Reflections on the First Day of Class for CMSE 201 Spring 2017

Our classroom is obviously too small for what we want to do. While it worked to have everybody standing up, I don’t know what’s going to happen when we need them to sit down and work in groups.

I was a bit uneven with the econophysics activity, because I had forgotten to refresh myself of all the places where we stop,make a prediction or drawing, and then continue.

One interesting rule variation that came up is that one student, D, wanted it so that if you played rock paper scissor and that rock paper scissor was a tie, then no money was exchanged. We had the class debate that.

I was pissed because I don’t know what happened to all the pennies I got last year, but we certainly didn’t have enough money so that people could start with 10, 20, or 30 pennies.

So, when we allowed students to bet more money, we also had them start with two pennies apiece.

One thing I’m seeing when I ask them to draw pictures is that when I ask them to think about long run behavior, ideas about the bell curve come up. Pictures of distributions come up. But then I think both cases where students drew distributions as their idea of long-run behavior, or at least, continuous distributions, they didn’t label the X or Y axes. I’m guessing that for next class I might try to institute Gina’s idea of a jargon buzzer.

I’m not sure if I can do it, but I really want to help shape the norm that we shouldn’t be OK with things we don’t fully understand ourselves. Not that it’s wrong to have those ideas, but that as thinkers, we should recognize it if we don’t fully understand something, it’s an opportunity to learn, and to try to rephrase what we do understand.

I didn’t show them the whole syllabus, just the first few bullet points which were things that I promised they would be able to do by the end of class. The end of the semester that is. But, when I finished class, I focused on the idea that we as a classroom are a community. That everybody brings diverse points of view, and I will work to make sure that everybody feels included.

At the end of class, one student, EZ, told us that he had been thinking about dropping this class, but now he was going to stay. They happened to be a student whose name I knew because I had looked at the class roster with images over the past few days. I don’t remember everyone, but I did remember them. They had gotten to class about a minute late, and so as they walked to their seat I extended a hand, said it’s good to meet you EZ.

I wonder whether that helped make a difference. For all I know, it probably didn’t. But I’m still glad I did it.

Action Items for next class

  • Finish Syllabus
  • Write quiz
  • Create scratch examples
  • Give them a dedicated 10-20 minutes of time kicking the tires on scratch. “Go find something interesting”. Make them write 3? Predict-observe-explain cycles while they’re kicking the tires
  • Then, some focused time with a specific goal.
  • Augment our class data with prof Murillo’s class data
  • Make a plot of rounds played vs. penny count