The format for this course will be a bit different from other mathematics classes you may have taken. We will start each class with a list of questions that you provide, and will base the class discuss on these. In this way, you have a very direct control over the content of the course, and it is important that you spend time between class thinking about the dimensions. As part of your daily assignment, I will ask you to produce at least one written question and enter it on the Math 53 discussion board, and I will select several of these to present to the class. They can be about anything that you didn't understand, or about new ideas that you have thought of and want the class to consider.
You will need to have these entered by 1:00 PM on the day of class, so that I have a chance to read through them and make my selection. Although you should be able to come up with many questions over the course of the term, if you have an important question, you can ask it again if it was not answered in class.
In addition to coming up with these questions, I am going to ask you (as a group) to write short (two or three paragraph) summaries of each class. We will be using the Math 53 forum to facilitate this in the following way: each day, I will start a new topic for that day, and ask that two or three of you post short summaries of that class as new conversations in that topic. Others should feel free to add comments to these, especially if there were omissions, inaccuracies, or confusions. The main comments should be posted by 10:00 PM the night before the next class (so everyone has a chance to read them), but you are welcome to post additional comments at any time.
I will be posting the homework questions (other than the hand-in ones) to the conference as well, and you should answer these or respond to other student's answers before the next class. Be sure to check both the discussion board and the assignments page on the Math 53 web site for homework assignments.
Not everyone needs to comment on every class or every homework question, but I expect that by the end of the term, everyone will have made at least 20 or so substantive comments along the way, and will have summarized at least six classes (that's fewer than one a week). This should be an on-going process, and you should contribute regularly, not wait until the last few days of class and try to fit them all in then. (Remember, the material at the end will be harder than at the beginning.) While these numbers are here to give you a sense of the level of participation that I am looking for, they are not some magic threshold that guarantees you a particular grade. They are guides only, and it is the quality of your questions and answers that really matters.
The idea behind this is to continue to think about the material after it has been presented in class. Your summaries should describe the major ideas, but should not simply repeat what we said in class. The summary should not be simply a laundry list of the ideas we discussed, but should pick out the important material, and should interpert that material, making connections to past parts of the course, or speculations about what is to come. Try to organize and codify that material. (This is a skill that you need to practice.) It is important for you to take time outside of class to think about the material, and these write-ups should help you focus your concentration.
The questions that you bring to class and ask on line will be what drive the course, so the insight and effort you put into these will have a big impact on the quality of your classroom experience this term.