## Newsletter #21 News flash from
Princeton

Actually, this is more like a news flash, but if I wait to
incorporate it in a more substantial letter I'm afraid I might let it
slip, which absolutely must not happen.
The context: I am currently in Princeton at a Park City
Mathematics Institute (NSF-supported, high-school teachers through
research probabilists--really neat. Jim King has been a co-organizer of
the whole series.) Earlier in the week we had a joint banquet with the
African-American Research Mathematicians Conference. I had the good
fortune to be seated at a table with Scott Williams, a topologist from
SUNY at Buffalo who told the following tale:

This year he had two sections of business calculus to teach. At
the beginning of the semester he set himself a policy which he maintained
consistently. Section B he taught flawlessly, with the material flowing
smoothly onto the board and every i dotted and t crossed. For section A
he prepared equally carefully, but planted errors and breakdowns--several
per day. If he got "stuck" he would hold out for the class to bail him
out, and if they hadn't by the time the bell rang he would point out that
the material would be on the exam and they had better help him figure it
out the next day. Student evaluations for section A were every bit as
scathing as one would expect them to be. Their mathematical performance,
on the other hand, was consistently better--on identical tests given
earlier in the morning, which doesn't leave much room for ambiguity.

Interesting, no?

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