Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fractional Children

One fourth of our macroeconomics midterm was a question about the
number of children a household would choose to have. It gave some
mathematical functions describing budgets and preferences, and asked
us to derive a model.

I got a very low score on this question. I went to ask the professor
about it, and the conversation went something like this:

Prof: "You were supposed to model the number of children as a
continuous variable."
Me: "But that wouldn't make any sense. This question was about an
individual decision, not a societal average, and kids only come in
integer quantities."
Prof: "We always work with continuous variables on these kinds of problems."
Me: "I had no way of knowing that. Was there anything wrong with my
math, given the assumption that you can't have a fraction of a kid?"
Prof: "Your math looks fine. But I'm not giving you any credit for
it. I've given a question like this to hundreds of students like
this, and you are the only one to assume that the number of children
has to be discrete."

I don't know what is worse, the professor's attitude, or the fact that
I am the only student who ever stopped to consider that you can't
choose to have a fraction of a child.

1 comment:

Lou said...

I've been warning students for decades about the BEST & WORSE teachers they will ever encounter will be found in colleges. Sounds like you got yourself a real asshole. If a student of mine came to me with your reasoning, I would give them credit just on principle alone...especially since your math was fine. Note you concerns (and reasoning) to your Dean or whoever, and perhaps you'll receive some justice/satisfaction. If not, just pity the bastard. Dad