Sunday, April 02, 2006

First week of the term

Week one of our ten-week term is over. Being back from sabbatical and back teaching has been mostly quite good. Monday was an odd day of culture shock. I had forgotten how busy and intense things can get. And all the students look so much older than I remember -- especially the first-year students.

This term will be busy, but I feel like it's off to a great start. The weather was beautiful this week: nice and spring like. When spring term starts with sleet and snow and rain, it's always a little tough. But this week was sunny and relatively warm.

I'm teaching two classes this term: Introduction to Chaos and Fractals and Calculus IV. I've taught both before. However, I'm doing a bunch of new things with the Chaos class. For one, I've decided to write a textbook based on the notes and materials I've developed for the class. There isn't really a book on Chaos appropriate for the class, so I figure it's time I write one. It seems to me that there might be a market for such a text. I'll look for a publisher perhaps as early as this summer, although I'm sure it will be a few years before it's completed. Even if I don't get it published, I'm convinced it will be a worthwhile project, as it will be really nice to have a book for future versions of the course.

As of this evening I have six chapters done out of what I expect to be between 25 and 30. The writing process has been surprisingly enjoyable thus far. It's actually a nice distraction. I find that when I'm working on it it's easy to "get lost" in it. In contrast, when I'm doing other work, like grading or administrative memo writing, I find it almost impossible to avoid get ting distracted. What's going to be a bit of a chore, however, is making the figures. Thus far it's gone fine, but I can see that it's starting to get tedious. The chapter I wrote tonight, on graphical iteration, had fourteen figures. Anyway, I hope that I can maintain throughout the term the pace I've set the last two weeks throughout the term. If I can, I'll have a pretty decent draft by early June.

I'm also adding some labs to the course. This will also take a bunch of work. I'm not sure that I'll be able to add as many as I had originally hoped, but I think I'll be able to do most of what I had planned. I think they'll add a lot to the course; even some simple demonstrations should help make some abstract ideas more concrete for students.

There's not too much new coming down the road in Calculus IV: no textbook writing and no labs. We start with multidimensional integration, which is something I've always enjoyed. The class is small -- technically it's a tutorial -- and it's a fun group.

This upcoming week will be especially busy. In addition to all my usual work, our board of trustees meeting is Friday and Saturday. Earlier in the week our president-elect will be on campus, and I'm a part of several meetings with him in addition to all the usual trustee and administrative meetings. So blogging may be light for the next week.

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