Did you ever notice…

28 May , 2015
Reading "The Praise of Lectures" By Tom W. Körner

Reading “In Praise of Lectures” By Tom W. Körner

It may sound like something out of a stand-up-show by any comedian in the world. But it may also be a phrase very close to the heart of mathematics. Did you ever notice… that when you have been out travelling and returning home, suddenly the newpapers and TV shows are full of references to the place you just had been to? Where on earth were these news stories before you went there?

I just got home from a very nice travel back and forth to Bratislava, staying at a nice hotel called Ibis Bratislava Centrum Hotel (do I get a discount for promoting work here?). And on the train to work today I flipped through an article I have had lying on my desk for I don’t know how long, In praise of lectures, by T.W. Körner (click here for a pdf). I didn’t have much reason for having this paper around, other than the fact that I used a lot of Körner’s writing on Fourier Analysis 15 years ago for a thesis. And the point of departure was the Ibis, a sacred bird to the Egyptians.  I had read this before, but since Ibis made no recollection in my mind, I just scanned those lines quickly and moved on. This time, I googled the bird, read about it, made a review of the Ibis hotel and also got thrown back with some nice memories.

It seems that what we experience in life will dictate how we control our awareness. It could be people we meet, places we go to emotionally or geographically, things we perceive with our senses in one way or the other. This may not be very shocking, I mean, in what other ways could our inclinations for learning something be working with us?

I think all kinds of education work in much the same way. As a teacher of mathematics I can not jump into the minds of my students and twist their brains into what I want them to look like and how I want them to act and work (and I believe, metaphorically speaking, we have all tried to jump into the minds of our students!). If I tell a thirteen year old pupil that  the parameter in front of x will vary the slope of the graph of the linear function y=ax+b… then he might say “fine” and move on with his life. I know I would. Instead I could give him a very simple GeoGebra file to tinker with. For instance the standard one where you have gliders to control a and b in the mentioned expression. I could still do the mistake of telling him “Look, as I alter the parameter a, the graph slope changes accordingly”. I still don’t think this will stick to his brain, although a picture might do a better job than my words alone. And of course, the picture can also be improved, something I tried doing on a blog post on my Norwegian blog here.

Better still, I could ask him to alter a (and b) with the gliders, and have him tell me what happens. That would be the equivalent of my travel to Bratislava. The stay at Ibis Hotel pointed my awareness in that direction. I can also point the pupil’s awareness in the right direction and help him make sense of his discovery.

That’s basically all I can do, isn’t it?


Mathematics teachers… what kind of creatures are they?

1 December , 2013

Math teachers – what about math teachers? from Øistein Gjøvik

13 August , 2013

“There is one comforting conclusion which is easy for a real mathematician. Real mathematics has no effects on war. No one has yet discovered any warlike purposes to be served by the theory of numbers or relativity, and it seems very unlikely that anyone will do so for many years.”

 G.H. Hardy i A mathematician’s apology


9 September , 2012
Officeporn (but #sfw :-)

I consider myself at least slightly environmentally concerned, but this stapler without staples would make sense and fun no matter how much you care about your carbon print. Press the magic button and presto! The magic machine makes a hole in your paper corner and inserts a tab into it for holding it all together. I must admit, this is not strong enough to survive an air crash or a strong wind but it is still fun!

Mathematics Teacher Article

7 September , 2012

It was quite fun for me, for the first time reading my writings in an American journal. I have written about the bird tetrahedron in Norwegian in Tangenten (2005) and I recently elaborated on this topic and expanded the original article into a new one for MT. You can read the English version on jstor or the august issue of Mathematics Teacher from NCTM. I loved the way they made those nice graphics and photos for the front and illustrations! There are also some templates you download in PDF from the Mathematics Teacher website.

Skitchdork International!

22 June , 2012

The book that proves you don’t need artistic talent to make people giggle at least once! (Or your money back (maybe)).

Go to Skitchdork – international edition to get your pretty cheap copy! (I AM the cheap researcher, after all.)

But please DO read the disclaimer, I don’t want you guys angry at me for not delivering the goods ;)

Oral Exams

15 June , 2012

Or, the art of writing so ugly that the student doesn’t understand what is written about him.

Hundred students, thousand study credits and a pile of wood from four days of writing.



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