A young(ish) man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of future courses

Only two weeks remain before the end of the current term, and both courses I’m teaching currently are familiar enough that I can coast a bit (I’ve taught five sections of 478/9 in the past three years and I just taught MATH 280 with a nearly identical syllabus last term).  It’s no surprise, then, that I’ve reached the point in the semester when I’ve begun to think about my upcoming courses, especially since one of them starts just a few weeks after commencement and the two I’m teaching in the fall are brand-spankin’ new.

Summer’s Term I (June, roughly) brings another iteration of my course on Oulipo, which I last taught in Summer 2014. Last summer I opted for origami, but realized by the end of the four-week term that in order for it to be effective that course requires students to have a longer period of time in which to develop their folding skills. Fifteen weeks suffice; four do not. Thus, it’s back to my creative writing course on constrained literature, which seems to work quite well in the short summer term. I’m mapping out our daily doses of constraints for us to play with, including some old standards (like larding, read one/write two, and my family of constraints based on finite state automata) and some new ones I’ve not put in the mix before (Canada Dry, homosyntaxis, and Boolean theater; for these, see Mathews and Brotchie, eds., Oulipo Compendium). I’ve also checked my account on Wikispaces, to make sure I’ve still got a space there to build a new wiki based on Georges Perec’s Life A User’s Manual. Once we get going, this course should run itself.

In the fall I’m teaching two special topics seminars, one in the Math Department and one for Honors. The former will offer students an introduction to order theory, which, after all these years, I still find to be the most beautiful branch of mathematics. Though not applying the Moore method strictly (as I currently am in MATH 280), I’ll be using various IBL approaches in the course. Student presentations will figure prominently, as will student research projects. I’ll be following (roughly) the topics laid out by Davey and Priestley’s canonical Introduction to lattices and order, but I’ll supplement it heavily with problems of my own invention and applications drawn from elsewhere.

The Honors seminar, dealing with voting theory, will have a mathematical tinge to it, too, but will also bring in elements of political science and philosophy (especially dealing with desire, satisfaction, and perception of fairness). I’ll hit the mathematical theory behind rank orders pretty hard, take a close look at special topics like Duverger’s LawArrow’s Theorem, strategic voting, gerrymandering, and the history of voting rights in our country. I also want the students to try their hands at inventing and applying their own voting schemata, maybe seeing if they can use real data to determine how their methods would have decided contentious elections in years past. And what a perfect backdrop for this course! The craziness of this election year is almost certainly going to drop ripped-from-the-headlines conversation topics in our laps from day one. One of my new colleagues in political science (shout out, Bethesda!) is helping me track down some great resources for this course, too.

For now, that’s all. I’ll be back soon, likely with an update regarding the impact of HB2 on our system. Also, look forward to my first post from a guest author! Sallie, as she was known on the old blog, a former Honors student who took HON 479 with me in Fall 2013, is now a youth minister in Georgia. She has agreed to write a post and will soon have a draft ready for print!



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