Back to the basics

Hmm, I have two weeks to update here, so sorry if it’s a little long! Our classrooms focus these past two weeks have been on simple machines, looking at input and output forces, types of machines, etc.

My first post will be about our first week. Ralph had a cool little lab for the students to work on that involved pulling different blocks across different surfaces so that they could see how the force changes. The students were able to complete the lab, although their biggest issue was measuring the force… they kept reading the grams instead of the Newtons, which meant we had to keep going back and reminding them what units we were working with. Anyways, they all were able to complete the lab until the very end, I noticed something very wrong with every single student in all six classes: they could not divide. They all had to solve a problem that meant dividing 1 by 0.8 or something similar. First, I discovered that they would immediately just say “1”. I would then explain to them that no, you are dividing 0.8 into 1 and would draw out the box for them. Once I did that, they had no clue except to say “1” again. So we would ask them, is it ever possible to divide a larger number into a smaller number and get a number greater than 1? And they all said yes. I was flabbergasted. This is like 3rd grade math right? How do they still not understand how to do this? Math fellows – do you see this in your classrooms? Maybe they are just being lazy because they are in science class… but it really seemed like they didn’t know what to do.

This past week, the kids were just crazy. I think it’s because they have president’s day off, so three day weekend means everyone act insane. We got almost nothing done, they had the attention span of a gnat. For one class, 12 students walked in late. It was just bad – so sorry, no real positive posts about this past week.

On another note, I’d like to also introduce another aspect of the fellowship that we have been working on. Starting again this semester, we fellows have been working with a Research Methods class that is taught by the UKAN teach program here at KU. It’s a great class that introduces undergraduates to doing research, over the semester they end up doing about four research projects total, each one getting more in depth. Our goal as fellows is to get paired up with a few of them and help guide them along as they go. I enjoyed it a lot last semester, I had one student who came to talk to me regularly and it was nice to feel like my input was helping her, kind of gave me an idea of what it’s like to be an advisor. Anyways, so far this semester they each gave a couple minute presentations about what their second research project will be. A lot of them were very creative and sounded very promising, other ones… need some work. I feel like I can really relate with these students though, because I still remember formulating my first research project as an undergraduate and how difficult it is to settle on an idea, really focus in on what you want to investigate, and establishing how you will set it up. It’s not easy at all, and this semester I look forward to seeing what they come up with!


About benson3

I am in my second year as a PhD student at the University of Kansas. My degree is in geophysics with a focus on near-surface geoarcheology applications.
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