Various and Sundry

My original purpose in starting this blog was to keep track of interesting mathematics-related items.  I see that I have way too many browser windows open, so it must be time to share. First up is “I Love Math and I Hate the Fields Medal” by Cathy O’Neill.  As someone who missed out on truly collaborative mathematical work until after graduate school, I find the collaborator vs. lone genius question fascinating.  I saw Cathy’s wonderful talk on data journalism at the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) in January, and I follow her blog. In a similar vein are two pieces from Evelyn Lamb, one for Scientific American and the other for the American Mathematical Society (AMS) Blog on Math Blogs. In reading the latter, I was particularly struck by Izabella Laba’s examination of the unspoken assumptions we make when discussing mathematics and gender. The JMM went quite well for me, by the way. I went to some great sessions, big and small, and had plenty of those lovely chance encounters with people I know and admire.  Changes over the thirty years I’ve been going to these things:  (1) there are more women in the restrooms; this is one place where I’m happy to stand in line (though can we design public spaces with the difference between equality and equity in mind?), and (2) there are many more sessions about education, both K-12 and undergraduate.  One was about Math Teachers’ Circles; I and a colleague are hoping to get one (eventually more?) going in Vermont. The last session I attended was “A positive feedback loop?  The impact of mathematics education research and K-12 instructional changes on our teaching of undergraduate mathematics.”  I’ve made reference in several places to the effects of my K-12 education work on my own teaching; one of these days I really will do a thorough written examination of my personal feedback loop.  For the moment, though, suffice it to say that working with teachers and reading about how people learn has bolstered my commitment to Inquiry Based Learning (IBL).  For those who would like to put a toe in those waters, here’s one place to start.  (The first place I heard about “Think, Pair, Share” was from public school teachers.) Tomorrow is the first day of my spring semester, in which I will be using an IBL model in Linear Algebra.  (I’m being optimistic about attendance, in spite of the current snowstorm.)  Stay tuned; I hope to keep a running account here. Tomorrow also includes a meeting of the editorial board for the AMS On Teaching and Learning Mathematics blog.  This has become an interesting and satisfying (and sometimes challenging) project for me.  Many thanks to Ben Braun for starting the blog and for being an excellent Editor-in-Chief. One more thing:  I won’t admit how much time I spent playing with this interactive chart.  Try “smart” and “nice,” for example.

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About Priscilla Bremser

Professor of Mathematics Middlebury College
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