This Course at MIT

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Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 18.904 Seminar in Topology as it was taught by Dr. Andrew Snowden in Spring 2011.

Seminar in Topology is an undergraduate math seminar. As with all such seminars, the majority of lectures for this class are given by the students as part of their coursework. Students also write a final expository paper. This particular seminar serves as an introduction to algebraic topology at an advanced undergraduate level.

Additional information and resources related to MIT's undergraduate math seminars and teaching mathematical communication are available on the MathDL Mathematical Communication website.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • To develop mathematical communication skills, including writing and presenting
  • To become acquainted with algebraic topology
 

Curriculum Information

Prerequisites

Requirements Satisfied

Offered

Every spring semester

The Classroom

  • This classroom contains rows of long tables, with each row having roughly six chairs behind it. At the front, there are two columns of sliding chalkboards.

    Student talks and practice talks took place in this classroom, which seats 35.

 

Student Information

On average, about 9 students take this course each year.

Breakdown by Year

The students were a mix of sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Breakdown by Major

All students were math majors.

Enrollment Cap

Enrollment in undergraduate math seminars is limited to 12 in order to give students ample opportunity to present. Preference is given to mathematics majors. Beyond that, priority is given to students who have not taken the course before and to students who are closer to degree completion.

 
 

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

3 hours per week
  • Attendance was expected at three class sessions each week, for 50 minutes per session.
  • Students presented six times each, for 25 minutes per presentation.
 

Out of Class

9 hours per week
  • Presentation preparation
  • Problem sets
  • Final paper
 

Semester Breakdown

WEEK M T W Th F
1 No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
2 Class session. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
3 Class session. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
4 No classes throughout MIT. Class session; problem set due. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
5 Class session. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
6 Final paper milestone. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
7 Class session. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session; problem set due.
8 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
9 Class session. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
10 Class session. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
11 Class session; final paper milestone. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
12 No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
13 Class session; final paper milestone. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
14 Class session. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. Class session.
15 Class session; problem set due. No session scheduled. Class session. No session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT.
16 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
Displays the color and pattern used on the preceding table to indicate dates when classes are not held at MIT. No classes throughout MIT
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when class sessions are held. Class session
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when final papers are discussed. Final paper milestone
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when no class session is scheduled. No class session scheduled
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when problem sets are due. Problem set due
 

Instructor Insights

I think the key to learning how to give a good math talk is practice. It’s all about just doing it.

—Dr. Snowden

In the following pages, Dr. Andrew Snowden discusses specific aspects of his experience leading this course.

 

Course Team Roles

Lead Instructor (Dr. Andrew Snowden)

Creating the syllabus and other course materials, coordinating the course, helping students with presentation preparation, providing feedback, grading.

Communication Instructor (Susan Ruff)

Working with the lead instructor to brainstorm about course structure and materials, give feedback at practice presentations, develop a rubric for the final paper, and give feedback on paper drafts.