Monday, November 18, 2019

Multiplication is vexation ... the rule of three, etc.

     There are lots of childhood rhymes that celebrate the use of numbers -- here is a sample (found at this website)  -- the "Rule of Three" also is the subject of an interesting article by Ben Johnson, "Using the Rule of Three for Learning." 

          Multiplication is Vexation   

          Multiplication is vexation;
          Division is as bad;
          Rule of Three doth puzzle me,
          And Practice drives me mad.

     My recent browsing on the topic of math-phobia started when I came across this article focused on "tackle the fear head on" in the Washington Post.  I am grateful that many are working to help others overcome anxieties related to math.
Results of a search of this blog using the term "anxiety" may be found here.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Connecting mathematics to a larger world . . .

     I begin with words from a former student -- a postal worker who had retired early and went back to school to become a primary-school teacher:

                    I will teach
                    by punctuality
                    and perfect attendance.

     In 1959, a Rede Lecture by C. P. Snow (1905-1980)  famously identified two separate cultures  -- the scientists and the humanists -- and these days what is often termed the STEM to STEAM movement is attempting to humanize the sciences by emphasizing the necessity of the arts in scientific study.  

Monday, November 11, 2019

Mathematics -- something useful ... or beautiful ...

     I offer a sample below from a poem by Jane Hirshfield entitled "Mathematics" and invite you to go here to read the entire poem -- and to reflect on it.  What does the poem say that is true about mathematics?

from Mathematics     by Jane Hirshfield

          I've envied those 
          who make something 
          useful, sturdy— or
          a chair, a pair of boots.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Try it -- you'll like it -- write an ACROSTIC poem!

     When solving problems in mathematics, the constraints that are imposed on the solution often are helpful in solving it. As a simple example, if we are given the lengths of  the two shorter sides in a scalene triangle, the problem becomes easily solvable if we know that the triangle is a right triangle.
     Poets also often find constrains helpful in shaping their words into special meaning.  For example, the rhythm and rhyme scheme of the poetry-pattern called a sonnet have led to many notable poems.  In this blog, in earlier postings, we have celebrated the FIB -- a six line poem whose syllable-counts obey the Fibonacci numbers. A popular form of poetry for calling attention to a particular idea is an ACROSTIC poem -- a poem in which the first (or other) letters of each line spell out a word or phrase.  Here is my sample:  MATH POEMS HELP US SEE.   

     M     My
     T      teacher

Monday, November 4, 2019

Weaving mathematics into poetry . . .

     José Alan Esparza Lozano is from the border region of Ciudad Juárez, México and El Paso, Texas -- and traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he graduated in 2019 from MIT with a BS in mathematics. Currently he is an award-winning graduate student in Santiago, Chile -- and he has a book of math-linked poems which I have much enjoyed reading (and from which I offer one of my favorites below).
    Lozano's poetry collection is called Chrysalis and Self -- and print copies are available at -- moreover, if you are interested, you may contact the poet about the possibility of obtaining an electronic copy. Here, from page 36, is "Manywhere" -- and the poem is followed by a note from the end-of-book note that offers explanation of the mathematics contained therein: