VIGRE at the University of Chicago
In
the summer of 2008, our VIGRE program began its ninth year. An introductory
overview, written in 1999, gives some background.
The vertical integration of education and research has been an explicitly
articulated feature of our approach to mathematics education since
the early 1970's. The first eight years of our VIGRE program have seen
a substantial expansion of activities based on this philosophy.
By far the largest new activity is the summer REU, which has been in operation since 2000. Originally projected to have 18 University of Chicago undergraduate participants, it has expanded steadily, due to increasing demand, and had 98 participants in 2009. These students not only learn and do mathematics, they also teach as counsellors in our Outreach Programs. In that role, they teach high school students in YSP and grade school teachers in SESAME. Many of the undergraduate participants, and others, serve as counsellors in YSP during its Saturday morning academic year sessions. Senior faculty and postdocs teach in the REU, and some of the postdocs are themselves supported on VIGRE. Many graduate students serve as mentors to the undergraduate participants, and some of these graduate students are also supported on VIGRE. The mentoring by graduate students is voluntary. This is an activity they relish. On their own initiative, they established the Directed Reading Program in 2002. This is an academic year program of one on one mentoring of undergraduate students by graduate students, and all aspects of the program are run by graduate students. It has expanded to a steady state of around 15 to 20 pairings in each of the three academic year quarters. In 2000, some of the advanced graduate students also initiated the WarmUp Program for entering first year graduate students. Initially conceived as a one week series of talks to help prepare a few students from varying backgrounds for our intense sequence of first year graduate courses, it quickly evolved into a twoweek program of talks and social activities that is attended by nearly all entering graduate students. This program too is entirely run by graduate students. Seeing a need for improvement in our mainstream (middle track) freshman calculus course, in which undergraduates serve as graders and readers, the graduate students who teach it spearheaded the creation of the VIGRE Course Assistants Program in 2002. This increases the role of the undergraduates both as mentors of those taking the class and as mentees of those teaching it. Some idea of the scope of our VIGRE program and its impact can be seen from statistics on the undergraduate and graduate programs. The most striking feature is that Mathematics is now in a statistical dead heat with English as the fourth most popular major at the University of Chicago. Nearly 8 per cent of Chicago BA's are given in mathematics, and an increasing percentage of these graduating seniors are going on to graduate study in mathematics.
In the VIGRE
summer program for undergraduates, students have the opportunity
for study and research in mathematics together with work in two
of the outreach programs of the Department of Mathematics. Students
participate in at least one of four courses taught by Department
of Mathematics faculty members. They also work as counselors in
either the Young Scholars Program (YSP) or the SESAME teacher development
program.
The purpose of the summer VIGRE program is to provide an opportunity for students to be involved in a deeper experience in mathematics than is usually available during the academic quarters and to allow them to be effective partners in the educational outreach programs of the Mathematics Department. This program is especially beneficial for undergraduates who are considering graduate study and research in mathematics and for those who are interested in teaching mathematics at any level. For more detailed information on past and upcoming REU's, visit the links below.
VIGRE Course
Assistants (VCA'S) correct papers and help students learn calculus
under the guidance of math graduate student Lecturers and faculty
members teaching in the 150's calculus sequence courses. A VCA is
responsible for collecting, grading, and promptly returning to the
instructor all written homework assignments from the assigned class.
A VCA keeps an accurate record of students' homework grades and
submits these grades to the instructor at the end of each quarter.
In addition, the VCA will attend the weekly problem session for
the assigned course and will hold informal "office hours"
for students in the course at some campus location. Each week the
VCA and instructor will meet to discuss issues in the course, such
as difficulties the students are having with the homework problems,
or with understanding concepts.
Qualifications: Any sophomore, junior, or senior is eligible to apply if he or she has a strong background in mathematics (i. e. calculus plus a second year of math completed or scheduled for the following year.) VCA's should expect to spend 610 hours per week on the job. Assignments of VCA's are made by the Department and are based on the level of experience of the applicants for each position. Assignments are made for one quarter at a time, but preference will be for the VCA to work all year in the same section; continuation in the job is contingent upon a satisfactory evaluation by the current instructor. Current level of pay will be $20 per registered student plus $250 per quarter. The WarmUp Program (WOMP) is organized
and run by advanced graduate students for incoming grads in the math
department. It takes place during a twoweek span preceding the beginning
of the school year. Its intentions are threefold:
* to provide a bridge from undergraduate
curricula to the notoriously challenging firstyear program; The WarmUp Program is a permanent tradition, founded in 2000. There are between ten and twelve twohour sessions on math, with additional meetings to talk about Chicago and the University, and social events both in Hyde Park and around the city. Grad presenters have compiled handouts for some of the math sessions for use in future years. These and schedules from previous years' programs can be found at the WOMP homepage. On average, over the course of
the VIGRE program, there will be six VIGRE Dickson Instructors in
the Department of Mathematics. These are three year positions at the
same salary as all other Dickson Instructors. The teaching load is
three courses per year. Two alternatives to regular teaching are offered
on a voluntary basis, provided that other departmental teaching demands
permit. VIGRE Instructors may organize and run seminars on the second
year graduate level, and they may participate in the outreach programs
of the department.
The Directed Reading Program is
a new initiative to pair undergraduate students with graduate student
and junior faculty mentors to undertake independent study projects
of various sizes and scopes. Undergraduates can apply for DRP positions
and those who are selected will be paired with mentors according to
their mathematical interests and availability.
Projects must be approved by the DRP committee of graduate students and faculty. Many are based around the selfpaced reading of a particular book or article with substantial guidance by the mentor. Past and current project titles can be viewed at the DRP homepage, and you can also view a larger menu of sample projects. However, most frequently, the project is arrived upon by discussion of common interests of the mentor and mentee, rather than being limited to this menu. Requirements: The DRP student is required to have an hourlong weekly meeting with his or her mentor to discuss progress towards the goal of the project. Approximately four hours of independent work by the student is expected between meetings. At the end of the quarter, the group of DRP participants will meet, and each DRP student will give a 1020 minute presentation on the quarter's work. Benefits of program: Participating undergraduates will learn to work independently through studying a topic of their choice, wellsuited to their interests. They will develop relationships with graduate student mentors and receive a good deal of personal attention focused on their mathematical studies. Finally, they will gain valuable experience in mathematical communication by giving a presentation on their work to an audience of their peers. Qualifications: Any sophomore, junior, or senior is eligible to apply if he or she has a strong background in mathematics, including at least the completion of a yearlong calculus sequence, or Math 11200. (Firstyears and others with unusual background will be considered on a casebycase basis.) There is a selection of projects with no prerequisite. Other information: Applications will be accepted each quarter, and selections are for each quarter individually. Please email drp@math with any questions or comments about the program and/or application process. Postdocs and graduate students
on a volunteer basis and undergraduate students as part of the summer
REU program and on a volunteer basis during the academic year play
essential roles in the following four programs. In the process, they
are introduced to a wide variety of eyeopening teaching experiences
at varying levels.
1.
YSP:
YOUNG SCHOLARS PROGRAM. This program brings large numbers of students
in grades 7 through 12 to the University of Chicago for a summer mathematics
enrichment program. There are three tracks, each with two rotating
courses, at least one in mathematics and the other often in a related
area of application in the physical sciences. Each course is accompanied
by a computer laboratory. There is an accompanying Saturday morning
academic year program.
The VIGRE Program
requires the submission of annual repots in order to assess the
ongoing goals and successfulness of the programs that recieve VIGRE
funds. Click below to read these reports.
2001 Annual Report (dvi, ps, pdf) 2002 Annual Report (dvi, ps, pdf) 2003 Annual Report (dvi, ps, pdf) VIGRE
Program Director:
Peter
May SESAME and YSP Director: Paul
Sally 
