Unlike smoothly-synchronized History 1 section men, the various teachers in Harvard's elementary mathematics courses can follow their least whim in determining the work to be done. Not only do some sections accomplish much more than others, but they may even use different texts. Naturally, when the ill-assorted students from Math A reach Math 2, a good deal of duplication ensues. Sometimes you've done the work before and other times the necessary preparatory material was omitted in your section. But not even Math 2 has achieved any sort of intra-course uniformity. Each of the three sections is an independent variable--each, as in Math A, uses its own texts in its own way. All math concentrators meet finally in Math 5, which has but one section. However, due to the varied work offered as a pre-requisite, this third stage in numerical evolution must retrace not only Math 2 but also Math A!
A few simple steps taken by the Department would clear up this whole mess. First, some one professor should be made responsible for re-organizing the elementary courses. Math A and Math 2 should adopt more modern texts better organized for what Harvard intends to teach and for the way Harvard intends to teach it. Different sections could be required to do a minimum amount of identical work in that text; and giving the same exam to the whole course would be pressure enough on the instructors to enforce the rule. An advanced section in Math 2 could take care of concentrators who required or preferred a little thicker broth than those heading for physics or chemistry.
In concentrating on its advanced offerings, which do rank with the best in the country, the Harvard mathematicians have neglected their introductory courses. No one should know better than these numerical wizards the importance of systematic development and logical structure. Yet the chaos of Math A; 2, and 5 approaches infinity. It's high time the local number-jumblers solved the practical problem of organizing their Department.