\( \newcommand{\sech}{\operatorname{sech}} \) \( \newcommand{\inverse}[1]{#1^\leftarrow} \) \( \newcommand{\<}{\langle} \) \( \newcommand{\>}{\rangle} \) \( \newcommand{\vect}{\mathbf} \) \( \newcommand{\veci}{\mathbf{\hat ı}} \) \( \newcommand{\vecj}{\mathbf{\hat ȷ}} \) \( \newcommand{\veck}{\mathbf{\hat k}} \) \( \newcommand{\curl}{\operatorname{curl}\,} \) \( \newcommand{\dv}{\operatorname{div}\,} \) \( \newcommand{\detThree}[9]{ \operatorname{det}\left( \begin{array}{c c c} #1 & #2 & #3 \\ #4 & #5 & #6 \\ #7 & #8 & #9 \end{array} \right) } \) \( \newcommand{\detTwo}[4]{ \operatorname{det}\left( \begin{array}{c c} #1 & #2 \\ #3 & #4 \end{array} \right) } \)

MA 320 Autobiography

2019 Fall

Before we dive in, I’m asking each of you to write a short mathematical autobiography. I’ll provide my own as an example at the bottom of this page. It will be assessed as satisfactory/unsatisfactory, with opportunities for revision, based upon the following specifications.

  • Let me know how you feel about math (as a subject, as a type of class, etc.), providing context that will help me make this course useful to you.
  • Describe your history with math, including things like your teachers, how your feelings about math have changed over time, what makes you nervous/excited, what you’re looking forward to in this class (or others).
  • Write no more or less than you need to accomplish this. Generally speaking, you should take more than two paragraphs, but less than three pages.

My example

Before I really knew it was math, as a kid I was always drawn to game shows and puzzles. My parents tell me that when I was young I would carry around a pair of dice (risky business for a kid attending preschool at an anti-gambling church) so I could count the results like in High Rollers. I remember when I was a bit older, I would try to come up with strategies for games like Press Your Luck (pass those spins!) and The Price is Right (one dollar, Drew), although I’ve never actually been on a game show myself. (Unless you count programming a custom score board for The Weakest Link and hosting it at for a high school fundraiser; super cool, I know.)

My path to a math major (and eventually PhD) began because I like talking about math and helping others figure out math for themselves, and the professor life is a good way to do that! While I was successful in my undergraduate coursework without too much drama (other than my undergrad stats class), graduate school was an eye-opener for how big the field of math is, and how many talented people are out there. Like many folks in academia, I’ve struggled with Imposter Syndrome off and on, but I’ve always been fortunate to have a group of peers to help support me (and hopefully vice versa).

I’m excited for this Foundations of Math course because it’s the inflection point between the math classes you’ve had before which have mainly focused on finding correct answers to mathematical problems, and your upcoming math classes which are often more about understanding and communicating (in written and verbal form) exactly how and why these answers are correct. I’ve always felt that the math major is a “wild card” degree, in that it will prepare you for a wide variety of careers in industry or academia, and I look forward to helping you develop the problem-solving and communication skills that will enable you to succeed in whatever you end up doing.


This assignment was based upon an assignment by Dr. Spencer Bagley, Westminster College.