Saturday, September 02, 2006

They're here!

The project assignments have been made!

Team One will be working away at "Makin' Waves," analyzing the structure of wavelets from a linear algebraic point of view. In particular, they might ask the question: what is MP3, and how does it work?

Teams Two and Five (the first of which, cobbled together from Atmospheric Science majors, has dubbed themselves Team "Mesoscale Matrix") have been assigned to study "Traffic Patterns," and will undertake an analysis of various ideas related to network flow. One of these teams even offered up the possibility of working to unsnarl traffic on Asheville's own Merrimon Avenue!

Teams Three and Seven will each tackle the topic of "Crystal Gazing," taking a look at the application of linear algebra to the structure of crystals. One team comes at the problem from the point of view of chemistry (Team Seven's made up of Chem majors), while the other adopts a decidedly more "artistic" viewpoint, coming from a humanities/pure mathematics background. I'm sure the end results of these teams' endeavors will differ considerably, despite having the same starting point.

Team Four, a heterogeneous group made up of future and current teachers, pure mathematicians, and atmospheric scientists, will develop a mathematical means of understanding the game of Monopoly. The three now-and-future educators in this team realize already the enormous pedagogical implications of understanding the math behind this game and others like it!

Team Six, another motley group of biochemists, math majors, and one talented person who's not yet decided which of these fascinating subjects she wants to pursue, has been assigned to watch some "Flickers on the Screen" in order to understand how linear algebra plays a part in manufacturing computer graphics.

And Team Eight, the second of two teams of Atmos majors, will grapple with "Waste Water and Whatnot," an investigation into the role of linear algebra in solving systems of differential equations, beginning with those that arise in problems involving mixing rates.

The proposals for these projects were uniformly good. Some very strong cases were made for team qualifications to pursue proposed projects, and each team did a splendid job in making clear its particular interests. The decisions on my part were for the most part easy ones, largely because of the hard work the teams put into their proposals.

A good job done by all: keep it up!

Meanwhile, some conversations I've had in the past 48 hours with students and colleagues alike have made me think more deeply than ever before about this course and its design, and have convinced me strongly that running the course the way it's being run was the right choice to make. I'll say more on this topic once I've got my thoughts in better order.

Finally, I'm pleased to see that students are in fact reading this blog, and are feeling free to post comments to my posts. I welcome this heartily, and I encourage you all (students, colleagues, friends) to keep reading and posting; I ask only, as I always do, that you remain civil and respectful of others. Thank you all for your understanding and cooperation!

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