classes.   Classes that just look at you like you are an alien from another dimension.   The class that if it were at the beginning of a horror movie would have all of the students speaking in unison if they were to speak at all.

When students are too quiet, it is usually portentous of one of three things:   (1) you have completely lost all of your students, and no one is willing to admit their ignorance;  (2)   the students are so completely bored with the subject matter that they are wondering if getting up and leaving would actually hurt their grade; or (3)  they really have been taken over by aliens from another dimension and are wondering what your head would taste like.     In any case they all wonder whether the rumor was true that if the teacher dies during the quarter, everyone will be given an A.

Its not true, by the way.

If this happens a good instructor needs to change things up a little.   Start a different exercise.  Get students thinking in a new direction.

I frequently use zombies to get their attention.

Write a zombie application problem, and I can almost guarantee student attention.    If you aren’t feeling particularly imaginative,  I recommend the Zombolympics(tm).

I’m sure I’ll write more about the ins and outs of zombie mathematics later.

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