MAT 260. Problem Solving
Samuel Grushevsky, Fall 2011, Stony Brook University
Tu 3:50pm - 5:10pm, in Library N3074

Overview: The official course description is as follows - this is a new course that is intended for students who are interested in developing their mathematical intuition and ability to express mathematical ideas, while having some fun solving problems. It can be taken repeatedly for credit. Students will have the opportunity to sign up for the Putnam exam, a competitive national mathematics exam for undergraduates which is held each December.

The course will focus on various approaches to problem solving. We will discuss problems, especially from past Putnam competitions and olympiads, and the general themes that occur. During the course of the semester, I will try to introduce/review various advanced mathematical concepts that may be of use in approaching different problems. Many problems will be offered for you to try your hand on, and then discussed in class.

The grading will be based primarily on class participation and effort in solving problems. There will be no final exam and no rigid homework, but you will be expected to try your best to solve some of the problems offered for next week's discussion. Familiarity with basic concepts of analysis, algebra, and geometry will be assumed - please consult me if not sure about your background.

The main purpose of the course is to try solve many interesting mathematical problems, and to have fun doing so!

Textbook: Many interesting problems are presented and discussed in The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition 1985-2000: Problems, Solutions, and Commentary, by Kiran S. Kedlaya, Bjorn Poonen, Ravi Vakil, available at the bookstore and also for example on Amazon. If you have another favorite collection of math problems with ideas and motivation, I'll be happy to keep adding links here.

Disability Support Services: If you have a physical, psychological, medical, or learning disability that may affect your course work, please contact Disability Support Services (DSS) office: ECC (Educational Communications Center) Building, room 128, telephone (631) 632-6748/TDD. DSS will determine with you what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. Arrangements should be made early in the semester (before the first exam) so that your needs can be accommodated. All information and documentation of disability is confidential. Students requiring emergency evacuation are encouraged to discuss their needs with their professors and DSS. For procedures and information, go to the following web site and search Fire safety and Evacuation and Disabilities.

Academic Integrity: Each student must pursue his or her academic goals honestly and be personally accountable for all submitted work. Representing another person's work as your own is always wrong. Faculty are required to report any suspected instance of academic dishonesty to the Academic Judiciary. For more comprehensive information on academic integrity, including categories of academic dishonesty, please refer to the academic judiciary website at

Critical Incident Management: Stony Brook University expects students to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people. Faculty are required to report to the Office of Judicial Affairs any disruptive behavior that interrupts their ability to teach, compromises the safety of the learning environment, and/or inhibits students' ability to learn.

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