The Semester Begins!

Classes started yesterday! After two exhausting days, I must say: BSM is truly a mathematical smörgåsbord. I’ve ended up running from class to class without any end in sight:

  • Mathematical Problem-Solving
  • Introduction to Combinatorics
  • Discovery Learning: the Pósa Method (about how to effectively teach/learn math)
  • Commutative Algebra
  • Quantum Probability and Logic
  • The Philosophy of Math
  • …and Hungarian language
  • (more to come!)

The somewhat austere building that houses BSM, McDaniel College, and the overhead bus cables

It’s a lot, but I’m excited because I wouldn’t be able to do anything quite like this back at Whitman. The BSM program is different because it has implemented a unique registration policy to allow students to visit classes and explore as much as possible. Students are not required to formally register for their courses until the third week, so these first few weeks become a “shopping” period, when professors expect BSMers to take on much more than they can handle and revel in the sheer quantity of mathematics courses available.

Once workloads reach crushing levels, students commit to the classes they would like to keep and drop the rest. But even then, nothing is set in stone. BSM allows students to leave courses without record until a week before finals, or audit a class after the course is over.

I appreciate this policy, because I feel that the instructors are looking out for our best interests. The emphasis is on exploration and curiosity rather than requirements, and I think that is how it should be. They simply want students to be excited about math.

It reminds me of the point in our academic orientation (a simple, two-hour affair—you can rely on mathematicians to be efficient) when the director of BSM, Professor Dezső Miklós, reviewed information about textbooks. Most courses would use handouts and lecture notes rather than textbooks, he told us. For those classes that did have an accompanying textbook, BSM had a small bookstore. But the texts are expensive, he noted, and several required books were not there. He told us not to worry. “Perhaps,” he wondered with a smile, “this could mean that these books can be found elsewhere, by…other means.”

In more ways than one, they have our backs.

Well, it’s been a good day, and I wish you a good night! Tomorrow: some pictures and a guided tour of where I live!

Nathaniel

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