This term I’m teaching Mathematics for All, a first-year seminar, which at Middlebury means that I have sixteen new students in a writing-intensive course. On the first day, I did as I was told and asked the students to write a short piece in class. (This so that I could flag any students with obvious writing difficulties.) “Describe a memorable moment in your mathematical education,” I said. For some, it was a light bulb moment, such as finally understanding why 0.999… = 1. For others, specific teachers in particular incidents came to mind. One student wrote about being a math tutor, and another has fond memories of learning math from her older brother. Clearly I have a bright and thoughtful group, which will make my job more interesting, if not easier.
THIS JUST IN: As I was typing the previous paragraph, I got an email from a student who had come across a “slide show of infographics” from past issues of the Economist, which relates to our class readings and conversations about quantitative literacy. This on a Friday afternoon at 5:20. I rest my case.
Making math teachers’ jobs harder, on the other hand, are journalists who can’t write about mathematics without inserting a jab of some sort. You may have noticed that I’ve started a collection of unfriendly opening lines from articles relating to mathematics. If you come across others, let me know. This is not meant to include any old examples of journalistic innumeracy; I couldn’t handle the volume. There’s a collection of those from the Forsooth feature at the Chance News wiki.