Talk:Math 55

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Stuck in 1970[edit]

So we've now traded the Harvard Crimson's take on Math 55 for Sam Williams' take on what the class was like back in 1970. Odd choice, considering that (a) that was 40 years ago, and (b) there's little reason to think that 1970 was even representative of that era. I think that Math 55 is notable, but since there appears to be little information to cite, maybe the article should just die. If it is to live, perhaps we should just summarize some of the information from the Harvard Freshman Pamphlet and Harvard's official course description, and also include a longer list of notable alumni (especially prominent mathematicians). An alumni list would be a nice feature, but again, it will be difficult to find many citations for this information. (Of course, I NEVER see citations for this sort of stuff on other Wikipedia articles...) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:45, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

I just spent 30 minutes trying to find sources from sometime that was not 1970, and I couldn't find anything. I was hoping some of the stuff people brought up in the AfD would prove useful to expand past 1970, but most of those turned out to not mention the class. (So I'm guessing the links changed or something, because they seemed to link to relevant info during the AfD) This makes me think that the class is not notable to begin with, because the only sources seem to be the the books about Gates and Stallman. (talk) 18:01, 23 April 2009 (UTC)

Gender Disparity[edit]

Although gender disparity is a subject worthy of inclusion in this article, the actual content in this section is pretty random and lacking in context, and I intend to delete most of it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:59, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

Probably a good idea. Most of the stuff in that section is about Gender Disparity in general, and has nothing to do with the actual class. (talk) 17:44, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

A note on sources[edit]

"Harvard Crimson" is a student newspaper. Newspaper articles are not primary sources or reliable sources. The article that provides most of the material for this article does not provide sources or logical arguments for its claims, it merely paraphrases and generalizes interview quotations.

Quotations may be cited in an encyclopedia article, but unsourced conclusions of newspaper article authors should not be repeated as fact. (article content may be quoted, as the fact that article was written is verifiable, but the claims the article makes are not verifiable.) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:40, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

Removing ALL statements from Harvard Crimson articles seems extreme. For example, many simple, verifiable statements of fact can probably be trusted. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:47, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

"[...] can probably be trusted"
Emphasis mine. (talk) 17:45, 16 April 2009 (UTC)
"the hardest undergraduate mathematics course of any college"
"experiencing the class as a rite of passage"
"simple, verifiable statements of fact [that] can probably be trusted"
"a student newspaper"
"The article that provides most of the material for this article does not provide sources or logical arguments for its claims, it merely paraphrases and generalizes interview quotations"
"unsourced conclusions of newspaper article authors should not be repeated as fact" (talk) 17:53, 16 April 2009 (UTC)
What is this -- some kind of haiku? (For the record, I have my doubts about notability too. And no matter what, the article is a pile of aimless minutiae.) EEng (talk) 02:26, 11 April 2013 (UTC)

Continuing Argument[edit]

Responses to things in the AfD {See AfD to see entire line of argument}

  • I certainly think so. I will freely admit I didn't pour through each of the 38 books on this search but the gaol of the AfD is to ascertain if concerns can be addressed and this seems to confirm that they can. -- Banjeboi 06:36, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
  • comment So because there are 38 results that use the words 'math' and '55', it is notable, despite the fact that only one of the results actually uses the words 'math 55' together and is already one of the sources listed on the page? That's the most ridiculous argument I've heard. (talk) 13:13, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

As pointed out above other sources exist that seem to confirm this very short article. Ideally these would be integrated into the article so that our readers can see the verification as well, but this, in and of itself is a reason for clean-up, not deletion. -- Banjeboi 06:39, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
  • comment 'As pointed out above other sources exist' - as pointed out above, I think that statement is blatantly false. (talk) 13:13, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

Comment Those who are arguing about the claim (yes, "reputed," not stated as fact) that this is a super-duper-hard class, or the hardest class in the universe, are missing the point. This has no bearing on notability. (It is of course possible to make any course arbitrarily 'hard,' and this is exactly not the point.) This is notable because of the institution, the importance of the subject to modern society's productions (quants who can crash stock markets, for instance), and the people involved. It happens to be a course at Harvard which has had a documented impact on people who (fair or not!) are themselves prima facie notable. --Skandha101 07:22, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Comment 'This is notable because of the institution' - WP:NOTINHERITED - 'the importance of the subject to modern society's productions' - WP:NOTINHERITED - 'the people involved' - WP:NOTINHERITED - Tell me a reason that actually mentions the course or why I am wrong in my reasoning. (talk) 13:13, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
    • Comment WP:notinherited doesn't help here. Notability is not necessarily inherited, nor is it necessarily not not inherited (QED after consulting common sense, but of course also see the reference you provided). My comment was not intended to make the case, in itself, for notability. There were separate (as I said, "satisfactory,") references already provided in the afd discussion. My point with the comment was to try to point out that some seemed to be arguing based on hurt feelings, or a misguided need for fairness, or a misapplied egalitarianism that could not accept that not all institutions are equal in terms of their influence in the world and the influential people who actually have attended (or taken the course and written about it, as in this case). There is no weight of inescapable consequence, or QED, in my previous comment.
On the other hand, it is evident that some notability tends to flow from notable 'parent' subjects, if you are talking (as we should be) about the real world. If there is a New York community college, that is itself only known known locally, which makes a world-challenging claim about one of its courses (or buildings, or trees), it is unfortunately or not, simply less credible on its face. We can't abandon common sense -- the world, media, notability are not fair. This also touches on things like celebrity, and what a reliable source is. Is Harvard economist the same as a high school economics teacher (and this actually may be an open question, if both get their economic forecasts completely wrong)? Why or why not? What is a reliable source? Too often, it looks like wikipeople draw a straight line from a blessed source, to a conclusion about the notability and fitness for inclusion of a particular subject. Can a paper that usually does good work get its fact-checking wrong, and print things that are completely untrue? Well, yes.... So, this isn't black and white -- there is a gray area, always. We can do our best to sort things out fairly, obviously, which is what most if not all of us are trying to do here. And anyway, there is always room for a criticisms section, if the claim in the article about a notable subject is dumb, but sourced reliably.
To the other point -- I think some people were saying, and it may indeed be valid to say, something like, "Well, my of U. of C. course (be it Chicago or California) is also 'reputed' to be such and such," and that compared to most others, the UC (or whoever's) Course itself has an outsized impact -- and if there are solid references for such a claim, I see no reason those couldn't be candidates for articles or combined/similar topic items. I honestly think there would be very few of these (if, e.g., Nadia Boulanger had specific, world-altering music courses with distinguishable titles, those could be notable, but given that she was a single person, it would make more sense to roll that into a single page). This case (Math 55) goes beyond likely or probable impact or human interest (none of which disqualify anything from notability, either) and actually has solid references, and is also of enough interest apart from the institution, that an entry seems fair. --Skandha101 • 02:41, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Comment. This is really rather unproductive and as you point out with the header title - argumentative. The AfD closed so the article remains for the moment. You might find working on articles you do want to see remain more fulfilling as we each have our own knowledge base and we need your help on those notable subjects. If this one is doomed to fall it will soon enough. -- Banjeboi 14:45, 17 March 2009 (UTC)
Mainly I just wanted to point out that 1 - Your list of 'sources' had nothing to do with the argument or article - And 2 - People have varying opinions on 'notability' and 'accurate sources'.
I fully expect this to die on its own. (talk) 15:18, 17 March 2009 (UTC)


Why is this its own separate article? I don't think this class is significant enough to warrant its own article. At the most, it could be mentioned in the article about Harvard University or else in an article about a relevant department. -- (talk) 21:11, 14 June 2009 (UTC)

Agreed, this isn't notable at all. Seelum (talk) 05:32, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

Potential sources[edit]

(Saving here, for future reference.)

plus a bunch of other Crimson sources, easily found. Shreevatsa (talk) 21:17, 17 August 2009 (UTC)


On the question of notability, which is a central topic of debate regarding this article – what criteria must a class satisfy to be notable? Some other classes that come to mind:

How do you feel Math 55 compares with these? To those who think this topic not notable – would any class, exam, or prize at a university be notable, in your view? (Indeed, would any high school be?)

(My own view is that it is notable, as substantiated by multiple 3rd party sources, as has been discussed in RfD. It is certainly more widely known than many of the more technical mathematics articles, for instance.)

—Nils von Barth (nbarth) (talk) 09:19, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

I agree with nbarth; Math 55 is as notable as at least some of the other articles he cites. (I didn't go to Harvard College, and I'd heard of the class and its reputed rigor.) I also don't understand the objection to using the Crimson article; newspaper articles, including those from college newspapers, are certainly considered reliable sources for Wikipedia purposes. The demand for sources for the various claims made within the article is strange; were that required, we'd have to immediately remove from Wikipedia any newspaper article that does not precisely cite every sentence. At the very least, we can certainly have in this article something like "Math 55 is reputed to be the most difficult undergraduate mathematics class in the country," then add citations as appropriate. YLee (talk) 02:55, 9 March 2010 (UTC)


I looked at the Elkies and McMullen lecture notes referenced by the article, and they do not start with point-set-topology, Elkies starts with metric spaces, McMullen with vector spaces. --Chricho ∀ (talk) 10:36, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

Test after 3 weeks[edit]

Such a test is not mentined at [1]. They only say that there is a test at the beginning for self-assessment. Is there any better source than a very old journalistic article? --Chricho ∀ (talk) 10:40, 9 October 2011 (UTC)