Linnea Holy '23
First math class at Swarthmore: My first class was Math 027 Linear Algebra, with Thomas Hunter.
What was your favorite math class and why? My favorite math class was Math 063 Real Analysis. We got to take ownership of math in a really compelling way that I hadn’t been able to get a handle on before. It’s very clear and simple and well-thought out—yet so difficult to grasp when seeing it for the first time! Such a shift in my thinking. Still suffered in the class, but I’ve gotten so much out of it that it *just* might’ve been worth it. :)
How do you expect to use your mathematics after leaving Swarthmore? The way I expect to use math after I graduate is the same way I use math now: to be more confident. Real analysis really empowered me to ask questions: to ask dumb questions, to ask small questions, to ask anything. Since then, I’ve sat in econ seminars where something has been discussed that, because I’d gotten a good perspective from analysis, I just knew was confusing to most people in the room. So I felt absolutely no qualms raising my hand and asking the question, and then I was able to understand the answer far more easily and quickly and turn around and explain it in depth to a confused and friendly soul sitting behind me. I knew I had the math chops to be confident using a small amount of math in economics, so I no longer needed to worry about asking a silly question — those are sometimes the most fun to ask! My voice suddenly became a very powerful tool because I felt I could finally use it to speak up - in class and in the workplace - and further my understanding.
What advice do you have for an incoming student? If you are confused by someone’s explanation, it’s their fault. Not yours. If someone tries to make you feel stupid, that’s entirely on them. A good mathematician and a kind person will explain something to you with the singular goal of your understanding the concept - there’s no ego involved. As a good friend and one of my favorite mathematicians says to students in math clinic, “the mathematician you are is the mathematician we need!” Other advice: read your textbook before class! go early to office hours. find math study buddies. go to a math social and pet a dog. take classes with professors you like the most as teachers, regardless of what they’re teaching.
Anything else you would like to share? Your grades do not define you; the first lesson they should teach you at Swat is how to decouple your self worth from your academic performance. Yes, you are a student, you are a learner, and a very good at that — but there is so so much more to life than sleep deprivation and beating yourself up. Be kind to yourself. Whenever you’re having a hard time, tell yourself “I am good enough, as I am right now” until you believe it. Learn to prioritize, invest in your relationships with friends, take time to be alone. Love freely while knowing boundaries are essential for protecting yourself and others. Directness is kindness.