How's Duke's Math Program?

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Discus: Individual Schools: US News Top 25: Duke University: 2004 Archive: How's Duke's Math Program?
By Clarkchong (Clarkchong) on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 08:30 pm: Edit

I'm offered a place by Duke and U. Chi. I'm planning to major at Math. However, I'm an international student(more exactly a student from HK), so I don't know much about these two institutes. Which one do you think is better(academically)? I think most probably i'll go on to study Master's degree and PhD in Math after my undergrad studies. thanks

By Fuzzzylogicc (Fuzzzylogicc) on Friday, April 16, 2004 - 01:46 am: Edit

There's a lot of talent in the Duke math department. Duke has won the Putnam Competition three times (I think it is) in the last decade and has otherwise been a fixture in the top five. I couldn't find the link to the historical list of winners but here's a link to the results from this year when they finished third behind MIT and Harvard:

By Clarkchong (Clarkchong) on Friday, April 16, 2004 - 02:32 am: Edit

Fuzzylogicc, thanks for your information. Actually, it's exactly what's caught my attention in the first place. I learnt that from
what I want to know more is its Math programme and faculty of its math Department...

I do want to go to Duke, but almost all of my relatives suggest that U. Chi is CLEARLY a BETTER CHOICE for me, as they think the latter is much more FAMOUS and has a STRONGER ACADEMIC programme... well, I find it hard to argue, I don't go to Univeristy just for the sake of entering Putnam, but for its education which would prepare me for my graduate study. So I would be grateful if any of you may provide me of some solid information like: places where the graduates from U. Chi and Duke UG programme end up, strength of Math programme, etc. Thanks

By Stanfordnualum (Stanfordnualum) on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 01:48 am: Edit

Success in Putnam exams is not necessarily true indicator. Not all teams got equal amount of coaching, training, and support from professors. But be prepared if you go to UC, they will work you like a dog.

By Mike555 (Mike555) on Friday, July 02, 2004 - 11:55 pm: Edit

Well incase you're interested I had some time on my hands and made a list.

These are the number of times each University has taken the #1 spot for the Putnum competition between 1938 and up to 2003:

Harvard - 24
CalTech - 9
Toronto - 4
MIT - 4
Michigan State - 3
Washington St Louis - 3
Duke - 3
Brooklyn - 3
Polytechnic of Brooklyn - 2
Waterloo - 2
Cornell - 2
Case Western - 1
Chicago - 1
Berkley - 1
Queens - 1
California Davis - 1

By Julibean008 (Julibean008) on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 09:15 am: Edit

I think that your relatives are wrong when they say UChicago is more famous than Duke. I'm not sure about the math program, but it's true for the college overall. Duke also has very high rates of acceptance for grad school, which it seems like you're interested in! Good luck with your decision!

By Theguac (Theguac) on Saturday, July 03, 2004 - 11:46 am: Edit

University of Chicago is more famous than Duke in economics, its stronghold. However, when I applied to the school, I thought of it as my safety school in terms of private school admissions. I was not impressed by its lack of different colleges and by its weak offerings of majors. U of Chicago is a great school that advertises its programs well, but for people who want a true college environment where they can take classes never known to them to have existed, then Chicago is definitely not a good pick. It's very specialized and while its law school is GREAT, it hasn't made a mark in anything except economics.

It harbors some of the best professors in the country but many of these NL winners do not teach but rather, do research. Duke and Chicago respect each other greatly, but I find that Duke is much more selective and that when given the choice, most students (other than econ majors) would go to Duke (many Duke students get into Chicago but turn it down). The environment around the university is also stressful and VERY competitive, which may turn many people away from its great academics.

I must admit however that their application was the most interesting and that I loved the interview (we talked politics for an hour, bashing Bush and his silly policies). In terms of general prestige, I feel Chicago is a bit better than Northwestern, but Northwestern has the resources to support its undergraduate and graduate schools well.

As for Duke's math program, it is quite difficult. The professors are all very smart people who are known in their field, but some of them cannot teach well. Duke focuses on theory in math and in proving elements and not on regurgitating formulas or theories in the text. This makes tests extremely difficult and many students strain to get B's on them. Almost every Science Drive major is the devil and unfortuntately, Duke pre-meds must prevail against these injustices if they want to make medical school.

So I would say that if you want an outstanding math program, you can go to both schools. But you will be hit hard at Duke if you cannot follow theory very well. Math is no longer about calculations but about understanding the system and applying this understanding to other systems. My math professor for Ordinary Differential Equations (131) was the Putnam coach at Duke and he is a genius and I liked him a lot, but I did not do so well in his class because I had not learned how to analyze theory in high school (Duke has taught me now, which is a prominent goal of the university). He rides a segway around campus =).

Chicago is a great feeder school to graduate programs but if you are looking for law or medicine placement, then I recommend Duke since it is better in this respect.

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