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 faculty members 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 topic 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 one or more faculty members to consult on the suitability of the proposed topic and to discuss ideas for the proposal.
Students should have topic ideas and some resources in hand no later than the first week of the Fall semester. We encourage students to begin thinking about possible topics in the spring of their junior year.
Writing a good proposal requires a reasonably good understanding of the major ideas and technical material involved in the topic. The student needs to understand the general motivation behind the topic, and needs to identify the end-goal(s) for the senior exercise. The student needs to make sure he/she has the necessary background and appropriate resources for completing the topic. The student needs to be fairly sure the project is doable in the given timeline. All of this requires a substantial amount of reading and background work prior to writing the proposal.
The student should not attempt to write the proposal without studying her/his major resources enough to get a good sense of the topic, its difficulty, and feasibility. Therefore the preliminary work needs to begin several weeks in advance of this first deadline. In addition to extensive reading, the student should be consulting with one or more faculty members who will be able to give guidance on end goals and feasibility. It will ordinarily take several discussions with faculty members to really narrow down the goals of the project. Even though the proposal itself is fairly short, the amount of work that goes into it is much greater. Do not underestimate the importance of the preparation step or the amount of work that goes into it. This is a big part of the overall senior exercise project and a big deadline. As with all other steps in the process, the student may fail the senior exercise by turning in “unacceptable work” at the proposal stage.
The proposal must include:
Deadline for the Proposal: Friday, September 9, 2016
Departmental Response by: Friday, September 16, 2016
Upon acceptance of the student's proposal, the department will appoint a first and second reader for the students’ senior exercise. The first reader will serve as primary advisor for the exercise, but the student may work with either reader at various times during the process.
Advanced LaTeX Seminar: Tentative Date - Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - Highly recommended
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: Monday, October 3 - Wednesday, October 5, 2016 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: Friday, October 21, 2016
Departmental Response by: Monday, October 31, 2016
Deadline for Paper: Thursday, November 17, 2016 by 4:00 pm
Departmental Response by: After the results of the ETS test are known
Test Date: Date to be announced (historically mid to late January)
Unless they have a class conflict, students must take the test on this date. 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 Major Field Test in mathematics are now available.
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.