Tuesday, July 27, 2004

An Enigma

Last year I tried to do interesting stuff with my teaching to justify slow going on the research front (such an easy trap!). In one of my fall classes many students ended up writing papers. In one of my spring classes we started a unit on probability with a staged reading of the beginning of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (which involves the Gamblers' Ruin and coincidence).

So, of course, who got invited (yesterday) to design interdisciplinary (and possibly writing intensive) math courses for my school's Seminar Scholars Program? This would involve writing a course description and complete syllabus — including listing all readings and assignments and deadlines and a week-by-week schedule. And getting this done in time for it to finish passing through the committee hierarchy by some time in September (to be offered in fall 2005). The plan is to create one course the first year and possibly others in subsequent years.

This is a great opportunity; I just wish they had told me about it sooner. The tricky part right now is trying to balance the interests of all the constituencies. The math department would like a course which will seduce the brightest students to become math majors. Other departments have turf to defend. I want to have a nice course with a small number of bright students.

So last night I camped out in the library in the D810.C88 section, trying to find recent books about the role of cryptanalysis in World War II. And now it is time to skim the two top candidates (I already have a source for the math) and to try putting something together using cryptology to tie together math, computer science, and history.