ESP Biography



DAVID ROE, Harvard 4rd year grad student in mathematics




Major: Mathematics, Literature

College/Employer: Harvard University, grade 20

Year of Graduation: Not available.

Picture of David Roe

Brief Biographical Sketch:

I was an MIT undergrad from 2002 to 2006, majoring in math and literature but sampling classes from plenty of other departments as well. I love teaching, having taught multivariable calculus at MIT while there, a number theory and combinatorics class at Harvard, and an increasing number of summers at Canada/USA Mathcamp. Not to mention Splash, where I've taught since 2002.

My philosophy for programs like Splash, at least in mathematics, is that the most valuable purpose that they can serve is to expose people to awesome areas of mathematics that they wouldn't otherwise have access to. I find difficult classes inspiring: they can provide a glimpse of something far beyond what you are currently ready for. They are also, clearly, difficult. My classes are hard.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


Number Theory in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
Number theory is the branch of mathematics that studies properties of the integers. Despite being around for thousands of years, there are still many fundamental unsolved problems. In this class we will cover some of the basic techniques of number theory, including modular arithmetic, Fermat’s Little Theorem, primes and unique factorization. These can help you understand where divisibility rules come from, how primality tests work and how to solve systems of modular equations.


Quaternion Algebras in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
You've seen the complex numbers: they form a system of arithmetic where each number is specified by a pair of real numbers. Can you figure out a way to add and multiply triples of real numbers? Quadruples? It turns out that if you want all of the rules of arithmetic to hold, you're out of luck. But if you're willing to relax the requirement that $xy=yx$, then it's possible to define a way of multiplying quadruples of real numbers (but not triples!) in a way that gets you everything else you'd want. We'll construct these quaternions, discuss why it doesn't work in any dimension other than 4, and apply them to problems like efficiently rotating coordinates in 3 dimensions and generalize them to algebras over other fields. This will be a difficult class: come prepared for quite a bit of abstraction.


Lagrange's Four Squares Theorem in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
$$719 = 26^2 + 5^2 + 3^2 + 3^2$$. Can you write it as a sum of three squares? Can you write $$2007$$ as a sum of four squares? As it turns out, every positive integer can be written as the sum of four squares. We'll prove this result using a method known as infinite descent, and then proceed to discuss the number of ways a given $$n$$ can be represented so. As for a sum of three squares, we'll see which numbers can be represented in this fashion along the way. See if you can figure out the answer now (and prove it too). We'll use the tools developed in my Number Theory class. This course will not be as hard as Quaternion Algebras, but it will still be reasonably difficult, especially near the end.


Number Theory in Droplet Spring 2009 (May. 01, 2009)
Number theory is the branch of mathematics that studies properties of the integers (..., -2, -1, 0, 1, 2,...). Despite being around for thousands of years, there are still many fundamental unsolved problems. Come learn about modular arithmetic, which helps explain quick methods for testing if a number is divisible by 11. Or Fermat's Little Theorem, which forms the basis for a powerful technique for quickly checking if a number is prime.


Complex Numbers in Droplet Spring 2009 (May. 01, 2009)
You've learned how to take square roots: $\sqrt{4} = 2$. But what about $\sqrt{-4}$? You may have been taught that taking square roots of negative is impossible. This isn't quite true: you can enlarge your notion of what a number is in a way that allows one to compute with numbers including $\sqrt{-4}$. Such "complex numbers" are crucial all over mathematics, engineering and physics. Come and see why!


Algebraic Structures in SPLASH (2007)
The algebra you learned in middle school is only the beginning of the story. You've learned how to manipulate symbols ...


Elliptic Curves and Modular Forms in SPLASH (2007)
There are many possible definitions of an elliptic curve. Perhaps the easiest to understand is the following. An elliptic curve ...


Finite Fields in SPLASH (2007)
Is it possible to have a system of numbers like the real numbers or rational numbers, where we can add, ...


Galois Groups in SPLASH (2007)
We will continue our exploration of algebra after dinner, proceeding to more advanced topics like field theory and Galois groups. ...


Galois Representations in SPLASH (2007)
This is my annual crazy course, where there's very little chance of anyone understanding much of what I talk about. ...


Introduction to European Games in SPLASH (2007)
Tired of Monopoly, Taboo and Trivial Pursuit? This class will introduce "European-style" board games, which range from monks in a ...


More fun with p-adics in SPLASH (2007)
In this second hour we will continue exploring p-adics by considering their extensions. p-adic extensions are much more rich and ...


Number Theory in SPLASH (2007)
Number theory is the branch of mathematics that studies properties of the integers. Despite being around for thousands of years, ...


Real and p-adic numbers in SPLASH (2007)
A real number is a number like $$ ==2.73, -47, \pi, e^{7.91}\cdots== $$ But what is a real number, actually? ...


Representations of Finite Groups in SPLASH (2007)
A group is a set with one operation that is associative, has an identity and in which every element has ...


Actual Algebra 1 in SPLASH (2006)
The algebra that you learn in middle school and high school is a mere shadow of the subject known to ...


Actual Algebra 2 in SPLASH (2006)
We will continue the study of the objects defined in Actual Algebra 1: learning more about them and giving more ...


Algebraic Number Theory in SPLASH (2006)
In the integers one has unique factorization into primes: 6=2*3. But in other types of numbers, this unique factorization breaks ...


Algebraic Topology in SPLASH (2006)
Some of the most interesting results about topological spaces can most easily (or even only) be proved using the methods ...


Ask David Math Questions in SPLASH (2006)
Come ask me math questions! Ask anything, and I'll try to answer. Obviously, I don't know everything, but I may ...


Category Theory in SPLASH (2006)
Category Theory is a language for speaking about advanced mathematics. Often described as "abstract nonsense" or "crazy moon language," it ...


Diophantine Equations in SPLASH (2006)
You've learned how to solve equations like ==x^2 - 7y^2 = 1==: for any y just set ==x = sqrt(1+7y^2)== ...


Field Theory in SPLASH (2006)
Building on the material in Actual Algebra 1, we will consider fields in more depth. In particular, we will study ...


Number Theory in SPLASH (2006)
Number theory is the study of properties of the integers: ..., -2, -1, 0, 1, 2... Many of the basic ...


Point Set Topology in SPLASH (2006)
Topology is the study of spaces that you can stretch and bend. The standard joke is that a topologist is ...


Real and p-adic numbers in SPLASH (2006)
A real number is a number like ==2.73, -47, \pi, e^{7.91}\cdots== But what is a real number, actually? How does ...


Algebraic Number Theory in SPLASH (2005)
Prerequisites: "Number Theory," "Introduction to Group Theory" and "Rings, Fields and Vector Spaces." Does it annoy you that you always ...


Elliptic Curves in SPLASH (2005)
Prerequisites: "Introduction to Group Theory" and "Number Theory." Elliptic curves were crucial in the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, provide ...


Number Theory in SPLASH (2005)
Number theory is the branch of mathematics that studies properties of the integers. Despite being around for thousands of years, ...


Rings, Fields and Vector Spaces in SPLASH (2005)
Have you ever wondered what those vectors you learn about in physics really are? Or whether there are other systems ...


Algebraic Number Theory in SPLASH (2004)
Prerequisites: Number Theory, Algebraic Structures. Does it annoy you that you always understand what's going on in your math class? ...


Algebraic Structures in SPLASH (2004)
Groups, Rings, Fields, Vector Spaces, Modules, Algebras and possibly even sheaves! We'll go through the definitions, some examples, and some ...


Ask David Math Questions in SPLASH (2004)
Don't you hate it when your teacher tells you that "that's beyond the scope of this class" or "we don't ...


Elliptic Curves in SPLASH (2004)
Elliptic curves were crucial in the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, provide both a factorization and encryption algorithm and are ...


Grassmanians Galore! in SPLASH (2004)
Grassmanians pop up in many areas of mathematics, boggling your mind with their impossibility to visualize. I will tell you ...


Number Theory in SPLASH (2004)
We will cover modular arithmetic, Fermat's Little Theorem, primes, unique factorization and other material from elementary number theory. There are ...


Algebraic Number Theory in SPLASH (2003)
Prerequisites: Basic Number Theory,Algebraic Structures Does it annoy you that you always understand what's going on in your math class? ...


Algebraic Structures in SPLASH (2003)
Groups, Rings, Fields, Vector Spaces, Modules, Algebras and possibly even sheaves! We'll go through the definitions, some examples, and some ...


Ask David Advanced Math Questions in SPLASH (2003)
Intended primarily as a supplement to Algebraic Number Theory. However, you're welcome to attend even if you didn't go to ...


Ask David Math Questions in SPLASH (2003)
Don't you hate it when your teacher tells you that "that's beyond the scope of this class" or "we don't ...


Basic Number Theory in SPLASH (2003)
We will cover modular arithmetic, Fermat's Little Theorem, primes, unique factorization and other material from basic number theory. There are ...


Cryptography in SPLASH (2003)
Prerequisites: Basic NumberTheory We'll go through some of the basic algorithms of cryptography, including the substitution cipher, the one time ...


Manifolds in SPLASH (2003)
Prerequisites: multivariable calculus What do a circle, a Mobius strip, and 5-dimensional space have in common? They all locally "look ...


Unsolved Problems in Number Theory in SPLASH (2003)
Do you ever wonder what mathematicians do for a living? Do they just solve equations all day? In this class ...


Algebraic Number Theory in SPLASH (2002)
Does it annoy you that you always understand what's going on in your math class? Do you wish that the ...


Ask David Advanced Math Questions in SPLASH (2002)
Intended primarily as a supplement to Algebraic Number Theory. However, you're welcome to attend even if you didn't go to ...


Ask David Math Questions in SPLASH (2002)
Don't you hate it when your teacher tells you that "that's beyond the scope of this class" or "we don't ...


Basic Number Theory in SPLASH (2002)
We will cover modular arithmetic, Fermat's Little Theorem, primes, unique factorization and other material from basic number theory. There are ...


Competition Problem Solving in SPLASH (2002)
Do you want to do better on the AMC->10, the AMC->12, the AIME or USAMO, ARML or USAMTS? I'll have ...


Cryptography in SPLASH (2002)
We'll go through some of the basic algorithms of cryptography, including the substitution cipher, the one time pad, Diffie-Hellman key ...


Diophantine Equations and Pythagorean Triples in SPLASH (2002)
The Pythagorean Theorem states that a^2 + b^2 = c^2. What solutions in integers exist? Well, 3:4:5 works, as does ...


Factorization and Primality Testing in SPLASH (2002)
We'll talk about some of the factoring and primality testing algorithms, including trial division, Sieve of Eratosthenes, Quadratic Sieve, Lucas ...


Unsolved Problems in Number Theory in SPLASH (2002)
Do you ever wonder what mathematicians do for a living? Do they just solve equations all day? In this class ...