In the Drop-In Centre, the majority of students visit to ask for help learning in a very small number of courses, mostly the first-year ones with “mathematics” in the title. Of course, any student from anywhere in the uni can visit to ask about maths relating to any course, and we do see them from everywhere, but the courses called Maths 1X have between them a couple of thousand students per semester and that’s a lot of people who might need help to learn how to learn.
Anyway, the upshot of this is that I help people with the same topics semester after semester, year after year. Sometimes people ask me “Do you get tired of the same topics?”
I actually really love the topics in first year maths. Row operations and the fact that they help to solve equations and decide independence and find inverses are fascinating. Nutting out how to do an integral is a fun game. Eigenvalues are the Best Thing Ever. And don’t get me started on conics and quadrics. To me, seeing them every semester is like watching the Muppet Christmas Carol every December. I get to be reminded of a story I love, and notice something little I had never noticed before every time.
Also, it’s not just the topics I get to see each semester, it’s the students learning the topics. So many of them have a perfectly appropriate and successful way of understanding it that never occurred to me and these make the topics fresh again. Who ever thought of checking vectors are parallel by making sure that cos of the angle between them is 1 or -1? Not me until yesterday when a student did it.
And then finally, I get to be there at the moment everything clunks into place and see the light in their eyes as they feel the buzz of understanding it for the first time. And that never gets old!