The Lecture-Recitation Class Procedure

Prior to the expansion after World War II, teaching loads (in terms of hours) were high throughout the University, although class sizes on the average were not large. In the Department, even after the enrollment began to mushroom in the early fifties, the accepted teaching load was twelve hourse per semester. Still, into that period, any class (even on the precalculus levels) that had an enrollment exceeding twenty-five was considered abnormally large, but that changed quickly in the fifties. Of the various options proposed to cope with the burgeoning enrollments, the lecture-recitation approach with a standard teaching load of 6-8 hours per semester was adopted in 1957. The reduction in teaching load was regarded by the faculty as a major and essential step towards enhancing the graduate/research program of the Department. The sentiment has persisted to this day; proposed modifications of the teaching load are always a sensitive issue.

The lecture-recitation method for teaching introductory mathematics courses has remained essentially unchanged since 1957. Typically, the professor lectures to a large class three times weekly and the students meet in small recitation sections twice weekly. Initially, the precalculus classes were a part of that structure. At first, the lecturer for the lecture class customarily took over one recitation class in addition to coordinating the activities of the other recitation classes connected with the lecture class. This direct involvement of the lecturer in recitation classes did not continue for long. Trying to teach precalculus classes, principally algebra and trigonometry- analytic geometry had by then been incorporated into the calculus sequence, was finally abandoned in the early seventies. Although the results of teaching precalculus classes by this method had not been satisfactory from the beginning, it was the large shift from precalculus to calculus as the first course for entering students that allowed the return to the more tradiational way of handling precalculus classes.

Regrettably, the period of low enrollment in precalculus courses was a brief one. The declining emphasis on mathematics study in the high schools coupled with the broadened mathematical requirements in other departments of the University brought the enrollment back nearly to where it was when the lecture-recitation procedure was instituted. Flexible class limits, resulting in classes of as many as forty, and a heavier dependence on teaching assistants at critical periods have so far been effective enough in meeting the demands at the precalculus level.