My Journal

Maths Grinds
7 Jan 2019

What Does “This is a hard course” Really Mean.

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I have given many grinds to third level students over the years and there is a particular warning given to students in certain courses, that is, “This is a hard course”. Now, I do not doubt that that may be true but I have observed some interesting data around when this is said. Namely:

  1. This is often said in a Mathematics course that has a lot of theoretical content to cover…
  2. …in a short amount of time…
  3. …to students that do not have a broad theoretical and comprehensive Mathematics background…
  4. …in studies that are “top-up” courses (a Masters or a H Dip that will take you from a 3 year Ordinary degree to a 4 year Higher one).

I have concluded that when a University says this they are really saying the following:

  • Your Mathematical knowledge is “here” but to get to the level required it needs to be “here” — which is very far away
  • We don’t have the time, interest or resources to give you the number of hours of classes required either in tutorial or lecture form
  • We will close our eyes and rush through it in a couple of lecture hours per week for a semester
  • We’ll hedge by saying “this is hard” and “you will need to put in a lot of time yourself” but really we mean “leave us alone”

I am not trying to undermine the importance of self-study and hard work but in some cases I am quite shocked at what they except students to cover in such a short time so that some Syllabi boxes can be ticked to allow award X.

To me it is really obvious what is going on. A proper deep education is not being provided just a tick-box-job of teaching and learning. This is really sad.

I applaud the students that seek out weekly grinds when the University doesn’t provide tutorials – you have figured out that something which should be provided to you is not and you are paying (both in time and money) to close the University created gap.

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