The purpose of the senior exercise is to engage each senior in the exploration and communication of mathematical ideas beyond material covered in courses taken, or to be taken, by the student.
A student may approach a faculty member for suggestions for topics, or browse for one independently. The shelves of the Finkbeiner Reading Room and the stacks in the library are obvious places to look for ideas. The student's topics should be of suitable difficulty - not too easy and not too hard. If in doubt, the student should consult with faculty members about this.
Once the student has a topic and a few print resources (books or articles) in mind, she/he should approach an adviser to ask about working with the student on the topic. Faculty have the right to refuse such a request on the grounds of an inappropriate topic, on the grounds of having agreed to advise a large enough number of other students, or for other reasons at the faculty member's discretion. (The exact definition of large enough will vary from year to year depending on the size of the senior class and the number of active faculty, but it is Department policy to have all faculty members advise roughly equal numbers of students.)
For the reasons outlined above, students should be talking to potential advisers—with topic ideas and some resources in hand—by the first week of the Fall semester. We encourage students to begin thinking about possible topics in the spring of their junior year.
The proposal must include:
Deadline for the Proposal: Friday, September 13, 2013
Departmental Response by: Friday, September 20, 2013
Upon acceptance of the student's proposal, a secondary advisor will be appointed by the department. The student is encouraged but not required to consult with the secondary advisor during the process of writing the paper.
By the first full week in October, student should have a detailed outline of the paper and a reasonable understanding of the ideas (including proofs of major theorems) that are going to be included in the paper. This outline should be shared with the student's adviser, and a meeting scheduled to discuss the outline and the progress of the paper generally. This meeting should take place before October reading days. The advisor should be given a week's notice on a request for a meeting, and should be given the outline at least a day in advance of the meeting.
|Timeframe for Meeting:|
|Mon-Wed October 7-9, 2013 or before.|
At the advisor's discretion, further meetings, outlines, or drafts may be required.
The paper should include all major definitions, examples, theorems (along with complete proofs), and any other critical content. Please submit two hard copies to the department chair before the end of business hours on the due date. (The department secretary or any math faculty member may also receive the paper and pass it on to the chair.)
Deadline for Draft: Monday, October 21, 2013
Departmental Response by: Monday, October 28, 2013
Deadline for Paper: Thursday, November 21, 2013
Departmental Response by: After the results of the ETS test are known
First Offering of the Test: Evening of Thursday, December 12, 2013
Second Offering of the Test: Evening of Thursday, December 19, 2013
Third Offering of the Test: Evening of Thursday, January 16, 2014
Students must take the test at one of these two times. Since there are two dates, it is understood that the students will not discuss the content of the test until all seniors have taken it. The results of the test can be expected to be received from the ETS a few weeks after the test dates.
The final results of the senior exercise will be made known after the Educational Testing Service reports the scores of the Major Field Test in mathematics.
The department will evaluate each senior exercise (the result being either distinction, pass, or fail) by looking at the following factors:
Failure to meet a deadline (except in extenuating circumstances) may result in failure of the senior exercise.
Unacceptable work turned in at any stage can result in failure of the senior exercise.
In order to help students know how they are progressing, faculty members in the Department of mathematics will provide written or verbal feedback on the proposal and on the draft of the paper.
The ETS Major Field Test in mathematics
Adequate performance on both the ETS Major Field Test and on the paper will assure passage of the senior exercise. But these two components are not weighted equally. A student can pass the senior exercise with a poor performance on the ETS exam by writing a sufficiently good paper. A mediocre paper and a dismal performance on the ETS exam may result in failure of the senior exercise. To achieve distinction on the senior exercise, both the paper and the test must be examples of high quality work.
Copies of senior exercise papers in mathematics are available online.
College policy provides each student who fails a senior exercise the first time with a second chance.
If the senior exercise is deemed a failure, the student will be required to write a paper on a topic chosen by the department. The final version of this second paper will be submitted to the department during the next to the last week of classes in the spring semester. Other (preliminary) deadlines may be imposed by the department in consultation with the student.