I am doing a maths PhD and naturally that involves leading exercise classes for undergraduate students. The idea is that the students just show up and work through the problem set and I'm there to discuss with them if need be. This is the third time I've done this and the first time was for a first year class which many students regularly attended, but the last 2 have been for third year classes and (as I'm sure is common) I am now lucky if 3 people show up.
Does anyone have any experience with how to encourage the students to engage with the classes? Or as a side question, is it even important that they do? They are given the solutions to the problems a week later anyway but I have no idea if they are actually doing them or not.
(This of course raises the possibility of never giving them the solutions but I am not very comfortable with that idea if there are students who for whatever reason can't show up. Maybe we could give them the solutions later in the term?)
In the first year class that I taught one problem each week was marked and counted towards the final grade. I don't like this so much as, especially being first years, they spent a ridiculous amount of time on the question and didn't focus on the others and were generally very stressed out by it. I wonder if it would be worth having a question marked that doesn't count towards the grade? In my undergraduate we had to hand in a whole set of problems every week but they didn't count to anything so it kept you engaged and you got real feedback but you also had the space to make mistakes. However this was an unusual situation because I went to Cambridge where the teaching is in much smaller groups (1 or 2 people) so you would show up anyway.