Sunday, June 06, 2010

REU ramp-up

As of 11:00 or so last night, all of the 2010 REU students are in town.

They're gelling as a group really well this year, much as they did two years ago. Last year's folks took a little while to come out of their shells, although once they did so, they got along famously and I joy in seeing their friendships continue via Facebook.

This year's crew is ready to get underway, I think. They're as excited as I am to get started tomorrow morning.

As I've mentioned before, I've made some changes, mostly minor, and all for the best, I hope, in the program this year.

What's new?

1. New focus on specific aspects of communication. As I indicated in my last post, I'll be requiring students to practice "elevator talks" and provide at least one visual in their every-other-weekly presentations. My hope is that these new requirements will lead to greater intentionality on the part of the students as they craft their talks and papers.

2. Deepening of engagement with source material. Students will now be required to perform a thorough literature search as a natural adjunct of their respective research projects, and this literature search will be accompanied by the creation of a simple annotated bibliography. This exercise should help them in developing meaningful "history" sections in their papers.

3. Alternation of presentations and papers. The students will be completing only four (not six) drafts of their papers throughout the summer, at the end of the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth weeks. They will be presenting only every other week, rather than every week, at the end of the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth weeks. We will still have a mandatory meeting on every Friday, but on alternating Fridays this time will be used for conferencing on papers, peer review, practice of elevator talks, and so forth.

4. Emphasis on collaboration. In addition to more frequent peer review (I plan to have them perform three peer reviews, as opposed to the one done in the past years), I'll be emphasizing the collaborative and communal nature of mathematical research by encouraging them to work together on their projects. As exciting as it is to have eight students working on eight different projects, the students stand to gain more by working with one another, and my attention can be much better focused if I only need to stay on top of three or four projects rather than eight.

I've got a good feeling about it. They're a bright bunch, they're getting along well already, and I think it's going to be a particularly good summer.

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