Thursday, October 4, 2012

Printed notes: Good or Bad?

I sometimes wonder whether it is helpful or not to publish full course notes. It is helpful in that we can dispense with some tedious copying-out, and you are guaranteed an accurate account. But there are also benefits to hearing and writing down things yourself during a lecture, and so I hope you will still do some of that.

I intend to say some things in every lecture that are not in the notes. In learning mathematics repeated exposure to ideas is helpful, so I hope that a combination of reading, listening, writing and solving problems will work well for you. 

I would be interested to hear from you if you would like to tell me what you think about this, and how you find best to use the notes that I am putting here.

When I was a student I used to take the notes that I had made during lectures and then re-write them in the minimal number of pages that was sufficient for me to remember the essential content of the course. Here, for fun and some historical interest, are my notes for the 1972 course "Markov methods" as taught by David Kendall, and also my my summary revision notes. I condensed the course into 4 pages (on large computer line printer paper that we had in those days). 

Looking at these notes now, I see flaws - and I expect many of you can do much better. Only the first 2 pages are on discrete-time Markov chains. The 1972 course also covered continuous-time Markov processes, which we now cover in the Part II course "Applied Probability" (but the 1972 IB course missed out many things that we are now doing, such as random walks and reversibility.) Incidentally, Question #10 on Example Sheet 1 is a tripos question from 1972, Paper IV, #10C.