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Stupid TA! a rant!

  1. Feb 18, 2009 #1
    Just started a Linear Algebra type math class this semester, and for some reason it has a 2 hour discussion class once a week. So far we have only meet 4 times so far, and i hated going to them since the 2nd meeting The TA goes over the same examples that the professor gives during lecture, and we wont get into the constant mistakes. But not only that I think the guy from the red-eye tv commercials has more personality then this guy. His voice stays at one level for 2 hours. Anyways, today i got so mad that I got up and walked out of the discussion. We had a quiz last week, which i swear i nailed. When i got it back I got points taken off because "i didn't use cofactors" to find the determinant of a matrix. The catch, is I DID! He went over the problem in class, and guess what, It was the same that I did. The only thing I didn't do was show that (-1)^j+k = (+/-)1. I just went a head and put down if they were + or - . When I talked to him, he said it was because of that reason. I am going to go see the professor about this tomorrow. Whats next, he will take points off for not showing A * 0 = 0? or 0.0 != 0? What is the limit of common sense math that you do and do not have to write down??

    Sorry for the rant, I just needed to get off my chest before I start flipping out on the TA/Professor.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 18, 2009 #2

    Chi Meson

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    My only recommendation is that you do not flip out in front of the professor. Stay calm, present the facts and simply ask if "this is consistent with your grading practice?" What percentage did this knock you down, anyway? If it is less than 5%, then it is not worth bothering your prof. You might do more harm than good to your reputation.

    Repeat, stay very calm. Show no anger nor judgment at all.

    And sucky TAs is what universities are all about. Get used to that fact. Those guys are good mathematicians (maybe) but few if any are good teachers. Nothing can or will be done about it.
  4. Feb 18, 2009 #3
    I would be calm when i talked with the professor, its to early in the semester to "hurt the relation". Thankfully its only 3 points off of something that I want to say is only worth i think 5% (its the only points that i got taken off). So its still an A. I just want the points that i deserve (which might help me out later in the semester). But we shall see.
  5. Feb 18, 2009 #4


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    You lost 3 marks, and you're thinking about kicking a fuss up with your professor? Wow! Give the TA a break.. it's a pretty much thankless task teaching and grading for undergraduates, especially when the only thing they have to say about your marking is "I deserve more marks here."

    Why don't you try and talk to your TA about the work he is presenting in class? Perhaps say something like "The prof covered these examples in lectures.. could you please go through a couple of different ones." Chances are, he doesn't know the professor went through them! But most of all, don't start whining about trivial details: I can tell you for certain, I will be less likely to listen to someone that's complained about a 97 instead of a 100% the next time when they say they don't like the examples I'm giving, than the student who doesn't complain about trivial details and asks me, like a grown up, to present some different examples. Oh, and if someone stormed out on me because of this, they'd go right down the list of students to care about!
  6. Feb 18, 2009 #5
    If what you said was the only problem with my TAs, I would be happy. I've had some pretty bad TAs man. It's a fact of life...
  7. Feb 18, 2009 #6
    I'm a bit radical, but I think any mathematics professor who thinks teaching linear algebra means calculating determinants by hand - should be detenured, if not defenestrated.
  8. Feb 18, 2009 #7
    I think in an introductory class, it's reasonable to ensure that the students know how to do it by hand, and then after they are tested on it, allow them to be done by computer.
  9. Feb 18, 2009 #8

    Unless she is hot and sleeps with you to get those points back. Then shes the head of the class!
  10. Feb 18, 2009 #9
    But why bother at all? What kind of linear algebra course involves calculation?
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2009
  11. Feb 19, 2009 #10
    Same reason you integrate by hand in an intro calc course, and do (almost) everything by hand in high school/elementary. To ensure that you have a good understanding of the process.
  12. Feb 19, 2009 #11
    If you feel that you've been wronged then no amount of points are too little to go complain. I've went and seen TAs/professors when they've taken away as little as 1 out of 100 points for something. At best, you'll get the points back and at worst you'll get no points back but you'll find out more about how your TA/professor grades and you will never make that mistake again.

    Never be afraid to go and argue for points if you feel you've been wronged. That is a lesson I learned late - around junior year - and I wish someone had told me that when I was a freshman.

    It's one of my biggest pet peeves when lazy TAs/professors take off haphazard points without an explanation!

    Most of the time these TAs are being paid to grade AND to hold office hours. Do not worry about inconveniencing them. I've been a TA for many courses and I've never faulted a student for coming to see me with legit concerns about the way I've graded.

    Needless to say, make sure you have a legitimate argument for getting your points back. Only you can be the judge regarding the legitimacy of your claim, but as Chi Meson touched upon, you want to keep a strong reputation.
  13. Feb 19, 2009 #12
    Well just thought I would give you an update. I went in and talked to the professor (who i think might be a TA himself, can a TA have a TA??) but anyways, I Told him Its nothing big, but I am just very curious what I did wrong, and why did i get points taken off. He said That i should really talk to my TA, which i told him I did and didn't understand what the TA meant, when I showed him the paper, the professor stated that I wasn't the first one with this same issue, so he will give me the points and go have a talk with the TA.

    I know that 3 points is nothing to be complaining about, but I still deserve the points I earned and glad that I spoke up. Thanks all for listening to this rant.
  14. Feb 19, 2009 #13


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    I'm glad you did too. You handled it just right.
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