The Senior Exercise
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.
Basic Components of the Senior Exercise
- The student independently studies a topic of interest.
- The student writes a paper on the topic.
- the student takes a standardized test, the ETS Major Field Exam in mathematics.
Requirements and Important Dates
- 1. Students must choose a topic and an advisor.
- 2. Student must submit a formal proposal describing the proposed topic for the paper.
- 3. Student must submit a detailed outline and meet with the advisor.
- 4. Submit a complete draft of the paper.
- 5. Submit the final paper.
- 6. Take the Major Field Test in mathematics offered by the Educational Testing Service.
- Second Chance
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:
- a bibliography with annotations saying generally what is in each source and how the student expects the source to contribute to the eventual paper, (these annotations should not be extensive; keep them general and short.)
- a list of courses the student has had that will support his or her study of the topic, and
- the name of the advisor, along with a summary of the discussions the student has had with the adviser concerning the topic.
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
- The paper should not exceed 20 pages in LaTeX 12-point article format (or comparable font/spacing). Exceptions for longer papers may be requested from the Department at any time between the submission of the outline and submission of the initial complete draft in October.
- The paper should be self-contained. the necessary background, basic definitions, and useful examples must be explicitly set out in the paper so that the reader can understand it without consulting other sources. the paper may, however, assume the general background covered in the core courses in mathematics and (if necessary) the material covered in other math courses the student has taken at Kenyon.
- The paper should be written so that it is understandable to fellow math majors; thus we strongly encourage seniors to read and comment on each others' papers before turning them in to the department.
- Diagrams and calculations that are central to the understanding of the paper should be included in the body of the paper, not relegated to an appendix at the end. It may be appropriate to put as appendices ancillary materials that fill gaps in the development, if their absence from the body of the paper does not interrupt the flow of the reading.
- The student will be expected to work out the details that are not explicitly set out in the references, so as to put together a complete picture of the topic.
- The student will be expected to coordinate and systematize material from various sources into a coherent whole. this includes standardizing the notation, which often varies from one source to another.
- The paper will be graded on the correctness, completeness, and clarity of the writing. As part of this, of course, the student is expected to use correct English and mathematical grammar throughout.
- Papers must be typed. Use of the LaTeX typesetting system is strongly encouraged, but is not required. Acceptable alternatives include Microsoft Word (with Equation Editor and, if appropriate, MathType), OpenOffice (with appropriate mathematical add-ons), and Maple.
Deadline for Paper: Thursday, November 21, 2013
Departmental Response by: After the results of the ETS test are known
- To test students' general mastery of undergraduate mathematics.
- To give graduates an additional and widely acknowledged level of certification for their mastery of mathematics, and
- To help assess the program in mathematics at Kenyon.
First Offering of the Test: Evening of Thursday, December 12, 2013
Second Offering of the Test: Evening of Thursday, December 19, 2013
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.Final Results
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 results from the 2012-2013 test are now available online.
- Meeting Deadlines
Failure to meet a deadline (except in extenuating circumstances) may result in failure of the senior exercise.
- General Acceptability of the Work Submitted at Each Stage
Unacceptable work turned in at any stage can result in failure of the senior exercise.
- The Paper
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.