Monday, July 23, 2018

Finding your Passion?

As faculty (advisors, mentors), we are often telling undergraduates that they are in a good position to explore their future and "find their passion".  You know, "Definitely take chemistry courses if you love the subject, but now is the time to also take that one class in a subject you were always curious about", or "well, if you are not happy with your studies, perhaps your focus is not what you would really love to pursue".  We tend to strongly encourage students to use their undergraduate years as a means to "find" themselves.  Tara Bahrampour of the Washington Post in the article

'Find your passion'?  That's bad advice, scientists say.

says that this may, in fact, be bad advice.  Well, not so much bad advice, and incomplete advice.  Developing a mindset of general growth, nurturing multiple interests, at least initially, may lead to a much more fulfilling and successful future path.  Moreover, fixing the mindset on only a singular topic of study may stunt the pursuit of other interests.

I like the analysis.  You should give it a read.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Math in the Media: Arguing on Pi-Day

I cannot say that we, as mathematicians, do not have our fair share of math-arguments and inside jokes and math puns and such.  You know, stuff that the "outside" world would either groan at or simply walk away from in a head-shaking fashion.  But Pi-Day, March 14, or 3/14, does seem to bring things like this to the surface....

Here are two articles that have leaked out into the "real" world.  The first is not a real debate or controversy, really..., but it is kinda fun in a strange sort of way.  It is an argument for a better way to generally represent the constant that arises from comparing the diameter or radius of a circle to its circumference.  Since pi radians represents only half a turn around a circle, why not have the universal constant simply be 2pi, representing a full turn around the circle.  Call this number tau = 2pi.  The article, in the Verge, is kind of a rant on pi's fame:
Stop Celebrating Pi Day and embrace Tau as the true circle constant
I am not sure about this one, but the accompanying "Tau Manifesto" is a pretty good read. 

The other is really more of a comedy routine, designed to educate and highlight some real math.  The sort of sweetened medicine you were forced to take as a child.  Broadcast via Mother Jones, the interview/debate
What is the greatest number of all time?
is an argument between two mathematicians Tom Garrity and Colin Adams.  Clever....

Enjoy Pi-Day!!!

Monday, February 26, 2018

...Back from hibernation....

Sorry to all for the long lapse in communication.  With other projects on the front burner (a textbook, now due on the shelf this summer), and local distractions right and left, this forum went dormant for a long while.  It is now to be considered alive....

Talk to you soon about math in teaching, education, recreation, etc. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Math in the Media: The 2016 Abel Prize

Andrew Wiles, (well..., actually, Sir Andrew John Wiles), the British mathematician, currently at Oxford who is credited with solving the famous "Last Theorem" of Pierre de Fermat, has been awarded the 2016 Abel Prize for outstanding contributions to the field.  From the Abel Committee of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, 
[t]he prize is meant to recognize contributions of extraordinary depth and influence to the mathematical sciences. Such work may have resolved fundamental problems, created powerful new techniques, introduced unifying principles or opened up major new fields of research. The intent is to award prizes over the course of time in a broad range of fields within the mathematical sciences.
One can easily say Professor Wiles is qualified, no? 

Congratulations, Professor!  Read up on this amazing accomplishment here:

Fermat's Last Theorem proof secures mathematics' top prize for Sir Andrew Wiles

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Math in the Media: The importance of Recreational Math?

Math as a plaything is something most mathematicians take for granted.  It is one of the main reasons we choose to study math as a discipline:  Many of us "played" a lot when we were kids.  We marveled at logic puzzles, looked for patterns and clues in complicated word problems, played tricks with the double meanings of words and phrases and generally devoured games that rewarded the player when one can uncover the proper strategy.  Martin Gardner was a wonder at finding the mathematics hidden in playful puzzles and tricky games.  His "Mathematical Games" series in Scientific American, something on the order of 300 columns from 1956 to 1986, is a true treasure trove of beautiful, yet playful mathematics.

Now, Manil Suri, a professor in the Mathematics Department of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, writes in the New York Times of this importance of the recreational side of mathematics, especially at the primary and secondary levels, citing Gardner's work.  The piece is
The Importance of Recreational Math
It's a worthy topic to illuminate.  Do take a look....

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Viral Math....

So....  Have you figured out Cheryl's birthday yet? 

It's funny how so few people regard this puzzle as real math (as opposed to calculating a derivative or something.)  In my mind, THIS is real math;  taking a complicated situation, digging out and exposing the logical skeletal structure underlying it, studying that structure and abusing it to say something conclusive about the situation.  Problem solving, in a nutshell, is mathematics.  Or perhaps real math is learning how to synthesize and generalize the logical structure so that it can be used again in other puzzles, or situations. 

Either way....  This is real math. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Math in the Media: The Best jobs of 2015?

I keep telling you....  Math pays!! 

In the Business section of the online newspaper The Huffington Post sits an article by Jennie Che detailing the Best Jobs of 2015, a report prepared each year by CareerCast, ranking the top 200 jobs by work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. 

And lo and behold, mathematics permeates most of the list, with the actual job of Mathematician, sitting at number 3 (Actuarial Scientist tops the list, with Statistics sitting at number 4).  The HuffPost article

These Are The 10 Best Jobs Of 2015

is a summary of the longer article posted directly in the CareerCast website:

The Best Jobs of 2015

(always go to the source, right?)   Personally, I've held position both in academia and in industry (NASA Goddard and Lincoln Laboratory, as well as in a private tech firm.)  All were great work environments, with interesting people, work conditions, and colleagues.  I certainly cannot argue with the conclusion that math is a great field to play in.

Give the article a read!  It's good stuff.