My previous post generated a significant amount of fruitful discussion, both in the comments and elsewhere. However, I feel the need to indicate that it was transcribed almost verbatim from thoughts that were rolling around in my sleep-deprived mind. I realize now that the resulting crystalline tone of the article probably suggested not only that I was aiming my comments at particular instructor(s), but also that I was discontent with my general experience as an undergraduate pure mathematics major at Waterloo. Neither the former nor the latter could be further from the truth. Crystals are jagged, and one must be careful when wielding them.

I would like to emphasize that the post was not intended to be confrontational, and I would be quite upset if I were to learn that someone had interpreted it this way. I phrased the post the way I did because it served rather well to convey my frustration, and also seemed like a good way to capture a reader. As a mathematics student, I output a rather large volume of arguments each week, and so it is not surprising if I have become accustomed to, or even biased to, this particular form of speaking or writing. If my tone is crystalline and overly to-the-point, it is not because I am arrogant or smug in my opinions; it is merely a habit. Perhaps even a habit that’s responsible for your continued perusal of this blog.

I should mention, at this point, a few things about myself as a person, which may add to the gravity of my words. Firstly, I am not one to put on a façade in an attempt to become “liked” by others and further his own selfish agenda, nor will I thrive if placed into a scenario where this is necessary. I am who I am: the martyr who speaks their mind when others are too passive to do so; the student who is the first to begin clapping at the end of a skillfully delivered course to veto the near-criminal injustice of someone’s passion and hard work going unrecognized. Moreover, I am one who is willing to take responsibility for his words, accept his mistakes, and admit when he is wrong, hence the honest way in which this blog is linked directly to my identity: I hide behind no pseudonyms. If I ever am lucky enough to teach others, I will always be open to their criticism.

In view of the very insightful comment from Professor David Jao, it has become clear to me that as far as deciding the format and focus of mathematics lectures at the undergraduate level is concerned, there is a large host of factors at play, many of which we as students are entirely ignorant of. Thus, I would like to offer a genuine apology to anyone I may have offended, not in the sense of “student to instructor” but rather in the sense of “human being to human being”. It is probable that I am in a minority when it comes to such frustrations, and I can understand and respect that satisfying everyone all the time is impossible.

The final point I wish to address is the quality of the undergraduate pure mathematics program at Waterloo. My simple opinion is that it is very high. The instructors are all talented and knowledgeable, and there is an invigorating concentration of people who actually devote more time trying to enhance teaching techniques than could reasonably be expected of them. I would certainly continue my studies here, and would recommend the university to any student sincerely interested in pure math.

As usual, feel free to leave any thoughts or questions you may have. I am always delighted to discuss things and hear your perspective.


About mlbaker

just another guy trying to make the diagrams commute.
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2 Responses to Follow-up

  1. David Jao says:

    I can’t speak for others, but I did not find your post confrontational or offensive. I just think that there are no easy solutions. We should certainly continue the dialogue and at least consider some of the hard solutions. I value your perspective, especially since I did not experience this particular problem as a student (I graduated from MIT — not saying this is good or bad, just that they didn’t have this problem).

  2. Alex says:

    In my opinion, people whine a lot. This is good and bad at the same time. If people wouldn’t whine at all, the staff would start to decline steadily. On the other hand it is bad because I feel that students spent a lot of time on criticizing faults, and they let themselves constricted by the finite world constructed in classes. I can find this type of complaints very frequent around mates and myself too have fallen prey to this kind of behavior some time ago.
    I listen, compile, and make my own.

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