December 18, 2014

12:00 AM | Lava Lamp
Lava Lamp What if I made a lava lamp out of real lava? What could I use as a clear medium? How close could I stand to watch it? Kathy Johnstone, 6th Grade Teacher (via a student) This is a surprisingly reasonable idea, by What If standards. I mean, it's not that reasonable. At the very least, I'm guessing you would lose your teaching license, and possibly some of the students in the front row. But you could do it. Just a warning: I'm going to be linking to a lot of videos of […]

December 16, 2014

8:02 PM | Fractals -- poems and photos
     Marc Frantz and Annalisa Crannell have written about mathematics and art (Viewpoints:  Mathematical Perspectives and Fractal Geometry in Art: Princeton University Press, 2011) and now Frantz (who is both a mathematician and an artist, a photographer) has collaborated with a poet -- Robin Walthery Allen --  to develop a collection entitled Dance of Eye and Mind (not yet published).  I am honored to present a poem-photo pair from this exquisite […]
6:39 AM | What Do You Call…
A question from Brain Quest Grade 4: Alex responded correctly. Parallel. Eli responded belligerently. It’s not just mathematicians. Everyone who knows that would call them “parallel.” How do you like that? Not only is my son mathematically literate, but he’s a sarcastic smart-ass, too. I couldn’t be more proud. In honor of Eli… What do […]

December 14, 2014

10:51 AM | Κύπροι και κυπριά: η μεγάλη αποκάλυψη της Παρασκευής
Μετά από τη συζήτηση που προέκυψε την Τετάρτη στο μάθημα της Άλγεβρας σχετικά με το "σκουλαρίκι της γίδας", το οποίο εγώ από παντελή άγνοια έλεγα "χαλκά" ώσπου με διόρθωσαν ευγενικά οι έμπειροι στις εργασίες της υπαίθρου μαθητές μου, το θέμα εξελίχτηκε κατά τρόπο, […]

December 13, 2014

6:14 PM | Great Dates
Today is a great date, and I almost missed it! 12/13/14 Today’s date (in U.S. format) is the last time this century that the month, date, and year are consecutive numbers. If you choose not to celebrate this momentous occasion, you’ll have to wait almost 89 years for this to happen again. Another great date with […]
3:03 PM | Our curve is a parabola
Found in the essay, "Intellect" (1841) --  these words by 19th century American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882):     When we are young, we spend much time and pains     in filling our note-books with all definitions     of Religion, Love, Poetry, Politics, Art,      in the hope that, in the course of a few years,     we shall have condensed into our […]

December 11, 2014

12:00 AM | Frozen Rivers
Frozen Rivers What would happen all of the rivers in the US were instantly frozen in the middle of the summer? Zoe Cutler This is another question that turns out even worse than I expected. For starters, pretty much every animal in the water would die. This would wipe out several fish species completely (this site lists a number of species found only in the Mississippi and its tributaries) and seriously damage many others. Then all the ice would start to melt. Melting ice takes a lot of […]

December 10, 2014

9:23 PM | A mathy Haiku
Found at the froth magazine website, this Haiku by Christopher Daniel Wallbank.MathematicsI, mathematics,One plus root five over 2.My soul is golden.  Note:  In mathematics, two quantities p and q (p>q) are in the golden ratio if the ratio p/q is equal to the ratio (p+q)/q.  The value of the golden ratio -- often represented by the Greek letter phi (φ) -- is 1.618...  or (1+√5)/2.Here is a link to another mathy froth poem, this one "Division" by […]
Σήμερα, μετά από δυο μερόνυχτα ασταμάτητης νεροποντής, ο καιρός το γύρισε σε βοριά. Κάνει κρύο τσουχτερό, αλλά τουλάχιστον στεγνώνει ο τόπος. Οι πλημμυρισμένοι δρόμοι και τα απροσπέλαστα γεφύρια που χθες εμπόδισαν αρκετούς μαθητές να φτάσουν έγκαιρα στο σχολείο, έγιναν […]
2:18 AM | Mental Math and the MCWC
How long would it take you to find the sum of 2 two-digit numbers? What about 3 three-digit numbers? Or 4 four-digit numbers? Okay, let’s get really crazy… how long would it take you to find the sum of 10 ten-digit numbers? You can decide whether you’ll do the calculation in your head, on a calculator, or with paper […]

December 08, 2014

1:57 PM | Parable of the Polygons
Parable of the Polygons is a “playable post” on how harmless choices can make a harmful world. Nicky Case and I started working on this dynamic explanation of Schelling’s segregation simulator months ago. Little did we know that matters of systemic bias would be even more topical now. It’s changed a lot as we struggled […]
Editor's Pick

December 06, 2014

2:52 PM | Μερικές σκέψεις για τα Μαθηματικά...
...  με αφορμή την Άννα του Τεύκρου Μιχαηλίδη!! (από την παρουσίαση του βιβλίου στο Public, στις 5/12/204) Με τον Τεύκρο Μιχαηλίδη γνωριστήκαμε τον Ιούνιο του 2006, στο πρώτο διήμερο συνέδριο της Ομάδας Θαλής+Φίλοι, "Παράλληλοι δρόμοι", που είχε θέμα τη μαθηματική αφήγηση ή, αν το […]
12:31 PM | A scientist writes of scientists
     Wilkes-Barre poet Richard Aston is many-faceted -- a teacher, an engineer, a textbook author, a technical writer.  And Aston writes of those whose passion he admires-- in his latest collection, Valley Voices (Foothills Publishing, 2012) we meet laborers, many of them miners from the Wyoming Valley where he makes his home.  Aston also writes of scientists and mathematicians -- and he has given permission for me to offer below his poems that feature Marie Curie, […]

December 04, 2014

1:35 PM | Birbiglia, Baby Boomers, and Computers
Mike Birbiglia said: I didn’t realize I was good with computers till my parents bought one. My wife’s cousin Natalie — now in her 60’s — has a more pragmatic explanation for why older folks are less tech-savvy than the average bear. Perhaps Baby Boomers, having grown up during the Cold War, are afraid of what might […]

December 03, 2014

4:47 AM | Poet as mathematician
     Lillian Morrison (1917-2014) was a NYC poet and librarian whose work I first met in the poetry-with-math anthology, Against Infinity.  Here is one of her poems from that collection.        Poet as Mathematician    by Lillian Morrison       Having perceived the connexions, he seeks       the proof, the clean revelation in its       simplest […]
4:42 AM | January - November -- Titles, dates of posts
Scroll down to find titles and dates of posts in 2014.  At the bottom is a links to lists of posts through 2013 and 2012 and 2011 -- and all the way back to March 2010 when this blog was begun.   This link leads to a PDF file that lists searchable topics and names of poets and mathematicians presented herein.      Nov 30  Geometry of Love     Nov 26  Giving thanks for poems     Nov 21  The Math Lady […]

December 01, 2014

11:54 AM | What’s Your Problem?
Problems in the MathCounts School Handbook are presented “shotgun style,” that is, a geometry problem precedes a logic puzzle and follows a probability question. (I worked for MathCounts for seven years and then served as a writer and chair of their Question Writing Committee, so I’m not unbiased.) By comparison, textbooks often present 50 exercises […]
1:06 AM | Geometry of Love
     A couple of weeks ago my "Google Alert" linked me to a posting of a science poem concerning "the geometry of love."  The posting -- at The Finch and Pea -- is a poem that is both elegant and precise (and one that has been included in the anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics, that Sarah Glaz and I collected and edited several years ago).  Here it is:The Definition of Love     by Andrew Marvell (England, […]

November 28, 2014

Ο Τεύκρος Μιχαηλίδης για μια ακόμη φορά γίνεται αφορμή να τα πούμε από κοντά! Όσοι βρισκόσαστε στη Θεσσαλονίκη, την ερχόμενη Παρασκευή 5 Δεκεμβρίου, ελάτε στο Public να συζητήσουμε μαζί του για Λογοτεχνία και για Μαθηματικά, παρουσιάζοντας το βιβλίο: "Μιλώντας στην Άννα […]

November 26, 2014

12:00 PM | Giving thanks for poems
     As Thanksgiving approaches I am thankful not only for many blessings but also for the numbers I use to count them -- four children, two parents, one sister, an uncounted number of friends.  And I am thankful for poetry.  Here is one of my favorite math-related poems.How to Find the Longest Distance Between Two Points […]

November 24, 2014

4:00 PM | Thanksgiving Math Quiz
Five questions to get you geared up for Turkey Day. Which weighs more? The weight of turkey that Americans will eat on Thanksgiving. The combined weight of the entire population of Chicago. What percent of turkeys raised each year are eaten by Americans? About 90%. About 50%. How close are humans to being pumpkins? About […]

November 21, 2014

2:27 PM | The Math Lady Sings
     One of my daily emails results from a Google Alert -- which I have set up to let me know of new web-postings (or old information newly accessed) that contain the terms "mathematics" and "poetry." (Another online delight comes when I Google "mathematics poetry" (or "math poetry") and browse the images that occur at the top of the list that Google offers.  What fun!)     It is through a Google Alert notification that I learned of the book It Ain't […]

November 20, 2014

12:00 AM | Alternate Universe What Ifs
Alternate Universe What Ifs Dispatches from a horrifying alternate universe This week: Excerpts from What If articles written in a world which, thankfully, is not the one we live in: ... and most SCUBA equipment functions relatively well when immersed in human blood. However, since the density of blood (1.06 kg/L) is much higher than fresh water (1.00 kg/L) and slightly higher than seawater (1.03 kg/L), SCUBA diving weights must be adjusted. For obvious reasons, most equipment manufactured […]

November 18, 2014

7:41 PM | In Praise of Fractals
     Philosopher Emily Grosholz is also a poet -- a poet who often writes of mathematics. Tessellations Publishing has recently (2014) published her collection Proportions of the Heart:  Poems that Play with Mathematics (with illustrations by Robert Fathauer) and she has given me permission to present one of the fine poems from that collection. In Praise of Fractals     by Emily Grosholz       […]

November 17, 2014

11:30 AM | Every (Math) Trick in the Book
Linda Gojak has long been a proponent of doing away with tricks in math class (see also Making Mathematical Connections, October 2013). She has plenty of company from Tina Cardone, author of Nix the Tricks, a free downloadable book of tricks that Cardone believes should be removed from the curriculum. (It also includes what and how […]

November 15, 2014

8:51 AM | The Weird I Before E Rule
I’ve always hated the I before E except after C rule. My hatred is simple: a rule is a “prescribed direction for conduct,” and, as far as I’m concerned, it should be accurate very close to 100% of the time. The Triangle Inequality? That’s a rule that always works. The sum of the angles of […]

November 14, 2014

8:18 PM | Imaginary Number
Last week (on November 6) I was invited to read some of my poems at the River Poets reading in Bloomsburg, PA (where I lived and taught for a bunch of years).  Among the friends that I had a chance to greet were Susan and Richard Brook -- and, from them, received this mathy poem by Pullitzer-Prize-winning-poet Vijay Seshadri.Imaginary Number     by Vijay SeshadriThe mountain that remains when the universe is destroyedis not big and is not small.Big and small […]

November 13, 2014

Όταν πιάνει να βρέχει στο Σταυρό, το νερό δεν πέφτει μόνο από τον ουρανό. Μοιάζει να  πέφτει από παντού. Από το βουνό κι από τη θάλασσα! Πέφτει από τα δέντρα, από τα κτήρια κι από τους γκρίζους δρόμους, πέφτει από μένα την ίδια, από τη σκέψη μου κι απ' την καρδιά μου. Τόση είναι η […]
12:00 AM | Laser Umbrella
Laser Umbrella Stopping rain from falling on something with an umbrella or a tent is boring. What if you tried to stop rain with a laser that targeted and vaporized each incoming droplet before it could come within ten feet of the ground? Zach Wheeler Stopping rain with a laser is one of those ideas that sounds totally reasonable, but if you— While the idea of a laser umbrella might be appealing, it— Ok. The idea of stopping rain with a laser is a thing we're currently talking […]

November 12, 2014

3:10 AM | In college she studied mathematics
     In the third paragraph of the Wikipedia bio for Marguerite Duras (1914-1996), we read "At 17, Marguerite went to France, her parents' native country, where she began studying for a degree in mathematics."  I had the opportunity, several weeks ago at AFI Silver, to enjoy a screening of an exquisite restoration of "Hiroshima Mon Amour," a 1959 film for which Duras wrote the screenplay (nominated for an academy award).    At the website goodreads.com I […]
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