Posted by: holdenlee | September 4, 2012

Today is registration day

That means I go pick up the “check sheet” from the undergraduate math office, go to my advisor (Sug Woo Shin), and chat with him a little bit. On his computer, he brings up a window with the courses I’d picked out during pre-registration, and he clicks “submit.”

Today I also gave a little spiel about the undergrad math association to our new math majors, caught up with some friends in the math lounge.


This semester, I am taking 4 classes for credit, for a total of 48 credits (which is the least number of credits I’ve taken in any semester), and listening on 2 other classes.

  • 18.821 Project Lab (Stanley): We work in small teams on a math project, and then write up a report and make a presentation at end-of-term. Satisfies the “lab requirement,” my only graduation requirement left.
  • 18.965 Geometry of Manifolds (Colding)
  • 18.404J Theory of Computation (Sipser)
  • 18.787 Topics in Number Theory (Shin): It seems we’ll be doing arithmetic geometry, using a scheme-theoretic approach… Time to pull out Hartshorne and do a bit of learning, ahem, I mean review.

I will LiveTeX all my classes except Project Lab, spend a good amount of editing my notes, and keep them updated on my website.

I plan to listening in on

  • 11.124 Introduction to Education (Klopfer)
  • 11.129 Educational Theory and Practice (Gibb)

These are 2/5 of the classes at MIT needed to get teacher certification through the STEP program. Although I’m not actually doing it, I’ve gotten more interested in education after this summer, and I feel that these classes would help me talk intelligently about education as well as improve my own teaching. Professor Eric Klopfer makes educational computer games. I’ve browsed through the materials, and the class seem very participatory (as it should be), requiring coming up with educational activities/games, giving presentations, debating educational policy town-hall style, etc.  How much I end up going to these two classes also depends on how tired I am (7.5 hours of classes on Tuesdays/Thursdays is a bit much).

I’m taking a lighter schedule this semester because I have a lot of other responsibilities/projects I need/like to pursue, including…

  • UMA (Undergraduate math association): Organize weekly lectures and social events. I want to expand our Putnam lectures to actual participatory problem-solving sessions. I’m running another reading group on number theory. Last year’s was somewhat disorganized, so this semester I’m narrowing our focus to exactly 1 theorem–the Green-Tao Theorem.
  • Literary society: Organize monthly book discussions. I’m starting things off with Junot Diaz’s new book “This is How You Lose Her” and gotten him to attend our book discussion scheduled for 9/27. A LOT of freshman signed up at Midway; hopefully this semester we’ll have more than just a few people show up! I’d also like to try and start a writing workshop–never got this off the ground last year–since the writing class I wanted to take was cancelled this semester.
  • ATS (Association of Taiwanese Students): More “family” bonding! Lunch outings, cooking, etc. Senior year should be fun:)
  • Rune: MIT literary magazine. I think it’d be healthy for me to turn a fraction of my attention away from just my own writing, and get more involved in the writing community.

Even with fewer classes than normal, I’m still afraid of being overloaded with stuff to do this semester–even miscellaneous administrative tasks (sending out emails, making posters/reservations) add up to a lot of time. All this is in addition to applying for grad school (!!!), writing regularly (stories, blog), reading (especially I want to read more sci-fi/fantasy) and possible other events such as teaching at Splash, training for Putnam, and giving a talk at STAGE. In previous semesters, at the end I’ve always had to play catch-up game with one class or activity, and inessentials fall by the wayside. Using a journal I’ll keep my priorities straight, so that if it comes down to A vs. B, I know I’ll have thought through the opportunity costs.

One great thing about my schedule is that Wednesdays are free! I had no class on Fridays last semester, but they wasn’t actually free–often, 18.726 got “moved” to Friday, I attended a number theory seminar, and I met with my advisor to discuss class field theory for my reading class; together they took up half the day. And free Fridays did nothing to alleviate the Monday-Wednesdays crush–often I’d have stuff due each of those days. On the other hand, a free Wednesday means I’ll never have more than 2 class days in a row before recharging.


  1. Hi Holden (This is David Yang, from a fairly long time ago…… awesomemath some years back.)

    Since it seems you’re interested in number theory, I was wondering if you could explain a bit of how algebraic geometry is used in number theory. I’ve heard a few things, but I’d be very interested in seeing more of how its used considering that I’ve been told that most of the work in modern algebraic number theory goes through algebraic geometry. All I’m familiar with is that by considering the Spec of the ring of integers of a number field as a Spec Z-scheme, certain properties transfer well.

  2. Hi David! At this point, I haven’t really looked enough at the intersection between these two subjects to answer this question well. But I’ll think 18.787 will help me understand it better, so look out for upcoming posts/lecture notes.

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