Math 4740: Problem Set Guidelines

How to Write Good Mathematics

An essential part of mathematics is communication: expressing your mathematical ideas in such a way that others can understand and learn from them. In your problem sets, we expect solutions that are not only correct and complete but also clearly explained and well-written.

You do not have to write formal proofs (though you are certainly welcome to do so), but you do need to carefully justify your work. For instance:

You are welcome to use a computer or calculator to do computations where appropriate. This includes not only basic arithmetic but also algebra (simplifying nasty expressions or solving equations), calculus (computing limits, derivatives and integrals), and linear algebra (matrix computations). When you do so, you should briefly explain what tools you used and what you did. ("According to the HP-50G, this integral evaluates to 17." "Using Octave's eig command, the eigenvectors of this matrix are...")

Write your solution using complete sentences. Remember that you are writing for a human audience. Try reading your solution out loud; it should sound like something you would plausibly say to another (mathematically literate) person.

You are encouraged to type your problem sets using LaTeX (or LyX). LaTeX is very versatile and widely used for writing technical documents of all kinds. It will serve you well if you go on in math or another technical field. Besides, you will need it for your project! Neatly handwritten problem sets are also acceptable.

Here is a video tutorial to get you started with LaTeX. Another good resource is the LaTeX wikibook. The Cornell math support center can help you get LaTeX up and running. (Ask for a math major tutor!)

As with any writing, you should reread and revise your work as needed until you are really satisfied with the result. Of course, you should allow yourself enough time to be able to do this!

Group work policy: Working together with other students to solve the problems is strongly encouraged! You must list the group members at the top of your problem set and write the solutions entirely in your own words. Examples:

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