Most of my college students are bright, hard-working, and fun to teach. But each semester I get interesting letters, emails, phone calls, and other correspondence from a select few. I save these and, occasionally, I compile them into a column. I don’t think any of these comments need any explanation, other than to say that I changed or removed any names for anonymity. Also, I pared a few of them down a bit.

Professor Howard, last week I had the chapters 2 and 3 practice exam completed in class on the appointed day and ready to go over with my group. However, yesterday, when it was actually due, it was nowhere to be found. After making the sad assumption that I had thrown it away by accident, today I came across it in my laundry basket, of all places! If it is possible for me to receive credit for this assignment, even partial credit, that would be greatly appreciated.

Hey, Professor Howard, for some reason I thought that the test didn’t close till Saturday, so I went in to take it at about one o’clock, and the guy told me it closed yesterday. I was wondering if I could somehow take it for partial credit. I studied really hard for it, even skipping your class the last couple of class days to spend more time studying. I just don’t know how I didn’t know that it closed Friday.

Professor Howard, I didn’t have a chance to do the homework before it was due, and now when I try to go in and do it, it won’t let me. Can you tell me why?

I was taking the 5B quiz after I read the section. Now, you may not believe me, but I read the whole section. I was taking the quiz and didn’t recognize anything on it. I checked the answers in the back of the book like you said we could, and the multiple choice answers were mostly different than mine. Well, I reread the section, trying to understand what the quiz was talking about, but it didn’t help. I finally just changed all of my answers to the ones in the back of the book and pressed submit. I got a 27%! Then I realized I was reading the 5C quiz, not the 5B quiz. That was a pretty smart move by me—not. Is there any way that I could retake this quiz? If not, I learned my lesson to make sure the answers that I am checking with are the same as the quiz I am taking.

Professor Howard, you have probably noticed that my grades for this semester are horrible. I have been lazy, skipped class, and I haven’t done most of the homework. But I want you to know that I plan to turn my life around 360 degrees from here on.

Professor Howard, I know you told us that we should know the math concepts and not just how to do the mechanics of the problems, but I think that is stupid. Math was discovered thousands of years ago and hasn’t had anything new for a long time, so all we should need to do is learn the way people have decided it should be done.

(A conversation between two of my students before class.)

Student 1: Did you work problem 7 on the homework?

Student 2: Yes.

Student 1: I read it and considered it, but the more I thought about it, the less I understood it. What should I do?

Student 2: Obviously, you need to quit thinking about it before you don’t understand anything at all.

Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at; or visit his website at, to buy his books.

Recommended for you