Reading Assignment-Info Thy Writing Workshop

The following reading assignment was used in Peter Shor’s Undergraduate Seminar on Information Theory at MIT.

Reading Assignment
This assignment will teach you some of the conventions of mathematical writing and will start you thinking about authorial strategies for writing an effective mathematics paper. Expect the assignment to take a few hours. Start by reading the entire assignment: question 2 is most important.

A. Briefly look at the annotated article “Maximum Overhang” with an objective of understanding all of the marginal annotations.

B. Read Section 1 of Shannon’s paper “A Mathematical Theory of Communication.” Pay attention to the decisions Shannon makes as author and be prepared to answer the following questions in class.

  1. What is (are) the main point(s) of Section 1?
  2. What strategies does Shannon use to
    i) help readers understand?
    ii) convince readers?
    iii) engage/interest/entertain readers?
  3. What does Shannon do that doesn’t work well for you as a reader? Why do you think he did it?
  4. Which conventions indicated in the annotations of “Maximum Overhang” does Shannon follow? Which doesn’t he follow? Do you think these choices are effective?
  5. Come prepared with questions about writing your own paper.
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What is Math Comm

MAA Mathematical Communication (mathcomm.org) is a developing collection of resources for engaging students in writing and speaking about mathematics. The site originated in the MIT Department of Mathematics and was expanded through support from an NSF grant.