Math 499. Senior Seminar: Great Theorems of Mathematics

Fall 2017


Mathematical secrets of ancient tablet unlocked after nearly a century of study. This is the article from the Guardian I mentioned in class that was hyping a discovery a little too much. For a better understanding of whether it impacts current math, I recommend the following article from Scientific American:
Don't Fall for Babylonian Trigonometry Hype.

Facebook Friends. Note: I recommend reading Steven Strogatz NYTimes article on this phenomenon.

Catalan Lecture handwritten. You can see the difficulties (for me) of handling infinite sums by looking at all the things I had to cross-off in page 2.
Catalan TeXed Up is written in TeX. Much more professional presentation. It can be useful to see the difference to remember that just because it looks easy on the page, it doesn't mean it was easy to get there.

A birthday in St. Petersburg. This article covers what we did in class on Monday August 28, 2017.

Game of Stones


Schedule for the Presentations.

The main book we'll use is:

Journey through Genius by William Dunham.

Goals of the Class

The goals of this class are the following:


The course grade will be based on:

Class Presentations 35%
Beamer Presentation 20%
Paper 25%
Halloween Colloquium 10%
Homework 10%
Senior Assessment 0%

Class presentation

The class will form into groups of 2 (or 3 if necessary). The groups will be assigned two chapters from the book Journey through Genius and they will present each chapter to the class over two class periods (two class periods per chapter). The students not presenting will have to attend and they will provide feedback to the presenters by the next class session. I will also get a copy of this feedback.

For the second presentation, students should go beyond the text and be ready for questions that can come up for a person reading the text. For example, some questions from Chapter 2 which are relevant are: The grade for an individual with regard to the class presentation will depend on the presentations (25%) and the feedback they provide to the other teams (10%).
Schedule for the Presentations.

Beamer presentation

The presentations will be two-a-day in mid October in the same order as the team presentations. The schedule will be here.
The grade for an individual with regard to the Beamer presentation will depend on the presentation itself (15%) and the feedback they provide to the other students (5%). Note that this presentation is not a team presentation. Using Beamer correctly will be part of the grade.


For the paper, you have to find a subject on your own and write about it. The assignment has the following rules:
Your assignment also includes reading the drafts of three other students and give them feedback so that they can improve their final draft. The comments you write should be written seriously and be helpful.

The grade for an individual with regard to the paper will depend on the first draft (10%), the final draft (10%) and the feedback they provide to the other students (5%). The aesthetic presentation of the paper will be weighed in as part of the grade.

LaTeX and Beamer

As described above, the final paper should be written in LaTeX (and compiled to a pdf) and the individual presentation should be written in a special LaTeX package called Beamer (also compiled to a pdf). Below I include links to useful manuals, websites and also templates for LaTeX and Beamer.

Halloween Colloquium

Working in groups, students will prepare a short sketch of a mathematical paradox or a puzzle to present in the annual Halloween Colloquium of the Math/CS Department. The colloquium is at Noon on Monday October 30. The groups will have to present to me their plans at least a week before the Halloween Colloquium and do a trial run in class on Friday October 27.

The grade for an individual with regard to the Halloween Colloquium will depend on the presentation itself (10%).


I will post a homework assignment for each presentation from Journey Through Genius. Students need only turn in homework assignments for 5 of the assignments, they get to choose which ones they want to turn in.


Senior Assessment

To pass the course, students have to take an assessment exam on the day of the final, which is on Wednesday December 13 from 8:30am to 11:30am. The assessment counts for 0% of the grade, but if a student fails to do it, he/she will not pass the class.

Writing Center

The Writing Center offers free tutorial assistance, information, and resources for every stage of the writing process.

In the online scheduler you can set up an appointment with a writing center tutor. You can also set up a standing appointment (to meet every week at a set time) and you can also have access to a lot of resources the writing center has online.

Accommodations Statement

If you believe that you need accommodations for a disability, please consult with The Learning and Teaching Center. Since accommodations may require early planning and are not retroactive, please contact the center as soon as possible. For details about the services for students with disabilities and the accomodations process, visit

You are also welcome to contact me privately to discuss your academic needs. However, all disability-related accommodations must be arranged through Teryn Robinson at the Learning and Teaching Center.

Last modified on October 13, 2017.