Friday, June 20, 2008

Week Two progress report, v.1.0

Yowza, I'm beat.

I'm not going to write much right now, as I'm tired as hell and the needle's pegged to the far-right end of the Incoherometer.

I will say simply that the students made their first end-of-week presentations today, and they were magnificent. Aside from the so-so time management displayed by a few overeager presenters who might have taken a taaaaaaaaaad too long in singing their songs, the talks were marvelous. All eight made great use of visual aids (including Mathematica notebooks, LaTeX files, PowerPoint, good ol' fashioned boardwork), all were careful to provide their peers with history, background, and context for their respective projects, all were able to make clear some very high-level and abstract mathematics, and all held one anothers' feet to the fire through careful and clever questioning...Camilla and Thalia were particularly good at this.

To those of the students who may be reading this: I promise personalized feedback on individual presentations, no later than Monday!

There are some great projects afoot. At this point they're working on color-critical graphs, channel assignment utilities, group theory as applied to musical theory, the limiting connectivity of field automorphism graphs, the structure of growing networks of churches, statistical measures of preferential attachment models for random tree growth, variations on previous definitions of finite hyperbolic tilings, and an algebraic/geometric characterization of graceful labelings on graphs.

This last one, Thalia's pet project, has really got me intrigued right now. Thalia's taken as a starting point a "classical" observation (that a graceful labeling of a graph must place the highest- and lowest-labeled vertices next to one another, and in order to obtain the next-highest label exactly one of two configurations must obtain, and so forth), but her logic pushes her along a path I've never seen taken before, on which she's found a way to view the collection of graceful labelings on all graphs of a given size as a collection of lists of states, on which an algebraic structure can be placed. Her insight's led to some interesting ideas, and I'm eager to see where they go. We met for a couple hours this afternoon to hammer out some Mathematica code and to organize our collective thoughts on her construction. She's a fast thinker, and is a lot of fun to work with.

In other news, I met with Lulabelle and Casanova yesterday to begin our analysis of the materials submitted by our colleagues at the close of this past year's writing assessment study. The pickin's are slim, and we've decided to start our analysis by reading through those syllabi we've so far collected from our colleagues who were directing discipline-specific writing-intensive (doubly-hyphenated-adjectival-phrasedly-modified) courses last fall. Our task at this point is merely to reflect upon our critical reading of these texts: what is there in the syllabi that indicates the instructor's attention to writing pedagogy? What implicit elements might the students (or faculty) infer from a reading of the syllabi? What elements are common to the syllabi? Which are present in some but not others?

And so it goes.

Judging from the penultimate parenthetical comment in the previous paragraph (oh, the alliteration!), it's time for beddie-bye.

Until tomorrow, then, I am always yours...

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