Zip-Apart Möbius Bands

I’ve taught topology many times. One of the highlights for the students (and for me) is the investigation of the Möbius band—the one sided, one edged, non-orientable surface with boundary. On the day we introduce the Möbius band I bring many strips of paper, clear tape, and scissors and have the students make conjectures about what…

Undergraduate Math Bloggers

I was interested seeing how undergraduate math students used blogs (and related platforms, like Tumblr). So I posted a call on Google+ and Twitter: I'm looking for mathematics blogs written by undergraduate students. Any recommendations? I'll retweet/repost them as they come in. — Dave Richeson (@divbyzero) February 17, 2014 I received quite a few links. I’m looking…

Bubble diagrams for functions in LaTeX using TikZ

I am teaching Discrete Math this semester (our intro-to-proof course). One of the topics is functions. Not surprisingly my students and I have to draw “bubble diagrams” for functions between finite sets—and we have to include them in LaTeX documents. Rather than simply sketching them in Adobe Illustrator and importing them as graphics, I decided…

Editing mathematical writing

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been assigning large-scale collaborative writing projects in my mathematics classes. I’ve had my topology students write a textbook for their class, and this semester I’ve been doing the same in my discrete mathematics class. As I mentioned in that post, the approach has been very successful, but…

How I teach topology: an inquiry-based learning approach

Recently I’ve had a number of people ask for more information about how I teach topology. I’ve taught it five times using a “modified Moore method” or “inquiry-based learning” approach. I’ve modified it each time, trying to work out the bugs. I think it is pretty successful now. Context. At our college all math majors…

How do you place incoming mathematics students?

Our department is looking for a better method of placing incoming students in mathematics courses. Currently we have a placement exam that determines whether a student should begin in a calculus I course or in a calculus/precalculus hybrid course (our lowest-level math class). The exam consists of 25 precalculus questions. It does a pretty good…

Mathematics departments at liberal arts colleges

I’m often curious about how other mathematics departments do things—how they structure their curriculum, run the Putnam Exam, handle research projects, etc. This invariably leads to a lot of web searching. So I decided to put together a collection of links to mathematics departments at schools like mine (a small liberal arts college). Because I…

Parametric curve project for multivariable calculus

I’m teaching two sections of Multivariable Calculus this semester. Each class has 3 hours of lecture and a 1 hour 20 minute lab each week. Last week the students were learning about parametric equations. So in lab I wanted to give them some hands-on experience with 2-dimensional parametric curves. Their assignment was to create a…

Advice for new college students

I’m teaching a first year seminar this semester. This isn’t a math course. (The title of my course is “Science or Nonsense?” We will look at a wide range of topics including the paranormal, evolution, climate change, the vaccine/autism controversy, alternative medicines, etc.) We are required to focus on academic writing, library research, oral communication,…

A quick guide to LaTeX

This semester I’ll be teaching real analysis. I am going to have the students type their homework in LaTeX. To make this as easy for them as possible, I will give them a template that is all ready for them to enter their solutions. They shouldn’t have to worry about headers, packages, font sizes, margins,…

Volumes of n-dimensional balls

We all know that the area of a circle is and the volume of a sphere is , but what about the volumes (or hypervolumes) of balls of higher dimension? For a fun exercise I had my multivariable calculus class compute the volumes of various balls using multiple integrals. The surprising results inspired this post….

Movie day in topology class: the Poincaré conjecture

Today was the last day of the topology class I’ve been teaching. I decided to devote the day to the Poincaré conjecture. I started by telling the students a little about the history of the problem. Then I showed them three videos. The first video was an excellent 50-minute lecture by Fields medalist Curt McMullen…