Summer School

Despite an apparent decrease in summer school enrollment across the University, the Department of Mathematics has enjoyed increased demand and expanded its offerings in 2013. With 30 sections enrolling nearly 600 students, the Department-organized summer classes continued to include a suite of popular offerings at the 100-, 200-, and 300-levels, in many cases involving multiple sections of students, as in previous summers. Additionally, in order to address an ongoing increase in our academic year enrollments, and to provide math and science students additional opportunities to take such courses, the Department expanded its advanced undergraduate 500-level course offerings this summer, adding MATH 528 Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences I (taught by Department Chair Richard McLaughlin) and MATH 566 Introduction to Numerical Analysis (taught by Professor Jingfang Huang) to the list of 500-level courses taught in previous summers, including 521, 533 and 547. As we profiled previously, Professor Laura Miller also taught the first math class for our inaugural cohort of Chancellor’s Science Scholars. And in addition to these Department-organized courses, Lecturers and graduate students from the Department are also involved in the Summer Bridge program.

Summer classes are notably different from their academic year counterparts in one important aspect: the compressed calendar of 5-week summer session terms. As noted by Dr. Miranda Thomas, one of the Lecturers in the Department, “Summer classes go fast, so students have to stay on top of the sections. The one thing I notice is more people form study groups compared to the academic year. They really utilize helping each other and learning and have a more survival mode: `I will pass’ instead of `let’s see what happens’.”

Elizabeth McLaughlin, another Lecturer in the Department, makes related observations about the schedule, noting that “Teaching summer school has helped me to become a better instructor. The demands on students following a fast-paced schedule require more focus and organization than during the regular semester. My job is to deliver concise, clear lectures as well as help the students lay out a study strategy for success under pressure.”

Summer classes also provide our best graduate student teachers in the Department an opportunity to teach more advanced topics than they are typically assigned in the academic year. Included among these students, Dr. Andrea Overbay, who completed her Ph.D. this Spring and was a recipient of the Department’s Linker Award for instruction by a graduate student, taught MATH 533 Elementary Theory of Numbers. As she notes, “Teaching any math class in compressed form is certainly a challenge, but this is especially true for an upper level class. Although it takes a lot of work, teaching a class over the summer is particularly rewarding. Due to the intense nature of teaching a class over five weeks, you really get the chance to get to know your students. You see them for several hours every weekday and get to struggle right alongside them. And once the five weeks is over, you and your students get to share in the sense of accomplishment of surviving!”