Oct 09

Martin Gardner profiled in The Times

tier.190.1I have been loving Martin Gardner problems and columns for a long time, but have never known anything about him personally. Rob sent in this Times’ portrait. It is nice to learn a little about how how he got his start. His mathematical pedigree was very surprising. I guess there is no substitute for simple curiosity.

Oct 09

Robert Creeley Follow Up

This is a follow up to my earlier post on Robert Creeley’s number poems. I was looking for audio of him reading them and struck out. I did find this gem.

Oct 09

To switch or not to switch?

crowded_grocery store
Steve E was asking me today if math had anything to say about the switch or not to switch grocery store line dilemma. People take different amounts of time, but assuming that the slow and fast are randomly distributed, you will, in general, do better getting in the line with less people. However, I often stay in a line even if I see another with less people in it. I think a couple of considerations can be introduced to motivate this behavior as semi-rational. First, you have more info than simply the number of people in each line. You can see how many items they have, how old they are, their sex…fist full of coupons. We all derive generalizations based on these factors about the relative speeds of the lines. To incorporate this into your decision criteria, you would have to know something about how accurately you are able to evaluate these factors.

Time isn’t everything in these matters. Another factor for me is the fear of switching and getting burned. This is a psychic penalty. I feel much worse having switched lines to wait 3 extra minutes than to stay in my line and wait 3 extra minutes. Don’t get me wrong, neither is fun. I just hate switching and waiting. How much of a penalty is it? Time for a von Neumann lottery.

Sep 09

TI-83 for your iphone?

TI calc
Ken sent in a great link. You can get some classic TI and HP calculators on the iphone now. You’re looking at the classic TI financial calculator. ($15 at the app store.) I couldn’t find the TI-83, staple of math educators, but perhaps it’s coming soon. Thanks, Ken!

Sep 09

Found Math

Taking my daughter to a parks and rec class today, we found a nice piece of equilateral graffiti. Check out the close up.
srpenski 2

Sep 09

Google SketchUP for Geometry

I found an interesting site 3DVinci via Free Tech for Teachers. That has numerous tutorials and lessons on how to use the free Google SketchUp app in ways I’ve seen the commercial Geometer’s Sketch Pad used. I’m not sure there is the sophisticated animation, but 3-D is definitely no problem. Anybody reading already using SketchUp with students?

Sep 09

Number Six?

creely numbers002
This is an excerpt from Robert Creeley’s poem Numbers. I found it in Creeley’s collected (1945-1975). He goes from one to nine and then to zero. It seems the numerological instinct is at the heart of these poems.

Sep 09


I keep getting Iwilldoyourhomework.com popping up in adwords as I correspond to with my students in gmail. Eventually I got curious as to how comprehensive their services are. They really do the whole thing homework, quizzes, and test taking for online math, stat, and physics classes. They even have a special discount for coursecompass classes, which I use. I found out that the service isn’t that cheap, around $2 for a typical homework question, and $3 for a test question. Just the cost of one of my tests would be around $75. For tests and homework, that could very easily add up to the cost of tuition. I guess if you are desperate you’re willing to pay anything? I suspect most people do better with the older brother/sister, boyfriend/girlfriend, or plain old friend type cheating. Last thing, teachers, there is no iwillgradeyourtests.com yet. The domain isn’t even taken. I sense a business opportunity!

-pic by Steffilynn!

Sep 09

Slept on Any Good Books Lately

sleeping teacher
This is exactly how I feel after the first three weeks of school.

pic by Holly Going Lightly-er

Sep 09

Negative Space

negative space
Tunxis has a strong graphic design program and a lot of those students end up in my Math for Liberal Arts class. I often use the concept of negative space to explain the notion of the complement of a set. I ran into some great illustrations on drawn that I can’t wait to use. The illustrator is Noma Bar. Check out the series. Definitely points for cleverness.