Remarks on student projects for Mathematics 309

by Bill Casselman

Projects must be self-contained explanations of something mathematical. What you hand in to me will be a collection of files including both pictures and text, and a single top-level HTML file organizing everything else in one package. All of your material will be put on the web in a single directory with your name on it, and the principal HTML file will be linked to from the course page.

Before you begin a project, you must have my approval. Projects submitted without my prior approval will not be treated gently. There are many reasons for this, but the most important is that after discussion with me a student will have a good idea of what I expect. There is no way a student can reliably figure this out without negotiation, because he will not have a basis for comparison.

Projects will be graded on the basis of

  • mathematical content (how much mathematics is involved? how relevant to the course material?)
  • clarity (arguments will ideally be transparent, and context explained; graphics must be easy to read, aimed at mathematics; well designed to convey ideas rather than distract)
  • correctness (no serious mathematical errors)
  • difficulty (how much work involved?)
  • interest (as interesting as possible, given the topic)
  • originality (how many of the ideas and how much of the execution are yours?)
  • skill (are ideas presented graphically where possible? text well written?)
These different categories are not unrelated---your project will certainly be more interesting if the graphics and writing are of high quality, and you exhibit more skill by doing difficult things. Projects do not have to involve anything terribly difficult, although they often will; the most important thing is to do whatever it takes to explain things clearly. It is important to base most of your exposition on pictures rather than text, as usual in this course.

The files you submit should be either HTML, PS, GIF, TXT, or JPEG unless you obtain my agreement ahead of time for something else. All material must be viewable on all browsers. I encourage you to include at least some .gif files embedded on your HTML pages. This will enliven your exposition quite a bit. I do not encourage you to use animated GIFs. Normally your .gif files will come from your own PS files, with the help of a program like PhotoShop or GIMP.

Projects done by more than one person must make clear who is involved.

All sources you have used must be credited. Anything taken from books or other Web sources must be acknowledged clearly. Links should be made explicitly to sources on the Internet, and other references unambiguous. Failing to credit sources is one of the worst mistakes you can make.