Interview with Christian Streib M.Ed.

February 10, 2022

Graduate award winners for outstanding M.Ed. degree in the Department of Mathematics
Portraits in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Stuttgart.

Why did you study mathematics...?

I actually came to the subject of mathematics in a roundabout way. Three years before I graduated from high school, I started asking myself whether I wanted to go into teaching or study a natural science in its own right. I delayed the decision in this regard to the maximum and first started with a bachelor's degree in physics. Gradually, through extensive contact with mathematics as part of my physics studies, I realized that mathematics, however, interested me at least as much as physics itself. Switching to the combined teaching degree of mathematics and physics in the master's program was the perfect solution for me to get even more involved with mathematics and at the same time not completely lose sight of physics. Of course, working with children and young people was also a decisive factor in this decision.

...and why did you study teaching?

I really enjoy working with young people. It's been over a year since I graduated and I'm currently in the middle of my teacher training exams. Young people have their own way of being carefree. Even though there are always thankless situations in school (children often forget very quickly when you do something good for them), the positive side clearly prevails for me (children forgive just as quickly). In general, it gives me great pleasure to see how young people develop, especially personally, during a school year. Last but not least, dealing with sometimes very interesting subject matter was of course also an important factor in my decision to become a teacher.

What makes the study of mathematics so special?

Mathematics is a very basic science. We mathematicians don't make an eleventh book out of ten, and we don't speculate more or less wildly about connections in nature. First of all, we simply make our world as we like it, and then we just take a closer look at this world and see what comes up ;) I was particularly fascinated by the exactness of this science. University mathematics is based on the development of a complex theory from a usually relatively clear number of definitions and axioms only by logical reasoning. I found the often very abstract topics from the basics of algebra and analysis particularly exciting.

What did you write your master thesis about?

As part of my master's thesis, I dealt with a topic that is most likely to be classified in the field of number theory, but is also linked to algebra. The focus of my work was the concept of "Quiddity Cycles". These are basically tuples of numbers of different lengths, from which one constructs matrices according to a certain scheme. If one then examines the product of these matrices, some astonishing correlations emerge. Especially interesting is the question under which conditions this product yields one (or -1) again. The most important and interesting part of my work was then specifically concerned with how generalizing the initial conditions to a problem studied by French researchers affects the structure of the solutions to the problem. The topic is also closely related to continued fractions and certain triangulations (i.e., divisions of a polygon into triangles). I have found the commonalities that arise here between things that at first glance have little to do with each other to be very fascinating. Therefore, I enjoyed researching this topic further, even though the practical use of my results is honestly very manageable.

What did you particularly like about your studies?

I am generally a friend of our university system here in Germany. I really like the fact that we have so many options for individually tailoring the content of my studies. It was specifically important to me to acquire as much subject depth as possible in my teacher training program. That's why I attended many courses together with B.Sc. and M.Sc. students, which brings me to my next point: Constructive cooperation in the study group was always important to me. Especially in the first semesters of calculus or theoretical physics, even as a mathematically gifted student, you are often almost lost on your own. Only through cooperation and working together is it possible to solve the exercises in a reasonable amount of time and to be well prepared for the exams. At the same time, you meet a lot of people with similar interests, so you can also make a lot of friends. Probably the best thing about my studies, however, were my two semesters abroad in Linköping in Sweden and in Grenoble in France. Since most of the courses I attended there could not be credited to my studies in Germany anyway, I was very free in my choice here. In addition, this also allowed me to study with much less pressure during these two semesters, even though the exams were no less successful in the end.

You have now talked a lot about the content of your studies. What else fascinated you about university life, perhaps especially in the context of your stays abroad?

I really appreciated getting to know other cultures. I was still in France during my bachelor's degree. There were hardly any English lectures there, so I studied exclusively in French, except for one course. That was a very enriching experience for me. I was also relatively well integrated there, on the one hand at the university and on the other hand I also trained twice a week in the athletics club there and took part in competitions. That was a completely different feeling than at the university, since I was really only among French people there. In Sweden it was different. I also learned some Swedish. Nevertheless, I experienced the Swedes as rather reserved people with whom one does not come into contact so easily. It also feels like every second master's student in Linköping is an exchange student. Nevertheless, my stay there was very interesting, especially because I met many other students from all countries and continents of the world. In addition, it was of course very nice to travel extensively in the respective country and, in the case of Sweden, also in the neighboring countries as part of my semester abroad or afterwards. Since in almost all countries the semester dates are much earlier than in Germany, I had a lot of time at the end of both semesters.
I had very long vacations at the end of both semesters, which I used extensively to get to know the regions. In France, in particular, I also went skiing, which is also a great passion of mine.

How did you decide to do these two semesters abroad?

My decision to do a semester abroad was made on my very first day at university. At the general introductory meeting, the international center briefly presented the possibilities for semesters abroad and at that moment I made the decision.  After that, I researched about the exchange programs of the university and had an advising appointment at the international center. I particularly liked the concept of the Erasmus program, so I decided to spend two semesters abroad in Europe. I then chose my lecture program on my own and discussed it with the respective subject coordinators. The formalities of the Erasmus program are also very straightforward. Only the bureaucracy of the French state is sometimes a bit exhausting; once you get to know it, the German one suddenly seems much more harmless.

Anything else you've been waiting almost 26 years to get rid of? ;)

Phew, let's see... Maybe to summarize again about the studies and the university: I definitely liked the studies at the University of Stuttgart very much. The campus in Vaihingen and the city are not as spectacular as some other student cities, but the faculty and the studies are very well organized in my opinion. There are many opportunities to network with fellow students and make new friends. There are many opportunities to network with fellow students and make new friends. The first few semesters at the university were tough, but overall my time in Stuttgart-Vaihingen was a very enjoyable time.

Christian Streib M.Ed.   
Graduate Award Winner for Outstanding M.Ed. Degree in the Department of Mathematics

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