Friday, November 4, 2016

Brief update

The latest (and tenth) cycle of chemo was the worst I've had yet. I was definitely not a happy camper, and even cancelled my classes on the post-Cisplatin Monday. You don't want to know the details.
As the last day or two I'm finally on the upswing, and it is a great feeling! Today's blood draw, however, showed I am at my lowest hematocrit level ever (no wonder I've been tired). Platelets very low too, prompting the nurse to give the canonical warning--no sword juggling, alligator wrestling, etc. But the counts can only go up from here. There is another suite of lab results involving potassium, sodium, creatinine etc. and on these my results prompted superlatives such as ``stellar'', ``perfect'' etc. I think I'll post them on the refrigerator with a big gold star. Then again, maybe she's an easy grader.

Speaking of grading, while waiting around for the lab results I graded the first problem on today's topology midterm. The results were disappointing, even depressing. This was the easiest exam I've ever given at this level, and the first problem in particular was supposed to be a freebie. Only 8 out of 45 students got it right (including of course that sophomore they wouldn't let register for
the class). This was the one problem where they didn't have to prove anything but could just give the answer. These are senior math majors, but some of them couldn't even draw/visualize the graph of a simple function appearing in the problem, and even those that could seemed to have almost no intuition for the concept of ``limit point'' that we've been studying all quarter and
is not even a new concept; they see it in a simpler context in earlier courses. In the worst cases they wrote total nonsense.

What do I do? I'm really at a loss. Maybe they'll do better on the other problems, which I'll start grading tomorrow. But I'm not optimistic. I suspect I'm going to have to suggest to a large number of students that they drop the course, as they are headed for the D/F range. I'm an easy grader up to a point, but this is ridiculous. As I keep saying to the department, we need to raise the standards for the math degree.

 On a happier note, I had fun visiting Finley's preschool yesterday. They speak Spanish for much of the class, which is fun for me; I can compare vocabulary and grammar points with Italian. I understand Spanish more than I used to, but there's plenty of vocabulary that's completely different. Finley seemed to get a big kick out of having grandpa in his class.

 And finally, Kaia is about to turn seven! We have the ``kid party'' on Sunday at a gymnastics venue, then the ``family party'' on the actual day, Wednesday. Fun!!


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