Student-evaluation sneak preview : I am friendly and

extremely helpful but have a somewhat chaotic teaching style and am way

too ambitious as regards content… I was about to deny vehemently

all assertions (except for the chaotic bit) but may have to change my

mind after reading this report on

Mark Rowan’s book ‘Symmetry and the monster’ (see also

my post

)

Oxford University Press considers this book

“a must-read for all fans of popular science”. In his blog,

Lieven le Bruyn, professor of algebra and geometry at the University of

Antwerp, suggests that “Mark Ronan has written a beautiful book

intended for the general public”. However, he goes on to say:

“this year I’ve tried to explain to an exceptionally

good second year of undergraduates, but failed miserably Perhaps

I’ll give it another (downkeyed) try using Symmetry and the

Monster as reading material”.As an erstwhile

mathematician, I found the book more suited to exceptional maths

undergraduates than to the general public and would strongly encourage

authors and/or publishers to pass such works before a few fans of

popular science before going to press.Peggie Rimmer,

Satigny.

Well, this ‘exceptionally good

year’ has moved on and I had to teach a course ‘Elementary

Algebraic Geometry’ to them last semester. I had the crazy idea to

approach this in a historical perspective : first I did the

Hilbert-Noether period (translating geometry to ideal theory of

polynomial rings), then the Krull-Weil-Zariski period (defining

everything in terms of coordinate rings) to finish off with the

Serre-Grothendieck period (introducing scheme theory)… Not

surprisingly, I lost everyone after 1920. Once again there were

complaints that I was expecting way too much from them etc. etc. and I

was about to apologize and promise I’ll stick to a doable course

next year (something along the lines of Miles Reid’s

‘Undergraduate Algebraic Geometry’) when one of the students

(admittedly, probably the best of this ‘exceptional year’)

decided to do all exercises of the first two chapters of Fulton’s

‘Algebraic Curves’ to become more accustomed to the subject.

Afterwards he told me “You know, I wouldn’t change the

course too much, now that I did all these exercises I realize that your

course notes are not that bad after all…”. Yeah, thanks!

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