Understanding Mathematics by Peter Alfeld, Department of Mathematics, University of Utah

Do you ask questions in class?

There seem to be at least three possible reasons why you don't ask questions in class:
  1. You understand everything so completely that questions aren't necessary.
  2. You are so utterly lost that you don't even know where to start asking questions.
  3. You don't want to embarrass yourself or keep the class back with your questions.

In the first case you probably shouldn't be taking the class. Perhaps you can challenge it, or skip it, or just take the exams.

In the second case things look grim. It's virtually impossible to catch up with a class once you are lost. You need to rearrange your studies in a major way.

The third reason is probably the most wide spread. It's the one I'd like to focus on. Teachers differ in the extent to which they encourage questions, and in the ways they respond to questions. Most welcome questions. Indeed, questions from students are the most useful indicator of how the class is going. A good teacher should be prepared to respond constructively to questions, and be able to adjust the lecture in response to questions. Otherwise you might as well watch a video, or, better still, read a book.

First let me list some of the advantages of frequent questions from the class as a whole:

So now let me address some of the reasons why you might be hesitant to ask questions:

Fine print, your comments, more links, Peter Alfeld, PA1UM