The first day of class for me is very structured. I do a number of brief activities designed both to get students talking to one another and to provide me with time to learn their names. After these activities, I discuss the nature of the course, go thorough the syllabus, and answer students' questions. Once the student and course introductions are completed, and students have a feel for what I expect of them and what they can expect from me, I give them the math autobiography assignment as part of their homework. I present the assignment as a way for me to get to know them, and as an opportunity for them to think about where they have come from, where they are now, and where they are going.
After they have turned in their autobiographies at the second class meeting, I pull out excerpts from the Course Reflections I've saved from the end of the previous semester. I read advice from my old class to my new class, and this works out great. I have found that when I say doing homework is essential to being successful in my class, it often goes in one ear and out the other. However, when it comes from another student who has already been through the system, they tend to take it to heart. In addition to having my students hear good advice from their predecessors and peers, sharing Course Reflections serves as a kind of foreshadowing--though the new class doesn't know it at the time--of how their Math Autobiography will come back into play when they write their own Course Reflections
What is really great about the Math Autobiography is that I don't return it to the students until the end of the course, so it has a time-capsule feel to it. With all the confusion and little details that need attention at the beginning of the semester, students rarely remember that they have even written the assignment, so when I give it back to them at the end it is quite a surprise for them to read what they wrote, and to see how much they have changed.
Mathematics Autobiography - Enrichment #1
In a short paper, write about the following:
Tell me about your math history (since High School).
Tell me about your current standing.
Tell me about your future.