“Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater,” this quote by Albert Einstein feels beyond relatable if you’re the freshman taking Honors Calculus/Analysis course at your university; particularly Math 207–09 of UChicago, Math 55 of Harvard, Math 1010 of Florida Tech, Math 18.100B of MIT, and Math 395 of University of Michigan. You feel oddly weird when your roommates, classmates, and friends cry over how hard their Calc I-III classes are, all that goes inside your mind at that very moment is “Dude, you haven’t experienced half the pain.”
You know that you’ve got yourself into a war zone when your Prof hands out the syllabus on the very first day of class, and the first sentence is: “This is probably the most difficult undergraduate math class in the country; a variety of advanced topics in mathematics are covered, and problem sets ask students to prove many fundamental theorems of analysis and linear algebra. Class meets three hours per week, plus one hour of the section, and problem sets can take anywhere from 24 to 60 hours to complete.” And has a caution statement/warning at the end which says: You are fairly certain that you want to be a math concentrator and want to be challenged to your limit. You have a solid base in advanced mathematics and are very comfortable with proofs and rigorous arguments. You want math to be your most important class.”
It won’t even be an exaggeration if I say, no one, literally no one gets the whole homework problems correct in the first time, that’s why it’s very rare to encounter anyone doing their homework and exams with a pen in the analysis class.
For mathematics professor and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania David Harbater ’74, Math 55 still holds sway. “If someone applies to graduate school at Penn, and I see that he or she was in Math 55(Honors Level Analysis Class), that would certainly get my attention. It definitely means something to me.”
Regardless of the course’s name brand value, Math 55 or any honors analysis course students face a single fact: It’s hard. Really hard.
Each week, their heads huddled together, these students dedicate 30 to 50 hours to problem sets—proving significant theorems with only definitions to guide them. Besides dark under-eye circles and abandoned Expos assignments, this produces incredibly close friendships and camaraderie.
Though there is the rigor and suffering, the hard work certainly pays off. Analysis course provides you with an entirely different horizon of proof based and critical thinking skills. Also, it’s highly probable that the students in your honors course are the greatest minds on campus among the freshmen class and what makes you proud is that you’re a part of it too.