Editing mathematical writing

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been assigning large-scale collaborative writing projects in my mathematics classes. I’ve had my topology students write a textbook for their class, and this semester I’ve been doing the same in my discrete mathematics class. As I mentioned in that post, the approach has been very successful, but…

Mathematics in Moby-Dick

Twice before I have posted mathematical passages that I have stumbled upon in works of literature. Yesterday I finished reading Moby-Dick (great book, great ending!), so I thought I’d highlight a few mathematical passages that it contains. Especially interesting to me is the second one in which Melville mentions the impossibility of squaring a circle….

Catching up on some reading: Dyson’s birds and frogs

The semester’s over and I’ve been cleaning off my desk. I found an old issue of the Notices of the AMS (February 2009) with a bookmark in it. It was Freeman Dyson‘s Einstein Lecture entitled “Birds and Frogs.” Here are some good quotes from it. He opens with: Some mathematicians are birds, others are frogs….

Mathematics in novels and Martin Gardner RIP

I always enjoy encountering mathematics in non-mathematical works of fiction. (I posted excerpts from Candide and The Brothers Karamazov last fall.) Here are a few more that I came across recently. The first is in Dashiell Hammett’s 1934 murder mystery The Thin Man. Here is a conversation between private eye Nick Charles and his wife Nora at the…

Using wikis in mathematics classes

Wikipedia describes a wiki as a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages… [Wikis] are often used to create collaborative websites, to power community websites, for personal note taking, in corporate intranets, and in knowledge management systems. I have used wikis in three of my classes: two…

Steven Strogatz writes about the elements of mathematics in the NY Times

Yesterday the mathematician Steven Stragatz wrote the first article in a mulit-part series for the NY Times. In this first article, called From Fish to Infinity, he describes his intent. Crazy as it sounds, over the next several weeks… I’ll be writing about the elements of mathematics, from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out…

Math in literature

I’ve been reading some classic literature lately and was interested to see mathematics show up two of these works. Last week I read Voltaire’s Candide (1759). One of the main characters is the ridiculous Dr. Pangloss, who subscribes to Leibniz’s philosophy of optimism (or Voltaire’s take on optimism). Leibniz believed in a good and omnipotent…

Kindergarten Mathematics (part 2): a report

Last week I wrote a blog post asking for suggestions for math to present to my son’s kindergarten class. My readers posted many great comments. Thank you all. Today was the big day,… and it was a great success! I began by talking about what I do. My son introduced me as a math teacher….

Mathematical art by Kevin Van Aelst

I just stumbled upon the website of the artist Kevin Van Aelst. His photographs are scenes constructed from food and drink that take the form of mathematical and scientific images. Here are some of the mathematical pictures on his artwork page: A Cantor set made out of fried eggs Logarithmic spiral made out of crumbs…

Kindergarten mathematics

This is a call for help. My son’s kindergarten teacher has invited parents to come in and talk about their careers. I’d like to go in and talk about math. I’d like to have some interactive hands-on mathematics activities for the kids to do. I also want them to be activities outside the typical kindergarten…

My virtual seminar goes live

I love my job—I teach at a small, highly selective liberal arts college. It is a great place to work. But one thing I miss from my days at big research universities is the constant stream of research mathematicians who give seminars and colloquia.  I am within two hours of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, and…