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8.02 Students Given Surprise Pre-Reg Day Math Assignment

ByFrank Dabek
News Editor

The term has started a bit early for this spring's crop of 8.02 students, who were surprised to receive an assignment due at their first recitation.

Students registered for Electricity and Magnetism (8.02) received an e-mail on Friday telling them to pick up several class handouts which included a math review sheet with six assigned problems.

Course lecturer and Professor of Physics Hale V. Bradt PhD '61 said that the assignment consisted of "very simple math where [students] practice doing double integrals." The assignment also reviews common approximations such as sin(x) x for small x, he said.

Such mathematics is important in 8.02, since concepts such as double integrals appear early in the course, he said. He characterized the material covered by the problems as a "physicist's view of double integrals" and said that they stressed the concept of integration rather than advanced integration techniques.

Bradt said that the course "does not give any credit" for the assignment and that students would "not get docked one bit" for failing to complete it. He also said that solutions are provided for all problems in the course and that 8.02 relies on small quizzes rather than problem sets to gauge student progress.

Student reaction negative

Student reaction to the unconventional assignment seems to be grudging acceptance.

Barbara H. Shultze '02 said that she had already been exposed to the material in the questions in Multivariable Calculus (18.02). It "wasn't a bad assignment so I didn't mind," she said.

Other students felt that the assignment was something of an imposition. Michael M. Torrice '02 said that he "didn't see a real reason for it." Torrice said that he felt that the material could have been covered in the first recitation without the need for an assignment.

Jason R. Broder '02 said that "a lot of people are pissed off" about the assignment and that he "didn't think it was fair." Broder agreed that there was no need to begin the material before the start of class. "What's the big deal if we wait two days?" he asked.

Bradt said that one student who was upset with the assignment had contacted him. Bradt advised him to "relax don't do it."

While assigning work for the first class of the term is unusual, Bradt said that he has given a math review sheet in previous years when he lectured the class during the period 1987 to 1991. This year however, the availability of e-mail enabled him to inform students to bring the completed problems to the first recitation.