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Stephanie

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The first MOOC I finished was Prof. Keith Devlin's Introduction to Mathematical Thinking. I liked the idea of a course about thinking. I didn't want to absorb and then regurgitate information. I wanted to improve the way my brain performs. The first couple of lectures were reassuring. I was able to complete the homework (which was voluntary but is the real key to learning in this class). I understood the concepts explained in the lecture, and I did well on the multiple-choice quizzes. Everything was fantastic. The next few lectures were a bit of a jungle. I felt like I understood the lectures, except I had to play the video twice in some spots, and when I tackled the homework I'd initially complete maybe half of the answers. Then I'd watch the videos again, or use an answer from one question to help me figure out how to answer another question. When I ultimately finished the homework assignments, I felt triumph. I could feel myself learning. This was why I was taking MOOCs! The next few lectures were a struggle. The course was getting harder, and people were dropping out. I started to see forum posts like, "Thank you for the class, see you next time." But I'd put in too much time and effort. We were getting deep into proof mechanics, which had bedeviled me since high school, and I wanted to learn this. I struggled through the homework and couldn't answer all of the questions, but I was able to succeed in the class from a scoring perspective, primarily because of the multiple-choice nature of the quizzes. I understood which proofs were and weren't valid -- a victory in itself. My brain was twisting itself in new ways, uncomfortably, like a traveling salesman who mistakenly joined Cirque du Soleil. Then came the final exam. It was peer graded and entirely focused on doing proofs from scratch. It was also a quantum leap from the multiple-choice quizzes I'd been completing, and from the homework I'd been struggling through and sort-of completing. I was in trouble. I considered trying to bs some answers. I decided that this would be pointless and would serve no one. No one was judging me here, except myself. It would take me at least 40 to 60 hours to struggle through this exam, and I did not have 40 to 60 hours available. I didn't turn in the exam. I decided that I could take the class again later, and get to the next layer of proof mastery then. I had already transformed the way my brain worked, and that was my goal all along. I mentally said farewell to my certificate of completion. Then I received one. With distinction. It seems my performance on the quizzes outweighed my non-performance on the exam. I was surprised and extremely happy, but I also felt that I wanted to return and try harder, certificate or no. It's almost like there should be two levels of this class: Level 1, the fundamentals, which I completed, and Level 2, the proof mastery, which in all fairness I did not (although I did learn how to analyze proofs). Regardless, I think this is one of the most useful, real-world applicable courses on Coursera or the entire Internet, and I would recommend it to anyone. I'm no longer afraid of a jumble of math symbols when I see them on a page. I can dive in, sort out the meaning, and understand the point the author is trying to make. Which is amazing. (An even more complete review is at http://changenexus.org)