LSU College of Science
LSU  | Mathematics

International Students

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All inquiries about our graduate program are warmly welcomed and answered daily:
grad@math.lsu.edu

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New international students must take a written English placement test upon arrival and before being registered for Mathematics courses. This test will determine whether or not it is necessary to take one or more semesters of written English courses for international students. The only form of financial aid which the Department is permitted to offer to an international student is a teaching assistantship or a teaching assistantship in combination with the Graduate School Enhancement and Supplement Awards. New international students cannot teach a class at LSU until they receive a Recommendation to Teach from the English as a Second Language Program within the Department of English. This can be accomplished by means of an interview with the ESL staff upon arrival at LSU, but it usually requires a semester of Spoken American English first. That course concludes with a videotaped presentation by the international graduate student to a group of undergraduate students who major in Communication Disorders - not in Mathematics! Here is some advice about how to prepare your talk for your video-taped presentation.

  • Pick an elementary topic that can be understood with no background in college-level mathematics. You will need to understand that high school students in the United States learn less mathematics than their counterparts in Europe or Asia. If your topic is too difficult for your audience, the audience will assume their failure to understand stems from the inadequacy of your English.
  • It is essential that your topic be presentable in ten minutes without hurrying. If you must hurry you will speak quickly and students will find it harder to understand even a slight foreign accent. Also, if you must hurry you will forget to turn your head and speak to your audience. You must make eye-contact with your students. A warm smile is helpful too.
  • Your topic and your presentation must be such that there is two-way interaction between the class and yourself. Undergraduates must ask you questions in English and you must reply appropriately. The English Department will be watching for this with great concern.
  • If you plan your topic sufficiently far in advance, you will have time to make an appointment with the Graduate Director or with another professor to present your planned talk and to get advice. If you are asking a professor other than the Graduate Director, be sure to show him or her a copy of this page.

Until an international graduate assistant receives this recommendation to teach, non-teaching jobs must be assigned for assistantship duties. Since the number of such jobs available within the Department of Mathematics is limited, it is very important for international graduate assistants to earn the recommendation to teach as soon as possible. For Graduate Assistants the Department has a limited number of Summer Assistantships available. Students who held Assistantships for both the preceding Fall and Spring Semesters are currently offered Tuition Waivers by the Graduate School for the Summer Term if the student does not have a Summer Assistantship. Students with Summer Assistantships must pay tuition for the Summer Term. All students receiving Financial Aid of any kind from LSU must be enrolled full-time for each semester for which support is provided. Summer Assistantships are awarded as follows: the highest priority goes to students who have passed the General Exam; the second highest priority goes to students who have passed only the Comprehensive Exam at the PhD Qualifying Level; and the remaining students are considered for Summer Assistantships if any are left. Within each priority-level, students are ranked by seniority. Since Summer Assistantships (other than the computer assistantship) are budgeted only for classroom teaching, only students eligible to teach in the classroom can be considered. Also, it is necessary to have prior experience teaching during the academic year to be eligible for summer teaching, and one must have a good record of successful classroom teaching. Items considered in making this judgment include Student Teaching Evaluations, recommendations from the Faculty Observer, retention rates, and student complaints, if any. Since academic year stipends are paid in nine monthly installments, graduate students who do not have a summer assistantship need to plan ahead for their financial needs during the Summer Term, in case a Summer Assistantship is not awarded. International students who are not offered Summer Teaching Assistantships may need to plan well in advance for their financial needs during the Summer Term, since off-campus employment of international students is subject to US visa regulations. Sometimes international students have summer jobs relevant to their mathematical studies in the form of internships with businesses, industries, or laboratories. If an international student is doing excellent work in Mathematics but needs more than one semester to earn a recommendation to teach, the Department will consider on a case-by-case basis how long to extend the student's assistantship support. Sometimes the Department can suggest special outside help in learning conversational English. Even students who have already earned the needed recommendation to teach need to make an effort to keep up their conversational skills in colloquial English. This is important because it is necessary to be able to understand your own students' questions, which will be asked in class. There are many ways to develop and maintain your skills in conversational English. The best way is to converse often with native speakers. To this end, the Department endeavors to assign each international student an office-mate who is a native speaker. If we have erred and not done this in your case, please let us know! Even though you long for the opportunity to converse in your own language, we urge you to make the effort to speak as much as possible in English with both native and foreign speakers. The Department understands that it is a great challenge to become a good teacher, especially if English is not your native language. However, there are many examples to prove that this obstacle can be overcome. If you can learn to understand your students' spoken questions, and if you can do a good, enthusiastic job of helping your students to learn Mathematics, you really can become a successful and popular teacher. The students whom you are asked to teach typically find Mathematics quite hard. They really do appreciate any teacher who truly helps them to learn Mathematics well.