The primary goal of each Math Clinic is education of how to apply mathematics and related subjects to practical problems. Subsidiary goals include the following:
- ensuring sound practice
- synthesizing methods and uses
- using research facilities, notably the library
- understanding mathematical modeling and problem solving
- learning skills for project management and collaboration
- cultivating technical communication skills, both oral and written
Each clinic is conducted differently, but due to the common goals, there are some generic elements described here.
The goals and strategies of any clinic have the following implications that set the clinic apart from conventional courses.
- Prepared attendance is expected, so each student can participate actively in the discussions. Unlike conventional courses, the whole class depends upon each student's contribution.
- Timeliness is crucial, as we must produce our final report on time. All assignments are milestones, scheduled to fit in this overall deadline. Accordingly, no assignment will be accepted late.
- Communication skills (both oral and written) are an important part of my evaluation of your performance. One of the educational goals of the clinic is that you improve this, and this is reflected in your assignments.
Most of the final grade is based on each student's contribution to the final report, which is a team effort. There may be interim assignments, which comprise milestones, that account for the rest of the grade.
All written assignments are to be done in LaTeX (this is a new requirement). As a formal document, the final report must have proper English, and bibliographies must use an acceptable, consistent format. For writing style, see W. Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, MacMillan Publishing Co., New York, NY, 1979 (3rd ed.). This book is available in Auraria Library (call number PE1408.S772). It is an excellent book, and it can (and should) be read in about an hour.
A message to students. Planning is a skill worth cultivating. In particular, be realistic and complete about specifying your milestones. You will be working jointly with other students, and you must be specific as to who does what and what times you can meet regularly. If the development of a computer program is central to your project, you must design modules to proceed in stages. Plan to have something running that you regard as minimal within a few weeks. Then, if you meet that milestone, build the next layer and proceed week to week such that you can stop at any time with results in hand. Negative results are important to include in your report. Although journals do not generally publish such findings (for example, an algorithm that turns out to be poorer than current ones), you should report accurately and objectively all such results. The quality of your work rests with the process by which you obtained results, not whether prior hunches materialized. You are encouraged to be bold about what you explore and careful how you explore it.
We assume that each student is mature, and will learn what is needed to achieve the clinic's goals. Here is the real point. Math Clinics are exciting, wide-open projects with plenty of opportunity for valuable mathematics, publications, long-term research projects and future jobs. There is something in them for everyone. A clinic can be a great success if each student is working to the best of his/her individual abilities and as an effective team member.
Consult the specific clinic guide(s) for further info about grading and standards.