Stanford University

Stanford Math Directed Reading Program

The Directed Reading Program is a program of Stanford's Graduate Mathematics Outreach Organization in which undergraduate students (of any major) interested in independently reading some mathematics outside of their official coursework are paired for a quarter with math graduate students for weekly guidance and discussions. At the end of the quarter, participants gather for a colloquium in which each participant gives a short talk about their reading. The program began in winter quarter 2017.

The application for the Winter 2023 DRP is available here. The application is due Friday January 20th at 12 PM PST. If you'd like to receive announcements about the program in the future, please subscribe to our mailing list.

Program format

Each quarter,

  1. Interested undergraduate students submit a brief application which asks something about their background and mathematical interests.
  2. The organizing committee matches undergraduates with graduate student mentors with similar interests. Pairings will generally be one-on-one.
  3. Each pair agrees on material that the undergraduate will read over the course of the quarter.
  4. Each week, the undergraduate student will be expected to spend at least four hours reading the material. During the week, students and mentors meet remotely for about one hour to discuss the material.
  5. At the end of the quarter, we will hold an optional online colloquium. Participating undergraduates each give a short (12 minute) talk about what they learned during the quarter. We have compiled a list of guidelines for giving a presentation.
  6. The next quarter, we start from step 1 again (new pool of mentors, new pairings, etc.). Of course, mentoring relationships may last beyond the single quarter if both participants wish.

Eligibility and the matching process

All Stanford undergraduate students are welcome and encouraged to apply to the DRP, especially members of groups that are historically underrepresented in mathematics. Unfortunately, we are not usually able to recruit enough mentors to match all students who apply to the DRP. We tend to prioritize matching students who are further along in their studies, and in particular the percentage of first-year students we are able to match is often quite low. We have also found that the students who get the most out of the DRP program have some experience with reading and writing mathematical proofs, and with mathematics at or above the level of linear algebra. For example, this could be gained from taking a math course numbered 106 or higher, Math 61CM/DM, or Math 83N. Students who we are not able to match in a given quarter will be given special consideration in future quarters.

Goals and philosophy

The guiding principle is informality: this is a way for everyone to learn new things, meet new people, and explore new areas in a friendly and casual environment. This is not to say that people should not learn serious math, but a DRP project is not supposed to be like another math course or even like a reading course with a faculty member—more like independent reading with a bit of guidance. In particular, the DRP is independent of the Stanford Math Department curriculum and does not confer academic credit.

One of the explicit goals of the program is to provide a streamlined way for undergraduate students to participate in the larger mathematical community and to gain mathematical cultural capital. We welcome applications from all Stanford undergraduates interested in mathematics, and women and members of other underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply.

Ways and means

This program is organized and run by a committee of mathematics graduate students. The current organizers are Jared Marx-Kuo, Alexandra Stavrianidi, Talia Blum, and Milo Marsden. Please feel free to email the organizers with any questions or concerns.

The DRP concept is based on that of similar programs at other institutions, going back to the first DRP started in 2003 at UChicago. There is now a national DRP network which maintains a list of resources and information about DRPs.

The Math DRP is administered under the auspices of Stanford's Graduate Mathematics Outreach Organization. We are very grateful to Stanford's Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education (VPGE) for supporting the DRP through its Student Projects for Intellectual Community Enhancement (SPICE) and Diversity and Inclusion Innovation Funds (DIF) grants. We would also like to thank the staff of the Stanford Mathematics Department for invaluable administrative and logistical support.

Current participants


Past participants

See the list of participants and topics in previous quarters.

The following is a list of abstract booklets from the final presentation sessions in previous quarters. Prospective participants may like to take a look to get an idea about what topics past participants have studied. (Note that in most cases, time constraints mean that each final presentation is only able to scratch the surface of the material that the participant studied!)


Undergraduates in math and allied fields may also be interested in the following programs and resources: