VOLUME 31, NUMBER 29 THURSDAY, April 27, 2000

"Mother Hen" a supplement, not substitute, for regular class

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To the Reporter:

Prof. Michael Ram of the Physics Department (in the Reporter, April 19) slams the current "Mother Hen" project, a Web supplement provided to UB calculus students. He says that small classes are the key to success in math and physics teaching.

The UB Department of Mathematics agrees that small classes are vital. Unlike the Department of Physics, the mathematics department already teaches all its lower-division classes in sizes of 60 or less. We would be delighted if they were smaller. At the same time, the mathematics department remains open to new approaches that reach students. "Mother Hen" is certainly one of those, serving more than 3,000 users so far this semester, many of whom have told us that they find it valuable. It is not intended to be a substitute for a regular class, but only a supplement, which is available for those who wish to use it.

Prof. Ram seems upset that students might be interested in seeing again and again a five-minute streaming video segment of a math lecture. Would he be upset if students chose to read over and over again a page or two of a calculus textbook? In neither case is the experience comparable to an interchange between student and instructor of the type Prof. Ram so rightly values. But we are pleased that so many UB students choose to watch a bit of a math lecture, many of them in hours after midnight.

Richard E. Vesley
Undergraduate Director
Mathematics Department

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