Taking a Class Together (Preliminary Investigation)

From: Josh
Sent on: Sunday, August 21, 2011 1:00 AM
Dear Friends,

I messaged you last week about the possibility of us taking a course together, and was happy that there was a sizable response. While people gave all kinds of suggestions both private and public, there seemed to be an interest in analysis (advanced calculus), differential equations, and complex variables.

My personal desire was to learn analysis because it is not a "plug and chug" discipline like so much undergraduate mathematics is. The material really makes you think. So I went searching for an online math course and checked out two sites that were suggested, MIT's, and Texas A & M's. Well, I couldn't figure out the latter, so the default was MIT. A full listing of MIT's math courses can be found here: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/#mathematics.

It turns out they have not one but three different variations on real analysis alone! After some investigation, I came to the conclusion that of the A, B, and C variants, B was what I personally was looking for. A was lightweight, and C was quite abbreviated. In the end, though, I was quite disappointed because there are no video lectures, there are only incomplete notes, and the answers to homework problems are not from the same semester as the one that the course is based on. So I ruled that course out.

The next best option is for differential equations. There is both a regular and honors variety, but not being a genius, I'm going to say that anything ordinary from MIT is, by definition, for me an honors course. The URL for that course is http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/18-03-differential-equations-spring-2010. This course has complete video lectures, notes, and solved homework problems, I believe.

Please visit the site and tell me if you are interested in learning this subject with me. Depending on enthusiasm and the commitment of people, I may stop teaching myself real analysis in favor of learning differential equations with all of you. (I never learned it that well when I took the course 20 years ago.)

As I said in my first e-mail to the group, my preference is for a rather slow pace. Please tell me if this would work for you. There are also other questions that need to be resolved, so when writing back, I'd greatly appreciate it if you'd address these questions:

1) Do you want to learn differential equations from MIT's site?
2) If you said no to the above question, what is your alternate suggestion? (Please be very specific about the subject you'd like to study and the site you'd like to study it from.)
3) How often would you like our group to meet to discuss the subject?
4) What pace would you like to go at? (My suggestion is 1 problem set for every 2.5 weeks. I realize this is slow, but I work full time and take a long time, anyway, to do math problems.)
5) Where would you like to meet? I'm thinking maybe we could meet in a conference room at a library. Alternatively, I work in Bethesda, and maybe we could meet in a conference room where I work or where someone else works.

Thanks for your time, input, and patience getting this started.

Josh

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