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# End of the year…

It’s the end of the year. It seems only like yesterday we were all saying “What? I can’t believe it’s the end of January already”.

So what was the year like? I feel I’ve had a good year – I’ve been having a lot of fun trying to understand discrete surfaces and if I hadn’t succumbed to a virus just shortly before Christmas I might have written the bulk of my first paper on the subject. I also had fun with the Beatles story which garnered a lot of attention. Interestingly the most read blog entry was on the passing of Vladimir Zakalyukin.

In the world of science the big story was not in mathematics but in the discovery of the Higgs boson. Given that the evidence is hardly overwhelming, it wouldn’t surprise me if the big story in 2013 was its ‘undiscovery’ and the scientists admit a mistake or a misreading of the data.

For 2013 one of my top resolutions is to finish my next book. Feel free to write and remind me of that at the end of 2013 if it remains uncompleted. It will be tricky as this coming semester I have a lot of teaching (if there are any of my History of Maths students reading, then watch The Two-Thousand-Year-Old Computer, there are two days left to watch.)

Have a good Hogmanay!

I don’t think I’d realised you were now writing another book – must have missed the announcement. Will it be a follow-on to ‘How To Think Like A Mathematician’ or on something quite different?

Happy New Year Humphrey! No, you didn’t miss anything, it’s not been properly announced yet! More details to follow…

And a happy New Year to you too! I trust all is well at Leeds and that you’re weathering the current economic and therefore funding uncertainty.

One very interesting thing I’ve noticed from my studies of higher mathematics (your book and other sources) is that I’ve become a lot more snappy with the very everyday variety – for instance mental assessment of money-off deals in supermarkets. Not all are as good as they look! I wonder if there’s a message for our education system, i.e. get people to think about what they’re doing and actually derive theorems and formulae – for instance the triangle area theorem mentioned in Lockhart’s Lament. I suspect that some at least of the content of ‘How To Think Like A Mathematician’ would be accessible to secondary-school students. Do you know if any of it has ever been tried at say Year 9/10/11 level? I suppose at the very least there’d be nothing to stop some reasonably enterprising class teacher from trying out your electronic booklet version as an initiative test to enliven a last period on Friday for Year 9A!

Dear Humphrey,

I’m not aware of any school teachers using my book in their regular classes but I do know that some of them recommend it to students going to university to study mathematics. I also know of a summer school in Canada (I can’t remember precisely where) that used the booklet version of the book for pupils who hadn’t yet chosen to go to university.

I’m sure many of the methods could work at the sixth form level but unfortunately teachers have to teach to the test and so usually don’t get a chance to broaden the their classes to focus on less well-defined skills such as analyzing proofs!

Kevin

That’s very interesting. For what it’s worth I have shown a few of your problems to sixth-form-age students ‘working their way through (FE) college’ at the local supermarket (I work there too), and the proof approach has certainly generated interest. I’ve also derived formulae usually learned by rote at school with them (a suggestion you make at the end of one of your chapters) and this has worked, too. Perhaps the A-level syllabus should be expanded to include at least some of the content of your book – but somehow I don’t see that happening.