Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Learn by Lewis Carroll

I have recently been talking to a student about the whole idea of how one learns, especially at the university level. This student is thinking of starting a club of Hopkins students dedicated to discussing the theory and practice behind how one learns. Really a great idea. I will advise and keep you posted. For now, I give you Lewis Carroll's (Of Alice in Wonderland fame) ideas for learning. Enjoy! What is that old saying: Much truth is said in jest....

How to Learn by Lewis Carroll

1. Begin at the beginning, and do not allow yourself to gratify mere idle curiosity by dipping into the book, here and there. This would very likely lead to your throwing it aside, with the remark `This is much too hard for me!’, and thus losing the chance of adding a very large item to your stock of mental delights . . .

2. Don’t begin any fresh Chapter, or Section, until you are certain that you thoroughly understand the whole book up to that point and that you have worked, correctly, most if not all of the examples which have been set . . . Otherwise, you will find your state of puzzlement get worse and worse as you proceed till you give up the whole thing in utter disgust.

3. When you come to a passage you don’t understand, read it again: if you still don’t understand it, read it again: if you fail, even after three readings, very likely your brain is getting a little tired In that case, put the book away, and take to other occupations, and next day, when you come to it fresh, you will very likely find that it is quite easy.

4. If possible, find some genial friend, who will read the book along with you, and will talk over the difficulties with you. Talking is a wonderful smoother-over of difficulties. When I come upon anything—in Logic or in any other hard subject—that entirely puzzles me, I find it a capital plan to talk it over, aloud, even when I am all alone. One can explain things so clearly to one’s self! And then you know, one is so patient with one’s self: one never gets irritated at one’s own stupidity!

If, dear Reader, you will faithfully observe these Rules, and give my little book a really fair trial, I promise you, most confidently, that you will find Symbolic Logic to be one of the most, not the most, fascinating of mental recreations! …

Mental recreation is a thing that we all of us need for our mental health. Symbolic Logic will give you clearness of thought—the ability to see your way through a puzzle—the habit of arranging your ideas in an orderly and get-at-able form—and, more valuable than all, the power to detect fallacies, and to tear to pieces the flimsy illogical arguments, which you will continually encounter in books, in newspapers, in speeches, and even in sermons, and which so easily delude those who have never taken the trouble to master this fascinating Art. Try it. That is all I ask of you!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Employment Op: Business Intel and Math

People often ask me what kinds of jobs math majors can get other than science applications or as an actuary. Really, the answer is: All Kinds. Usually, one needs a good hook in an outside area to get into the interview. But then the analytical skill set of a mathematician can shine. However, sometimes recruiters simply understand well that someone skilled in mathematical analysis possesses the ability to learn most skills very quickly. These recruiters are willing to take a math major who can learn on the job, quickly and efficiently.

I just got this request from a recruiter. Read it and go for it. Sounds like an interesting career:

Thorogood Associates is currently recruiting college seniors for full time business intelligence consulting positions. We are contacting you, as the [Director of Undergraduate Studies] of the Mathematics Department, because we think you may know students that would be good candidates for this position.

As a business information consultancy, Thorogood helps its clients use their data to make better business decisions. Our work has both a business and technology aspect. We don’t necessarily look for education or experience in both of these areas but rather an interest and an aptitude that will allow a candidate to be successful in this type of work.

We are seeking candidates that have excellent problem solving skills, leadership qualities, and initiative. Candidates must be willing to take responsibility for the achievement of results, have self-confidence, and be energetic and friendly.

If you know of any students that have the qualities that would allow them to be successful in this position, please let them know about this opportunity. They can apply for this position via J-Connect. Applications are due on January 30th, 2012. We will be conducting on-campus interviews at JHU on February 7th, 2012. Any questions can be sent to

Check them out at:

Math in the Media: Eating Mathematics?

Alright..., just for fun.

If you are not yet convinced that mathematics is not a subject to study as much as it is the underlying logical framework for all that exists both in reality and in imagination, I give you another example.

The New York Times' Kenneth Chang has written a piece on the mathematics of pasta:
Pasta Graduates From Alphabet Soup to Advanced Geometry.
Those seemingly random and crazy shapes, designed specifically for texture, even cooking, and the ability to meld well with sauces and such, can be quite beautiful and subtle. This article exposes those who look for the mathematical structure behind the designs and the playful aspects of the shapes.

Take a look. But beware. You may never view a plate of spaghetti in the same way again!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

NPR on the JMM

Well, here is something you do not hear every day: A human interest story on a national radio news program focusing on the joys and wonders of a national meetings of 6000+ mathematicians!

Go figure!!!!

National Public Radio decided to attend the Joint Mathematics Meetings of the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America, the national gathering place for the year of all stripes of mathematicians, to see just what was happening there. The result was a report by Ari Daniel Shapiro entitled

A Unique Expression Of Love For Math

detailing the huge diversity of expression and study, both in the art and the science of mathematics, that mathematicians bring to their profession. The transcript and the audio of the piece is at the link.

What a nice way to view the world of mathematics that we see every day, but which most people never get a glimpse of.

Thank you, Ari and NPR!!