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College of the Sciences

Group work and using outside resources

How to work with others and use outside resources while still learning math.

Working together

We learn when we are actively thinking. Asking questions of peers and explaining concepts to peers certainly qualifies as active thought.

Here are my suggestions for working together. Attempt each problem individually. If you get stuck, describe what you've done to someone. You'll be amazed at how often you find a solution when describing a problem. You can then point out mistakes to each other, give hints, even show someone else a solution or have someone show you a solution if needed.

As much as possible, write up your own work. You don't learn a thing if you are mindlessly copying.

If you have a complicated solution crafted with other students that will appear near verbatim on more than one paper, you can avoid any insinuation of academic dishonesty by putting a note on each paper saying who worked on the problem together. For example:

  • This solution was written in collaboration with Jane Doe and John Smith.
  • This solution is based on that of Jane Doe.
  • I would like to thank Jane Doe for guiding me to the solution for this problem.
  • I got this from the Help Session TA, John Smith.

Using outside resources

I would also like to encourage you to use outside resources in learning your course material. Looking something up and thinking about what you find is a great way to learn. If something has already been done, you are not required to reinvent the wheel, but understanding what is going on thoroughly is your job.

Here are my suggestions for using outside resources. Attempt each problem before trying to look up an answer to it. If you get stuck and can't talk with a classmate or with your instructor, then figure out what else you can do to try to find an answer. If there is a solutions manual, looking something up in it can be easy, but sometimes you may have to look further afield to another book, Google, Wikipedia, maybe a mathematical computer program like Matlab, or to an electronic resource like Wolfram Alpha.

Even if you don't understand all of a resource, looking through it for the information you need will help you to learn.

Once you've found what you need, it is up to you to understand it and then to communicate your understanding on your paper. Copying does not communicate understanding. Copying without making clear that you are doing so by crediting your resources constitutes academic dishonesty. This especially includes copying from a solutions manual. If you are at all unsure, cite your references, and put quotes around material that is copied.

Look over what the resource says. Put it away. Write down your understanding of what it said. Look back at it again if you need help or to help polish your understanding, but what you hand in should come out of your brain and what it learned from the resource.

To avoid any insinuation of academic dishonesty, when you use a resource, you should always putting a note on your paper indicating what you used. If you quote from the resource, put the material in quotes!

  • I found this solution in the solutions manual, but I tried to write it up myself.
  • I took this solution in part from the Wikipedia article on Gaussian Elimination.
  • I found this on page 252 of Markov Chain Monte Carlo in Practice by W.R. Gilks et. al.
  • The course notes used in this class are based on course notes originally written by Patrick Bahls and modified by me. All mistakes are my own.

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