I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I seem to be unable to do anything that I ought to be doing this quarter, except for preparing my lectures. I’m supposedly trying to prepare for Stanford’s algebra qualifying exam, since I know taking the course would be a miserable experience. But trying to read Lang’s chapter on group theory isn’t much better — it’s so incredibly boring! Admittedly, Lang writes things out in a really beautiful manner, but I don’t imagine it’s possible to make the Jordan-Hölder Theorem (for example) interesting at this point. But the preparation will have to be done, because I really don’t want to have to take the algebra sequence at Stanford.

I am very disturbed by the declining number of students in my combinatorial game theory class. On the first day, there were around 35 students (I think), but yesterday there were only 14. Furthermore, there are only six students who have showed up to all the lectures. Am I doing something wrong? It is clear that I made a serious error in judgment last week when I discussed why nim is an infinite-dimensional vector space over the field with two elements (see this post), but that was only one lecture, and we were already down to 17 by that point. Actually it’s not so much the number of people who show up each time as it is that (a) it’s decreasing (there were about 35 the first time, then 21, 22, 17, 15, 14 in the subsequent classes), and (b) they aren’t the same people every time. Clearly some people are very interested in this stuff and (I think/hope) like my presentation of the material, but what about the others? Do they not take this class seriously because it’s being taught by an undergraduate? Are they just generally flaky people? (I don’t have too much sympathy for that sort of behavior.) Am I just not worth being taken seriously? How does Agboola not feel discouraged teaching a class of two? (Or does he?) At least the two of us always show up.

I think I need to find something to learn that’s really inspiring for me. In high school I had complex analysis to keep me interested when my classes were boring (that was just about always). Now at least some of my classes are interesting, but they don’t seem to be providing enough excitement for me. Can someone maybe recommend a good book that’s not way too technical on something like the Langlands program? That might help me a bit. Or a lot. I seem to be better at everything when I have some excitement, and preparing my lectures isn’t quite enough to keep me motivated for other things. Maybe I’m just experiencing senioritis. I want to go to grad school already!

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About Simon

Hi. I'm Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo. I'm a mathematics postdoc at Dartmouth College. I'm also a musician; I play piano and cello, and I also sometimes compose music and study musicology. I also like to play chess and write calligraphy. This blog is a catalogue of some of my thoughts. I write them down so that I understand them better. But sometimes other people find them interesting as well, so I happily share them with my small corner of the world.
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3 Responses to

  1. Doesn’t that happen with most classes, though? I that the algebraic topology class I’m taking, which started off with about 60 people, is now down to about 8.

  2. okb says:

    I wouldn’t be too worried about it. As you saw, the attendance dwindled in my class last year too. I think a big part of the “not the same people every time” is that a colloquium is only worth two units, and a lot of people will just say to themselves “ah, I’ll skip class today” if they have an assignment due for some other class or something, because it’s only two units. And plus, yeah, flaky people. Just about every class gets smaller over time.

  3. Anonymous says:

    For the Langlands Program try Ed Frenkel or David Ben-Zvi. Also, look at the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society and check out stuff from M. Ram Murty, Stephen Gelbart and Joseph Bernstein.

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