Problem solving sessions, Dynamics 2030

(updated Jan 30, 2013)

What are the problem sessions? These are sessions where you do problems from homework, or like the homework, or from previous exams. You do them standing in pairs at a black board. There is no sitting down pencil-and-paper work. Even if you have done an assigned homework problem at the board, your goal here is learning, not getting homework done. If you feel a desire to copy your board work it means you should be working at the board more. That way, if you do well, you will know well how to do problems and later copying would not even be helpful.

What's the concept? By working at a blackboard in pairs you can practice laying out a problem well. These sessions are an attempt to fix a problem: in most schools, there are many students, few teachers, and little practice at iterative improvement. That is, most of you have not had apprentice-like assistance of the type that, say, music students get in private lessons. By working with only 12 students, in a way that allows quick assessment and feedback, the TAs in these sessions should be able to guide you to better work. Most of you will find this iterative-improvement approach challenging. You will need to focus, try hard, accept criticism, and be happy to repeatedly modify your work, and modify it again.

Why is a blackboard better than paper? 1) Because it is openly visible to you and your working partner, 2) because it is easy for the TA to see and make comments, 3) because you can erase again and again and again and thus learn to refine your work. The goal is that you learn what it is like to develop an organized and clear problem solution.

Why is it 12 people working in pairs? 1) 12 because that is enough for one TA to watch. 2) Why exactly 12 and not 13? Because there isn't space in the room for more people to stand together. Note that there is a makeup session on Saturday. 3) Why pairs instead of working alone? Because it is more fun for most people, because the two can help each other and because it is more efficient for the TA doing explaining. 4) Why pairs instead of groups of three? Because in threes there is too-often one person standing on the side. So, there is a strict 12-person limit. If there ends up being 7, 9 or 11 people, one person gets to work by themselves. If it's 6 or less, more people can work alone if they want to.

How is the problem session graded? Grading is on attendance, energy, attentativeness, responsiveness and helpfulness. The grade is not at all on how well you could do problems coming in to the session. Seventy percent is for just showing up, nominally participating, and not making trouble for two hours. In this part of the course the grade is all on effort.

Questions or suggestions? Please give feedback to your TA in section and/or in email afterwards. If you have general suggestions for how the sessions are managed, or could be managed better, please direct these to Andy Ruina. These sessions are in flux and can be modified. The big question at the end of the semester will be: for the time spent by you and the staff, are they an improvement over the labs? To understand these problem sessions' potential, we have to make them as good as possible.

TA assignment to Problem sessions

Day     time     room        TA
Mon    12:20    Th 204      Kelly
Mon      2:30    Th 204      Natraj
Tues      2:30    Th 201     Grayson
Wed     12:20   Th 204      Masetti
Thurs     2:30    Th 204     Zhao
Fri        12:20   Th 204      Gryszko
Sat       12:20   Th 204       Masetti     Makeup session. Email for permission first:
Fri        10:10   Th 204      Ruina        Staff only. In this session the TA's and graders are the students.

Schedule of problem sessions

You only have 4 sessions in the whole semester. The sessions are TWO HOURS LONG (even on Fridays) with a five minute break in the middle. That's 8 hours total in the semester. Two of three days the registrrar has picked for you the sessions do not happen. All Cornell, as opposed to Ruina, generated www pages incorrectly list the room as Thurston 101. Actually the room is Thurston 204 or, on Tuesdays, Thurston 201. Find your section number in the table. Then read the dates of your four labs. On other dates you have no labs.

There is a makeup session listed on Saturday. If there is space, you can go there even for not makeup, just for practice. See the TA list above to sign up on any given week.

TAM 2030
Spring 2013
Thurston 204 Thurston 201 Thurston 204 Thurston 204 Thurston 204
Monday Lab Section Lab Number   Tuesday Lab Section Lab Number   Wednesday Lab Section Lab Number   Thursday Lab Section Lab Number   Friday Lab Section Lab Number
21-Jan - no lab   22-Jan - no lab   23-Jan - no lab   24-Jan - no lab   25-Jan - no lab
28-Jan 401 404 1   29-Jan 407 1   30-Jan 410 1   31-Jan 413 1   1-Feb 415 1
4-Feb 402 405 1   5-Feb 408 1   6-Feb 411 1   7-Feb 414 1   8-Feb 417 1
11-Feb 403 406 1   12-Feb 409 1   13-Feb 412 1   14-Feb 416 1   15-Feb 418 1
18-Feb 401 404 2   19-Feb 407 2   20-Feb 410 2   21-Feb 413 2   22-Feb 415 2
25-Feb 402 405 2   26-Feb 408 2   27-Feb 411 2   28-Feb 414 2   1-Mar 417 2
4-Mar 403 406 2   5-Mar 409 2   6-Mar 412 2   7-Mar 416 2   8-Mar 418 2
11-Mar 401 404 3   12-Mar 407 3   13-Mar 401 3   14-Mar 413 3   15-Mar 415 3
18-Mar spring break no lab   19-Mar spring break no lab   20-Mar spring break no lab   21-Mar spring break no lab   22-Mar spring break no lab
25-Mar 402 405 3   26-Mar 408 3   27-Mar 411 3   28-Mar 414 3   29-Mar 417 3
1-Apr 403 406 3   2-Apr 409 3   3-Apr 412 3   4-Apr 416 3   5-Apr 418 3
8-Apr 401 404 4   9-Apr 407 4   10-Apr 410 4   11-Apr 413 4   12-Apr 415 4
15-Apr 402 405 4   16-Apr 408 4   17-Apr 411 4   18-Apr 414 4   19-Apr 417 4
22-Apr 403 406 4   23-Apr 409 4   24-Apr 412 4   25-Apr 416 4   26-Apr 418 4
29-Apr - no lab   30-Apr - no lab   1-May - no lab   2-May - no lab   3-May last day of class no lab