I am writing a syllabus for a Calculus for Business class. When I taught the last year, I had some very weak but vocal students whine that the tests were tough (despite other students doing fine), the practice exam was not similar to the actual exam (actually it was, but weak students don't know the material well enough to realize that, and are looking for basically identical exams) and more.

Once one student started whining, more and more students started complaining about things being too difficult. I am very nice, gentle, agreeable person and I was easily bullied. The whining became more vocal throughout. At the end of the semester during an exam I was giving, the whiny student said out loud "no one can do this exam" and disrupted everyone taking the exam.

I have been teaching college for six years and that had never happened. This time I want to tell them in my syllabus that if they find it too difficult, get out of my class.

Here's an excerpt from the draft of my planned syllabus:

Course objectives, goals, policies, etc:

  1. The main goal is to help you learn how to teach yourself math. I will not be able to teach you all the math you need to know, either for this course or for the rest of your life. You will have to teach yourself some of the material by reading the textbook. If you can't learn by reading a textbook, please withdraw.

  2. Whining will not be tolerated. If my course is too demanding, please withdraw.

  3. The goal is for you to do mathematics, not just to "know it". The more math problems you do by yourself, the better. Math eventually becomes fun when you do things yourself.

  4. The purpose of lectures is to help you keep pace with the material, and show some of what you need to learn. (And to address math questions you had). The purpose of lectures is not mainly to teach you the material, although there will of course be some of that.

  5. Students who I suspect have cheated, whine about how difficult the course is, or are disruptive during class may get slightly more difficult exams than other students. If you have a problem with this policy, please withdraw from this class.

My question is, "is this okay?" Point 5 especially - of giving different exams to different students. I do this to deter cheating, but the exams are not substantively different - the same problems, just different numbers. But I'm saying in item 5 that I reserve the right to give significantly different exams to students.

UPDATE 1: dear everyone, thank you for the tremendous feedback. Basically, all responses were critical of my approach, and I accept/agree with them. To summarize, first off, and most obviously #5 will be deleted. secondly, items #1, 2, 3, 4 will also be deleted. Specifically, I wont use the words whining and I won't suggest withdraw either on the syllabus or on the first day of class. Instead, verbally in class I'll try to saying things like math is not a spectator sport, I believe in active learning, and to help you, I will follow the textbook closely. I also won't say I expect them to teach themselves. (A few topics I will leave for them to read out of the textbook, but that is reasonable and there is no point in bringing that to their attention on the first day). In addition, I'll also have to figure out how to be more assertive and maintain high standards etc. without coming off as combative, arrogant, etc. Thanks again for all the input, it is very much appreciated.

UPDATE 2: Patricia Shanahan’s answer (even though I didn’t select it as the accepted answer) really solved the underlying problem I was having with the course, and it was my fault/problem: My expectations were too high for the type of students I have (someone I think I gave a B to last semester studied hard and could do a bunch of the calculus but couldn’t do 1/2 - 1 without a calculator), and that was getting everyone involved frustrated, students and myself. I went into the first day of class (just two days ago) having Patricia’s answer in mind, and I think the session went well and I am optimistic the semester will go well. I also had my typical friendly tone and was all smiles. I believe I came across as welcoming (students felt comfortable asking me math questions) but also firm (I spoke loudly and authoratatively). Students were well behaved and stayed on task. (And to reiterate update 1, I did not include any of the items 1-5 on the syllabus nor did I say them in class). I came out of the class feeling happy and optimistic about how it will go. We’ll see.

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    FWIW, I had a couple professors that actually showed the test score statistics. (Average, high, and median) if I remember correctly) and went over some of the questions with low scores to explain and/or throw them out if it was thought to be misleading or unfair. I really liked that as a student and I would also expect it to also give potential complainers the context to know that they simply scored worse than others.
    – GetSwifty
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 19:36
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    As an outsider I read your entire post and frankly I would think just from your tone (cockiness?) you are a rude person and that no one would want to be in your class. This may wreck your entire career. Just sayin...
    – JonH
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 12:43
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    This is a trick question. Students don't read the syllabus. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 17:46
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    Are these all troll accounts? He sounds like a nasty person? He's rude? By what metric? Students whose job it literally is to take the material seriously, and not whine like toddlers, are essentially throwing temper tantrums because this guy dares to hold them accountable for their end of the deal. The bold assumptions made too, about what the appropriate difficulty of the class should be because it has business in the title, are baseless and idiotic. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 20:35
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    've never been more pleased to see Update notes. Good luck with your class!
    – user96809
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 0:21

14 Answers 14


Frankly, the whole thing seems like a terrible idea - a guaranteed way to sabotage your rapport with your students and ensure complaints on your evaluations. If you're trying to get tenure, this seems like a good way to make sure you don't get it.

I suspect that the "if you don't like it, withdraw" clauses won't have the desired effect of weeding out all the problem students. Rather, they'll weed out everyone except those who have no choice but to take the class (required for their major, can't wait another semester, other sections don't fit their schedule). Neither you nor the remaining desperate students are going to be happy to be stuck with each other.

But I'll comment on #5 specifically. I believe this is unethical, and probably contravenes your university's disciplinary rules. While obviously there is wide variation in how cheating cases are handled, I would say that a common principle is that the student has "due process" rights. You can't unilaterally impose a punishment (and I would say that a more difficult exam is certainly a punishment) based solely on your suspicions. The student has a right to see the evidence against them, defend themselves, and appeal to a higher authority.

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    Ok, thanks for the response and specifically pointing out the problems with #5. I will remove it.
    – usr0192
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 2:28
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    I give warnings about how hard the course is ahead of time and repeat them from time to time (BTW, it isn't really). They do not dare to whine (at least not to me ;-) Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 8:30
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    @usr0192 I'd go so far to say #5 is illegal.
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 17:51
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    @DonQuiKong I wouldn't, at least without specifying the location, and ideally citing a specific law which makes it illegal (though in some cases, it may be illegal due to how several laws interact, and citing just one would be impossible)
    – anon
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 23:14
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    Even if due process was followed, increasing the difficulty someone's coursework as a punishment is unethical. If two students have equal proficiency and effort, is it really fair that one of them has a lower grade because of unrelated behavior?
    – Clay07g
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 1:56

I see a basic disconnect between the course title "Calculus for Business" and the stated objective "The main goal is to help you learn how to teach yourself math. I will not be able to teach you all the math you need to know, either for this course or for the rest of your life. You will have to teach yourself some of the material by reading the textbook. If you can't learn by reading a textbook, please withdraw."

I would expect a course called "Calculus for Business" to be suitable for business administration and similar students who need to learn some calculus for finance and statistics, and as part of their general education. They are outside their comfort zone, trying to learn a subject for which some of them are not especially talented, and that many of them do not enjoy. Some of your students may need both a lecture and another explanation in a textbook to get a concept. This is likely to be the last, and most advanced, mathematics course they ever take.

On the other hand, the goal would be suitable for a course targeting second or third year mathematics majors who have a lot more mathematics to learn and already have significant exposure to college level mathematics textbooks.

The fact that you cannot teach, in your lectures, all the material you expect them to learn is another indication that you are asking a bit too much for the population and the length of the course.

An inappropriate goal for the student population could be the root cause of a lot of friction.

I suggest consulting with your department to make sure your objectives and the demands you are putting on the students match the department's objectives for the course and the target student population. You may need either a different course title to make the nature of the course clear, or a revised syllabus.

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    This is tremendously useful! I see that I need to be a bit more gentle/patient with these students. It will make a happier experience- including myself. Thank you!!
    – usr0192
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 20:19
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    You likely identified the underlying issue. I was very sympathetic with the OP before I read your post, and still am, in a way, but your putting his or her course in context is an important step towards reconciling the two positions (of the lecturer and the students). Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 6:48
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    This is the best answer because it gets at the root cause of the problem ... I misalignment of the OPs and the students'/departments' objectives Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 9:25

I see several issues with your syllabus draft that are worth thinking about some more.

Course objectives, goals, policies, etc:

1) The main goal is to help you learn how to teach yourself math. I will not be able to teach you all the math you need to know, either for this course or for the rest of your life. You will have to teach yourself some of the material by reading the textbook. If you can't learn by reading a textbook, please withdraw.

Your “main goal” is very commendable, but it is hopelessly unattainable within the scope of a calculus class. The skill of being able to teach oneself math from a textbook takes several years to master, and I would not assume a student has it (or is capable of acquiring it) until they are at an advanced stage in a math graduate program. So the last sentence is effectively telling 99% of your students they need to withdraw from the class.

2) Whining will not be tolerated. If my course is too demanding, please withdraw.

I second the advice in @mathochist’s answer not to use the word “whine” or any of its derivatives. Moreover, I would wonder why you even think it makes sense to have the sentiment that whining should “not be tolerated”? Your job includes dealing with students who will sometimes struggle with your class and may give voice to their unhappiness; this is simply human nature. So, tolerating “whining” is in your job description.

Instead of putting draconian restrictions on your students about what they may or may not say, perhaps you can work on your own attitude, and give some thought to how to teach in a way that leads students to be happy instead of feeling like whining, or, if they do whine, how to deal with that effectively or even turn their whining into a teachable moment with some positive benefit? Just a thought.

3) The goal is for you to do mathematics, not just to``know'' it. The more math problems you do by yourself, the better. Math eventually becomes fun when you do things yourself.

There is a wonderful rule in writing and communication called “show, don’t tell”. You will never convince anyone that math is fun by saying things like “math is fun!” Instead, you have to show them that math is fun. So, while the sentiment you are expressing here is very valid and laudable, this paragraph serves no useful purpose other than to clutter up your syllabus. I suggest removing it.

4) The purpose of lectures is to help you keep pace with the material, and show some of what you need to learn. (And to address math questions you had). The purpose of lectures is not mainly to teach you the material, although there will of course be some of that.

I also don’t understand what purpose this paragraph serves. I suggest keeping you thoughts about what the purpose of lectures is to yourself. Lectures are a standard part of university life and everyone has their own idea about what they’re good for and how useful they are (with some students considering them very important, others less so). Do you really think any one of the small number of students who bother to read this part of your syllabus will change their behavior in any way, or stop and say to themselves “wow, I never thought of it that way! This has completely transformed the way I think about lectures”? I don’t think that’s very likely...

5) Students who I suspect have cheated, whine about how difficult the course is, or are disruptive during class may get slightly more difficult exams than other students. If you have a problem with this policy, please withdraw from this class.

This is just awful, for reasons explained well in the other answers.

To summarize, it sounds like you have noble ideas about teaching math, but at the end of the day, you are teaching calculus, not philosophy. I would reserve the syllabus for listing the actual topics you plan to cover and other practical matters like a grading policy etc (you’d be lucky if most students even read those parts), and leave the philosophical discussions to those few minutes here and there during lecture if/when it makes sense or you are in a particularly philosophical mood. And please try to be more tolerant of students’ venting about their struggles in your class.

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    I would not necessarily get rid of 4, considering you know, you just said : "everyone has their own idea about what they’re good for and how useful they are (with some students considering them very important, others less so)". A lot of my classes that had a text book often had professors not using it at all to the point where there A: was no reading that corresponded with the lecture and B: the professor disagreed with the text in the first place. If you mean for lectures to be supplementary, then you are certainly serving your students by explicitly stating that.
    – Krupip
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 18:29

Text like this in the syllabus will not change anyone's approach to the class. I repeat: Text like this in the syllabus will not change anyone's approach to the class. Hence, for brevity (if nothing else), it should all be struck out.

What will change some people's approach is how points and grades are awarded. So that should be presented clearly in the syllabus, and enforced rigorously. I highly recommend not "scaling" grades in any way.

The other thing that will change some people's approach is how you personally carry yourself in class with confidence and decisiveness. Clearly, you need to work on this. I recommend a very forceful "no" to the first person in the class that asks for some waiver or modification to the rules in the syllabus (almost regardless of whether it is reasonable or not; this sets the tone for later requests). People need to see that you have the capacity to say "no". Practice in front of a mirror. Personally, I attended a self-defense class for a few years after I started teaching, and it helped me be aware and manage my emotions greatly in class. I would recommend that as well, time permitting.

The long added text seems to signal that you cannot say this in a face-to-face interaction with students, and therefore sends exactly the opposite signal from what you wish. Again, I recommend (like others) that the whole passage be deleted.

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    You need to check what accommodations might be mandatory... In which case I suggest answering "Yes, certainly--please get a Form (XYZ) from (student services) and complete it, then we will be able to arrange for that accommodation." Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 14:02
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    @user3067860: My recommendation assumes that the request is actually the instructor's responsibility to decide. IME, students do not ask about student-service accommodations; they simply show up with documentation informing the instructor of such (which is good). Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 15:19

Your #5) policy defeats the purpose of your class. The purpose of a class is to teach knowledge and skill to a certain level.

The purpose of the exam is to test whether the students acquired that level.

Your punishment would require students who are suspected cheater or are disruptive to need to have a higher level to pass the class and that is wrong. Either you have the level or not.

Suspected cheaters should be investigated and disruptive people should be dealt with.

Don't throw the integrity of your grading out of the window.

  • Remove "is stupid because it" and the whole answer becomes excellent :) We can agree the policy is ill-advised but to my ear the word "stupid" carries some judgment on the author of the policy as well. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 3:29
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    @6005 ok, done.
    – Pieter B
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 11:14
  • As mentioned in my comment, stating math is fun and then then threatening students with it is a laughable contradiction.
    – ATL_DEV
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 1:49

A cheating policy that basically says "for cases of suspected cheating, the process outlined in the university's discipline code will be followed" or something else conveying that sentiment is sufficient. Your institution may have a "standard" text for such purposes.

The overall tone of your excerpt is very negative. You should be framing it along the lines of your comment that "math becomes fun when you can do it yourself." It doesn't need to be aggressively cheerful, either. But the tone should be one where you try to motivate rather than discourage your students.

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    Imho, a cheating policy that basically says "for cases of suspected cheating, the process outlined in the university's discipline code will be followed" is superfluous. Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 5:52
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    @Sumyrda it may seem superfluous but can be necessary to ensure the instructor has room to act.
    – aeismail
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 11:03
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    @Sumyrda No, it really isn't superfluous. Many instructors at my university handle suspected cheating cases "off the books", despite clear official procedures, and students know this. Including this text signals to the students that they should expect the instructor to strictly follow the rules.
    – JeffE
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 13:13

There's a low barrier for verbal complaints. Depending on your priorities, an alternative policy that may be worth considering is requiring that complaints be written out clearly with an explanation for why the student felt it was a fair complaint. This may have the effect of also deterring legitimate complaints and may still damage your rapport with students.

Additionally, I would recommend against using variations of the word "whine" in the syllabus or while talking to students. Whether you view it as whining or not, a student who is already having problems in the course would not appreciate being told something so dismissive.

  • Good point about avoid using the word whine. Thanks
    – usr0192
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 3:20

Students come into college with all sorts of expectations. Some expect courses to be easy. Some expect to be given a break if they complain enough. I don't think you can really change this. You can put on slippers, or you can try to sweep the world...

Regarding your initial example

One or two whiny students are hardly a reason to radically alter a whole course. It's easier to get the one student to stop whining. You say, however:

I am very nice, gentle, agreeable person and I was easily bullied.

I think this is a problem you really need to address. It is part of your job, as instructor, to be firm and provide a source of authority in the classroom. The students depend on this for their learning, they expect it from you (though they may not realize it). Learning from an instructor who cannot control his classroom is very difficult even for an enthusiastic student.

I suggest seeking out resources from your institution about controlling the classroom, or at least just overall assertiveness. You are supposed to be in charge - you have every advantage (official authority, power to grade, knowledge, experience, age) in your favor. If you ask a student to stop whining, they should stop whining. There are many ways of effecting this, ranging from very nice to strict, but you must have at least some way that works. There should not be issues of students continuing the whining after you told them not to - that's called a dysfunctional classroom. There is certainly something very wrong if you feel bullied by a student and it affects your pedagogical decisions.

Regarding your syllabus

The sense of your syllabus sounds reasonable enough, except for point #5. The style is a bit improper, in my humble opinion. Language like "Whining will not be tolerated." doesn't really belong in a modern classroom, and you risk being perceived as self-important, hostile or ridiculous by some students. Putting it so bluntly in writing also gives them ammo to complain to your superiors.

#5 seems unreasonable to me. Students tend to dislike being graded on subjective criteria (one man's whining is another man's insightful critique...). It can work if the students trust and respect you sufficiently, but given the difficulties you've had controlling your class, I doubt that this will be the case. Also, at the end of the day whining is communication, and it doesn't make sense to punish your class for communicating. You want good communication so you can keep an eye on how they are doing and teach accordingly.

At the bare minimum, I would trim it down to simply:

Students who are disruptive or behave in an unacceptable manner will be asked to leave. I may deduct points from their grade.

You can then verbally say they are being disruptive when they whine, this way at least the focus is shifted on preventing disruption rather than an obsession with "whining". And they are already aware they can drop the class if they don't like it, there is no need to say it (and it can intimidate or discourage some, even if they are not disruptive or whiny). If you really want to, you can arrange things so that they get results from the first exam or graded quiz/homework before the withdrawal or add/drop period ends, so they can see for themselves they're not going to do well, and drop. If they are required to take the course, they'll still be back the next semester, but at least they'll come into it with more accurate expectations (and they might even try to prepare a bit beforehand!).

But even better would be to flip this and do something like tie 5-10% of their grade to "good behavior". Start everyone at the highest "behavior grade" and threaten to take off points for bad behavior. Even if the points you take off are trivial, students will probably comply since they usually exaggerate the importance of grades. Weak students will also feel less hopeless, since now they can get some points by just not making trouble, which is (presumably) easier than studying. Alternatively you can call this an "attendance" score (might not work if you want your students to be able to skip the lectures), and then threaten to dock someone's attendance point for the day if they refuse to stop whining when you ask them to.

General remarks

I think it's worth examining your own aims here. If there are really many students who complain about struggling, and then go on to actually struggle and get low grades, clearly the learning process is not happening. Remember, you are not St. Peter at the pearly gates, separating the wheat from the chaff. You are the foremost representative of the institution, whose task is to take students who don't know, and teach them. Indeed, the aptitude and motivation of the student is also important, but remember that all these students are pre-selected: They have been deemed to have sufficient aptitude and motivation by the admission committee. If they are not learning, it is potentially a possibility that perhaps you could be doing a better job. Indeed, the students get to excuse their failings with immaturity and inexperience. You, less so.

If there are business students that find the math too hard, perhaps the course can be redesigned to be effective for them. Maybe it would help to put less emphasis on technical aspects such as theorems and more on applications and problem solving (especially exercises dealing with a more hands-on situation in a business context). I'm assuming a "Calculus for Business" class is supposed to be less technical and abstract and more geared for what a business major would likely do. "Stamping out" the "whining weak students" isn't really a perfect solution - ideally you want to find a compromise where everyone is happy, including the weak student. The one exception to this I can see is that if you want to teach "Calculus for Math Enthusiasts who appreciate the intricacies of theory" and the university needs you to teach "Calculus for Business", you're somewhat out of luck there.


There are already great answers about the specific points 1 to 5.

I'll answer about the general tone of your draft: since I started teaching at university (but this would be true anywhere I think), I noticed the importance of having a positive attitude with students.

By this, I mean, when you start a course with new students, you have to be positive a priori and open-minded to them (except when you have the evidence of someone being in violation with your rules, but even in this case, a positive and professional attitude helps to solve the problem).

Students feel when the lecturer has a benevolent attitude, and then usually everything is going well.

On the other hand, if I was a student and read your draft, these words:

  • "If you can't ..., please withdraw."

  • "whining"

  • "will not be tolerated"

  • "not just to "know it"

  • "I suspect"

  • "have cheated"

  • "disruptive"

  • "problem"

would make me feel:

  • that the lecturer probably doesn't really like his job/what he's doing, because most terms are negative; he mainly see problems instead of focusing on the interesting part of his job

  • that the lecturer isn't very professional (come on, everybody has problems at work and that's the role of a worker to solve them in an intelligent manner, and not whine about it – in fact you don't want students whining in your course, but you're whining about potential problems that might arise in your course with your draft syllabus, even before the course has started!)

  • that the lecturer has an a priori bad feeling about me (as a student)

That will obviously discourage even good students to choose your course.

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    Most of the students I know have been personally burnt by a professor with a bad attitude. The power dynamic in a student/teacher relationship is unilateral. Smart students drop hostile syllabus courses immediately, so only the naive and unwise remain.
    – user45501
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 22:38

One suggestion, I think you should focus your practice exam on exactly the topics you will be testing students over. That or you make very clear that the practice exam is meant to give an example of the style of the test and not necessarily the course material it covers.

I think you set yourself up for student anger when your practice/study materials do not align well with your exam. This does not mean that the problems should be exact with just the numbers changed, but if you give a practice exam with a question over the chain rule but then don't have that in your exam, you can expect student frustration.

That said, I feel you are setting yourself for unhappy students with a syllabus that comes out so confrontational. The "if you dont like it, leave" attitude rarely works. Most students do not have that leeway due to scheduling or requisites.

Fair, Firm, and Focused (and maybe Funny). That's my mantra.


The biggest thing you can do to cut down on whining:

Make it absolutely crystal clear what prerequisite knowledge and skill levels are expected of students.

Some example warnings:

  • You should have a firm knowledge of the concepts covered in MATH 117
  • You must be comfortable doing basic trigonometry before taking this class.
  • Class instruction will be geared towards students who are proficient in algebra and trigonometry. If you are weak in those areas you may find that you need extensive extra work to catch up.

A class in "Calculus for Business" will not be attracting students who are studying math for the joy of it. It will attract students who are looking for the easiest way to meet a degree requirement; for many of them this will be the last class they need to pass for this degree and they will happily never open a math book again.

Teach to the class you have, not the class you want.

(Source of much inspiration: a FORTRAN programming class long ago that had a prerequisite of another programming class but which attracted a large cohort of students who had never written anything longer than 10 lines of code.)


While this does directly not answer your question, I believe it will help you help your students the most. Rather, you should not discourage 'whiners' from taking your course, but instead help them help themselves.


One of the best math classes I ever took (Stochastic Modeling / Probability) had a practice of doing in-class discussion of the homework problems.


"are there any questions about the homework?"

The professor would then directly answer and explain any questions we had with the homework assignment and we would turn them in for points. I believe occasionally students would be allowed to answer the question for the class.

This had a few great benefits

  • there was always a personal benefit in doing as much of the assignment as possible and showing up to class
  • everyone could and would freely help each other and discuss the assignment outside of class
  • there was little excuse for doing poorly on the homework while it still let the strong students shine
  • students with questions always had them answered well and thoroughly

Additional notes

There were only 5-15 questions per assignment, though with calculus you may expect more. Consider providing a large list of recommended problems, but only requiring a specific subset of them. (5 easy, 3 medium, 2 hard)

There was not enough time in the class period to ask and answer every question, and one would look foolish doing so. There was also a benefit to the students to discuss which questions were the most difficult or unclear and ask about those.

This professor allowed any paper material to be used on the exam, including the book and all notes from the course. The two calculus courses I took (years earlier) allowed the book to be used during the exam. Personally, I have tremendous difficulty with magic formulas and prefer diagrams and written use, and this practice was extremely beneficial to me.

This professor also authored their own text and I suspect incorporated our questions into successive versions.


In my experience, students who are not interested in learning will find a way not to do so. Students who are interested in learning will get about 90% by themselves from a good book on the subject, but need an expert for the missing 10% (which is of course a different segment for each student and hard to predict).

You may find other students have similar problems and would benefit from these approaches and others.


(5) is problematic:

  • You can't give harder exams to students on any reason.
  • You can't punish students on suspections.

The others are acceptable.

The questions is, are they useful? In my opinion, obviously yes.

You seem to give some basic math course for some business students; these are typically young guys in white ironed t-shirts, thinking the whole world is before them.

I think your real lession what you give them, is that having a business bsc is not a guarantee to have infinite money in the rest of your life. They need also hard work and mind for that. And yes, they need exactly this lession.

However, it might be dangerous, for example if the students can choose between you course and others, or they have the option to choose a different teacher, they will likely do that.

A student wants

  1. his degree on any cost, their this motivation overwrites all in them.
  2. Their secondary motivation is to minimize the work for that.
  3. All other, including curiousity, getting real knowledge, are coming only after that.

Your points seem trying to catalize (3). Good luck!


I know you have already accepted an answer, but it seems that there is one key issue that you missed: You should be nice in teaching but uncompromising about cheating.

There should be a clear statement of the rules on your exam. Whether or not the rules are stated somewhere in the university rules, you should state them explicitly on the front page, something like:

During the exam, you are not allowed to talk or communicate via any means.

If you need to speak to the examiner, stay in your seat and raise your hand to alert the examiner.

If you break any of the rules, or attempt to cause any disruption, you will be given a zero.

Make sure they are told to read the rules in the few minutes before the exam itself. And then you have to be prepared to actually enforce the rules! This means that it would be a good idea to have a small test halfway through the semester where you do exactly the same, to prepare the students for a firm stance on rules. At least, even if they get a zero for the small test it would not affect their grade too severely (because we're kind of course).

Why do I emphasize this? It is because it allows you to effectively and cleanly deal with disrupting an exam, simply because it is covered clearly under the rules, and the students have simply no excuse.

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