Moduli at the crossroads

Anand Patel giving a talk at the MXRI.

Anand Patel giving a talk at the MXRI.

A few weeks ago, I attended the Moduli Crossroads Retreat (Part I), aka MXRI, in Madison, Wisconsin. This conference was organized by Richard Kent, and funded by his CAREER grant. Richard said he wanted to model it after the Mathematics Research Communities, but to also allow a bit more time for informal conversations, networking, and professional development stuff. In particular, he wanted an opportunity for early career mathematicians and advanced graduate students to interact with each other. In a sense, he said, these are the people you will form collaborations with and see at conferences in the future.

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The surprising unity of all fields of human endeavor

Manjul Bhargava delivering his commencement address. Behind him are the other honorands. Left to right in the front row: Joan Benoit Samuelson, Thomas Moser, and Mark Abelson.

Manjul Bhargava delivering his commencement address. Behind him are the other honorands. Left to right in the front row: Joan Benoit Samuelson, Thomas Moser, and Mark Abelson.

In what is definitely a first for Bates College, and a rare occurrence for Liberal Arts schools in general, this year’s commencement speaker was a mathematician. We were incredibly lucky to have Manjul Bhargava, Fields Medalist and Princeton professor (and hopefully new friend), deliver this year’s address. Our math majors, a particularly strong and happy group, were really excited to have him, but I was really happy to see that the reception from the Bates graduating class and their families was really positive too.

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Posted in commencement, Fields medal, inquiry-based learning, math and art, meeting famous mathematicians, teaching | 3 Comments

On an accelerated intro to proofs course: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the good again

O, the bittersweet feeling of the end of the school year. So much happiness to be done with the exhausting cycle of teaching and grading, but so sad to see many students graduating and leaving your classes. These last five weeks were particularly brutal and particularly rewarding in different ways, since I was teaching a course that we affectionately refer to as “Math Camp”.  Today is the last day of this intense experience, and I wanted to share some thoughts on the pros and cons of teaching such an accelerated and focussed class.

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Posted in active learning, attracting math majors, inquiry-based learning, teaching | 3 Comments