Thinking outside the textbook

understanding Course projects

What is it like to do a written course project for a math course?

Here is a typical setup from my non-linear algebra course.

  • Summary: Projects are to be done in groups of three students. The project topic choices will be on a first-come first-served basis; each student will need to claim his/her project topic on Campuswire/Google classroom. If the topic of your choice already has 3 members in the group, you will need to join another group.

  • Project task: Learn a new theorem (or algorithm) related to the course material and communicate it in written form.

  • Minimum requirements:

  • Learning: Each student is expected to learn a theorem/algorithm beyond the usual lecture material.

  • Writing: The written document must introduce and correctly state the theorem or result being studied. If there is an algorithm in place of a theorem, it should be explained properly. It should also include at least one interesting example illustrating the theorem. The article should be as self-contained as possible and understandable to other students in the course. The new document must be typed, be at least eight and at most ten pages in length (with one inch margins and a either a 11pt or 12pt font), and be available in PDF format. (Using Latex {amsart} class is a good guideline; template provided upon request.)

  • Presenting: The students usually enrolled in 530 are expected to give a short presentation on their project at the end of the semester. Details on these requirements will be discussed at a later time. The presentation will be part of the ‘participation’ grade, rather than the project grade. Time permitting, if any 431 students are excited about their project, and wish to present it in a 10-15-minute talk to the class, they will be able to do so during the final week of the course.

What is it like to do a written project for a statistics course?

More information coming soon.

Check out these resources for using Markdown in your writeup.

Sample Evaluation rubrics

Each project is typically graded as a research paper. That is, it undergoes a two-stage peer review process: students evaluate each other's work anonymously.

But, why? Your peers are your audience! If they can't understand what you wrote, then you need to write it better. In my experience, students give excellent peer feedback, hints, tips for improving the paper, etc.

Of course, I also grade each project and each peer review. To see what is expected of you in the project's various stages of writing, check out sample rubrics below.


Project outline


Project draft


Draft peer review




Paper peer review

These sample grading rubrics were borrowed from Greg Smith and used in Math 431/530 Fall2020. Here is a link to the project requirements document for that course: