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MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

Conversations with graders by Laura N. '09

And other ramblings of a frosh...

As promised in my last entry, it has been quite a week!

Tuesday night I completed the machine tools class, which means I finished making my corny little flashlight:

Now I can use a milling machine and a lathe, which I think makes me pretty cool, thank you very much. I got to put those new skills to work just last night, when I helped turn (turn= verb for using the lathe to machine something) a pin for the pedalbox of the FSAE car. So far for FSAE I’ve made minor contributions to the frame, the body mold, the steering rack, and the pedalbox. Oh, and the wheels, but I’m not sure if the part I worked on will actually be used on the car. Pretty cool.

Wednesday I took an 18.03 exam. It was an adventure. I didn’t do nearly as well as I had hoped. There were a couple of concepts that I couldn’t quite remember how to do and a couple that I just plain left blank…but the cool part was that I got nearly 100% correct of the parts that I answered- including the ones I sort of blundered my way through. The good news is that I’m starting to understand more and more as time goes on- so even though there’s plenty of room for improvement, I’m confident that I actually will improve.

On Tuesday, my 18.03 TA handed out evaluations for us to fill out about him. I suggested that we work in small groups on the recitation problems, because well…I need help in 18.03. (More on that later.) On Thursday, he handed out the problems as usual and then said, “So on Tuesday someone suggested working in small groups on these problems, so why don’t we try that?” And I was like “hey! That was my suggestion!” It was pretty cool. I thought it was really awesome of him to go out of this way to hand out these evaluations and then actually consider our responses.

Speaking of 18.03…I am unhappy with my grader, but not because of the grade they gave me at all. See, I have this weird habit of…taking colorful notes with offhand comments in the margins, littering my scratch work with emoticons (smiley and sad and confused faces according to my feelings about my answers as I go through the work), and writing little notes on anything that I know will be graded by hand by an actual human being. For example, on the AP Physics test last year, there was some question involving all kinds of calculus that I’d never even heard of. I did my best from what I knew and understood, trying to make sense of the math as I worked through it. At the end of the page, I wrote my answer. Beneath that, I wrote, Whew. That was hard.

I’m not really sure why I do these things; I suppose its just one of my odder quirks, but I do it all the time. For example, on the last 18.03 pset. There was this one problem that was just so well-written. I don’t mean that it was a clever word problem, I mean they gave you some function and you had to go through this elaborate process involving complex exponentials and taking the real and imaginary parts of things and converting them back and forth and integrating and all kinds of nonsense…and then in the end, the answer was 4. I mean, it was some single-digit whole “nice” number. And then part B of the question involved some other manner of complex calculation (well, maybe it’s not so complex, but it seems that way too me…) and you get 7. It was just so cool. So after doing all the work, in the margin of the page I wrote something like, this question was cool because it was really well designed. Good job. =)

And when I got the pset back, the grader had written I don’t think you can suck up to professors through psets” ! This made me really angry. If I wanted to suck up to a professor, I wouldn’t write comments on something that only gets seen by some poor undergrad grader. I was tempted to write that (plus “so there!” at the end) on my next pset but well…considering that my grader…grades me…that doesn’t seem like the best idea.

After this, I was really worried to get back my 8.02 pset. You’d think that if my 18.03 grader didn’t like my complimeting the problem, that my 8.02 grader would be even more annoyed at the fact that I wrote This problem was worthless. =( at the end of question 2. (To be fair, I wrote this at like 3 AM. And the problem was worthless. You basically had to make up some numbers and do this meaningless calculation that taught you absolutely nothing about physics.) Well, my 8.02 grader had written. Welcome to physics. Get used to it. =( . I personally found this really funny. I think this just goes to show how people here are not happy unless they’re unhappy…. =/

On Thursday I donated blood and was awarded a sticker that said “Be nice to me, I donated blood today.” =) There were others that had pictures of teddy bears on them that said “Hug me, I donated blood today” but I personally thought that wearing one of those could be a little dangerous.

Responses to comments:
Drew said about my recent hack entry:
That hack although not as extensive as some of the others is still pretty entertaining. The one that I remember was told to me by my interviewer who took part in the hack. Some years back they set up around the dome some lettering that had been rolled up a night or two before a presentation given for the entering class. The message was revealed at the start, from Dante’s work, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter”
That’s a classic. Actually, my roommate’s dad was in the entering class that was welcomed to MIT with that hack. She says he loves to tell stories about it all the time. =)

Mike said:
As a freshman, how did you decide on laptop versus desktop, and what influenced that decision one way or the other?
Hmm, that’s a good question. I have a laptop, but I honestly didn’t put much thought into it. I guess I just figured that a laptop would be smaller and easier to bring with me. I stayed with a friend of the family at Penn State once. Her roommate had a desktop, and it just struck me as so big when put into a college dorm room. *grin* To be fair, dorm rooms here are pretty big (well, mine is at least), but still, I think it’s just easier to have a laptop. That said, practically no one brings their laptops to class, although I know people on FSAE and other clubs like them because they can bring them to meetings so they can do work and show others what they’ve done. I think there are definite advantages to having a laptop, but I also don’t think that having a desktop would be a big problem.

Chris said:
heyyy, new jersey huh? where in jersey do you live? there is absolutely nothing to do in NJ…im from Linwood, basically right next to Ocean City.
I’m from Middletown, Monmouth County, right by Sandy Hook…..exit 114, if you want to do the parkway thing. And I like NJ! Although it’s probably mostly because now that I live with people from all over the country I get harassed about it all the time and feel an intense need to defend my home. =)

Tomorrow: I’m going to the Manchester FIRST regional!!! =D

14 responses to “Conversations with graders”

  1. mugho pine says:

    oh wow, I definitely do that all the time – little comments on the sides of all my notes, homework (graded or not), tests, etc. sometimes stick figure drawings of what’s happening, sometimes frusterated faces (>_<) if I’m feeling clueless. Most of my teachers ignore them, except for my physics teacher who just makes fun of me for them :D

  2. Bashir says:

    Interesting blog. So are you going to give up the habit of writing those side notes on your psets now? I once drew a skull and two bones to signify danger (on reaction of acids and K/Na in chemistry), and got punished for that by my teacher. And that was even my note!!!

  3. Mollie says:

    On my 5.60 final last term, I was totally sucking at a problem, and on the final answer at the end, I wrote what I had calculated, then wrote next to it, “This answer is completely absurd” with a little arrow to the completely absurd answer.

    I got 0 points on the first three parts of the problem, but I got 1 point on the last part where I had written the note. Yay! True story.

  4. Shannon says:

    Craziness! I definitely do the exact same commenting thing in my math notebook. On one test I actually wrote a letter saying “This answer is wrong. I think I screwed up here (arrow). Just so you know.” I definitely only got a point off for the problem. Seriously. One time I started writing a paragraph in Spanish and my teacher actually finished it with a response (in Spanish!) when she handed it back. That was interesting.

  5. thekeri says:

    I do the same thing on tests of mine ^_^ My AP Bio tests always have something uncalled for on them. At the end of my last one, I wrote:

    Brain: *implodes*

    Normally they’re more creative, but I was tired. Bear with me.

    And on my AP Macro exam last year, one of the free response questions was on something I had never seen before in my life. I told them so, and then ranted a bit about how people should never take an AP exam when they’re only halfway through the online class for that course. I got a 4, though, so it’s all good.

  6. lulu says:

    haha =)

    ok. since I didn’t bother to sleep last night and I still have an hour to kill…:

    hanging on my neighbor’s wall is his problem set from 18.02 or some sort. his friend had managed to sneak in the note “I like men.” after his answer to problem 3 or somesort. It was written neatly and calmly, blended in quite well with the rest of the pset. When he got it back, the phrase came back circled (with red pen, mind you) six times with a question mark to indicate confusion.

    There was a really extended proof at the end of one of the more agonizing 8.012 problem sets last semester. It was number 10, I’d been working 12 hours straight, it was 4 ‘oclock or some obscene hour of the morning at the end of the week and I was really at my wit’s end. After three hours on this one problem I finally mathematically confirm the answer (which we knew to be “yes” all along) so I guess in my sleep-deprived state I scribbled in huge letters after my final answer, “YES IT IS NOW FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LEAVE ME ALONE PLEASE.”

    The reply was: “Until next week!! =) =)”

  7. Alan says:

    I drew a constitution for a neighboring suburb on one of my AP Bio quizzes. Another time, on a worksheet where I had to label a cell, I labeled the cell membrane in such a manner that I could also write “YOU GOT BLOOD VESSELS AND MEMBRANES IN YO’ BEHIND*” around using the “membrane” in the label, and the teacher circled it and asked me about it. I just told him it was an esoteric reference.


  8. Kyle Creyts says:

    I really don’t think it is odd to write note to yourself (or to nobody in particular, for that matter) in the margins of your paper; I do it all the time, on a variety of things, especially my drafting and design sketches, where an almost artistically out-of-place boldface arrow will point to a feature, denoting something such as: “this is smaller” or “IT’S PERFECT!!” or “I kinda suck at freehand, eh?”; I find that it also manifests itself in notes accidentally scribbled on a friend’s paper as I help her revise it, or a test as I grade it (the list goes on and on, but I am finding it rather difficult to keep it interesting, so I’ll abbreviate it, ending with this/)

    A bit ironic, but that was my last example(/)…

    Anyway, I am glad people respond to those randomly scribbled notes, and I look forward to reading many responses…

    As for that sticker, since when could one consider anything bearing a teddy bear dangerous? I mean… It’s a teddy bear… ’nuff said.

  9. Edward says:

    Hi. This was a nice post.

    I have an interesting observation about your awesome blog.

    On your main page there’s a hit-counter sort of thing with a map. I saw someone ask (on one of the MyMIT blogs) about the nationalities of MIT applicants this year. I was thinking it would be reasonably accurate to answer his/her question using the map on your blog.

    Keep up the good work!

  10. Ashley says:

    YAY for FIRST!!

    I cant wait til this weekend for the Ypsi Regional at EMU…

    Were you on a FIRST team in high school?

    Now you got me thinking about the regional and how i cannot wait for the regional this weekend!

  11. Kyle Creyts says:

    Ashley, you are in the Ypsi area too?


    We should hang out sometime!

  12. Minh says:

    I don’t understand why you, Anthony and Ann are all freshmen, and yet you (appear to) have much more free time than they do, as evidenced by the frequency at which you update your blog. Any study tips?

  13. edmund says:

    i am glad you are building some stuff there … not just being theoretical .. how was the lathe?

  14. edmund says:

    nothing wrong with middletown township (up by Sandy Hook and Red Bank) ..

    I grew up in Montgomery Township, NJ .. just north of princeton …

    Growing up in NJ was pretty cool … def. miss NY style pizza in Maine and good bagels smile)