Tag Archives: mathematics

What I find interesting in math, summer 2021

I read many ofpieces on mathematics: here are some pieces I have found worthwhile. Most of them are readable by folks who are not mathematicians.

Here’s a number of good pieces

Finally, This 3 700-Year-Old Tablet is the Oldest Example of Applied Geometry. Cool.

(Photo by Saad Ahmad on Unsplash )

Is math political? Does it need to be? A few thoughts

You would think so, if you read this: Sneering at Ontario’s anti-racist math curriculum reveals a straight line to what people value in The Star

What has the columnist angry was the removal of several passages of progressive political text that went with the update to the recent changes of the math curriculum. I can see why that removal would anger some people with progressive political values.

I can also imagine how many conservatives would have been angry if there was text like this removed from a new curriculum: “recognize the ways in which mathematics can be used as a tool to uncover, explore, analyse, and promote actions to address greater productivity and growth within our economy and to lead Canada to a strong future of wealth and opportunity”, or if the government removed anything to do with teachers creating “pro-capitalist and pro-business teaching and learning opportunities.” Any group that tries to explicitly frame a curriculum and then have that framing removed will be upset.

Mathematics itself is not political, but it is always taught within a political and historical context. For example, I have math texts that make it seem that the only worthwhile math came from European men, while I have others that show mathematics has roots all over the world. I have math textbooks that mention 0 women, while other texts show the role women have played in mathematics and delve into why women had a hard time making more of a contribution.

Whatever context you want to frame a curriculum, I think that emphasizing politics and history with regards to teaching mathematics will not achieve some of the goals that progressive thinkers hope it will achieve. I think the new changes in the curriculum with regards to things such as streaming will help achieve those goals, as I wrote here.

Additionally, I think there are other things that can be done outside the curriculum that could help students that are disadvantaged when it comes to education in math. I am thinking of the work done by organizations like BlackGirlsCode. We could use more organizations like that who can provide specialized programs not just to help kids who are struggling with math, but to uplift kids that excel in math. Organizations that can support the next Maryam Mirzakhani, wherever she is. The kids who are struggling with math need more help than what the schools can provide: the same is true for kids that excel in math.

(Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash)

In praise of amateurs, young and old

Are you an amateur? Do you sometimes feel you can never accomplish anything doing something you love? Then here’s three good stories on amateurs doing great things you want to read:

  1. High school students discover exoplanets during mentoring program 
  2. Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician
  3. How older amateur athletes are staying fit through the pandemic

Not all amateurs can accomplish great things, but never let anyone tell you that amateurs are incapable of great things. Because surely they are. Go on, pursue the thing you love. Great things may result.

(Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash)

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Is it time for Frank Ramsey to get his due?

In some ways, that question is ridiculous. Ramsey and his ideas are embedded in so many fields of thought, from mathematics to economics to philosophy. However, I had never heard of him before. Or I should say, I had heard of him, but I never thought of him the way I thought of Russell or Wittgenstein or other contemporaries he had.

That might change now. There are two good pieces I recently found, here on CBC Radio and here in The New Yorker. I really enjoyed both. If you do too, you can get a recent book on him called, Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers
by Cheryl Misak
.

Recommended.

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9 Numbers That Are Cooler Than Pi


Fun! For all you number theory fans out there: 9 Numbers That Are Cooler Than Pi

I still think Pi is pretty cool. But so are these other numbers.

On Nash equilibrium and game theory

John Nash
I’ve been interested in Game Theory and in particular how to apply the concept of the Nash Equilibrium to work. These were four links I found useful

  1. Examples and exercises on Nash equilibrium in games in which each player has finitely many actions
  2. The Triumph (and Failure) of John Nash’s Game Theory | The New Yorker
  3. Nash equilibrium – Wikipedia
  4. Game theory text (PDF) from UCLA math department.

(Image of the great man himself from Wikipedia)

A Mathematician’s Apology by G. H. Hardy is free and online

The great mathematician G.H. Hardy wrote a slim book that is great for mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike. Best of all

As fifty or more years have passed since the death of the author, this book is now in the public domain in the Dominion of
Canada..

So yes, you can get it for free, here.

I highly recommend it. (Did I mention it is a great read for non-mathematicians, too. It really is.)

Thanks to @anitleirfall on twitter for pointing this out.