Undergraduate Seminar in Discrete Mathematics 18.204, Spring 2016 April 1, 2016

Undergraduate Seminar in Discrete Mathematics
18.204, Spring 2016
Writing workshop with Susan Ruff
April 1, 2016
To help you learn some of the conventions of mathematical writing and to start you
thinking about authorial strategies for writing an effective mathematics paper, on
April 1 we’ll discuss the paper “Rental Harmony” by Francis Edward Su and the
annotated paper “Maximum Overhang”. To prepare for class, please do the following
(expect this assignment to take a few hours).
A. Briefly look at the annotated article “Maximum Overhang” with an objective
of understanding all of the marginal annotations.
B. Read/re-read the paper “Rental Harmony”, paying attention to strategies Su
used to communicate effectively and whether those strategies worked for you as
a reader. Be prepared to discuss the following questions in class.
1. What is the main result of “Rental Harmony”? How does Su introduce the
main theorem? Where does he discuss proof strategies for this theorem?
2. “Rental Harmony” was published in the MAA journal American Mathematical
Monthly. Who is the primary target audience of this journal, and what are
the expectations for article content and style? (Journal websites provide such
information for authors - you can usually find it by searching by the journal
name and “information for authors”.)
3. What strategies does Su use to help readers understand the n-dimensional
Sperner’s lemma?
4. Is the paper written in a formal style? Is it mathematically precise? accurate?
Are the proofs complete? Do you think these choices are effective?
5. What is the role of citations in this paper? (What purpose do they serve?) How
are citations handled in the text?
6. Where does Su define key terms in the paper? Why do you think he arranged
them in this way instead of defining all terms together earlier in the paper?
Was this choice effective for you as a reader?
7. How and why does the author discuss variations on the main theorem of the
8. Which conventions indicated in the annotations of “Maximum Overhang” does
Su follow? Which doesn’t he follow? Do you think these choices are effective?
9. What questions do you have for writing your own paper?