Math Comm Blog

2014 MAA Writing Award Winners: American Mathematical Monthly

Awards for exemplary writing in MAA journals and magazines were handed out in August at MAA MathFest in Portland, Oregon. The winning articles (PDF) are now available online, along with the award citations explaining why each article merited an award. Paul R. Halmos–Lester R. Ford Awards (presented to authors of articles of expository excellence published in The American Mathematical Monthly) Will Traves From Pascal’s Theorem to d-Constructible Curves The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 120, no. 10, December 2013, pp. 901-915 Citation: Beginning with the history of the word syzygy, the author of this paper turns to Pascal’s Theorem: If six […]

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2014 MAA Writing Award Winners: Mathematics Magazine

Awards for exemplary writing in MAA journals and magazines were handed out in August at MAA MathFest in Portland, Oregon. The full text (PDF) of all the winning articles is now available online. Carl B. Allendoerfer Awards (made to authors of articles of expository excellence published in Mathematics Magazine) Sally Cockburn and Joshua Lesperance Deranged Socks Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 86, no. 2, April 2013, pp. 97-109 Citation: How many ways can n people each choose two gloves from a pile of n distinct pairs of gloves, so that nobody gets a matching pair? In this article, authors Sally Cockburn and […]

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2014 MAA Writing Award Winners: College Mathematics Journal

Awards for exemplary writing in MAA journals and magazines were handed out in August at MAA MathFest in Portland, Oregon. The winning articles (PDF) are now available online, along with the award citations explaining why each article merited an award. George Pólya Awards (presented to authors of articles of expository excellence published in The College Mathematics Journal) Adam E. Parker Who Solved the Bernoulli Differential Equation and How Did They Do It? The College Mathematics Journal, Vol. 44, no. 2, March 2013, pp. 89-97 Citation: We mathematicians are so focused on the theory and techniques of our subject that we […]

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2014 MAA Writing Award Winner: Math Horizons

Awards for exemplary writing in MAA journals and magazines were handed out in August at MAA MathFest in Portland, Oregon. The winning articles (PDF) are now available online, along with the award citations explaining why each article merited an award. Trevor Evans Award (presented to authors of exceptional articles that are accessible to undergraduates and published in Math Horizons) Jordan Ellenberg The Beauty of Bounded Gaps: A Huge Discovery about Prime Numbers—and What It Means for the Future of Mathematics Math Horizons, Vol. 21, no. 1, September 2013, pp. 5-7 Citation: In this engaging article, we learn about Yitang “Tom” […]

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Math by the Minute on Capitol Hill

By Katharine Merow If you think it’s hard to distill research results into a 15-minute conference presentation, try this: Choose a subject like matrix factorizations or recent progress on the twin prime conjecture. Figure out how to make a nonexpert audience—members of Congress, say—if not fully understand the chosen topic, at least appreciate its significance. Do this in a minute. The clock is ticking. Jerry McNerney of California’s Ninth Congressional District has risen to such a challenge more than 10 times in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he has served since 2007. The only current member of the House […]

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The E8 News Story

By David W. Farmer and Sally Koutsoliotas In 2007, the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) had the experience of promoting a math result in the media. We had hopes of reaching beyond the usual avenues that specifically cover math stories (such as MAA and AMS) to more mainstream science and technology media, such as Science, American Scientist, and the weekly science supplement of the New York Times. We also wanted some local coverage: AIM is in the process of moving from Palo Alto to Morgan Hill, California, and we would like people in our local community to know about AIM […]

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Writing Coach

By Ivars Peterson Even professional writers can use the help of a writing coach. And Ann Wylie is one of the best. About a decade ago when I was on the staff of Science News magazine, the editors invited Wylie to present a writing workshop at the publication’s offices in Washington, D.C . The staff writers were already highly experienced in translating complex research results into articles aimed at a general audience. But there is always room for improvement. Wiley’s workshop focused on “making your copy more creative.”  In other words, thinking long and hard about what would capture and […]

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You Be the Editor II

Test your mathematical communication skills. The following exercise is based on “Notes on Writing Mathematics” by Haynes Miller, Department of Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Each sentence or phrase has at least one flaw. How would you edit each one to improve its style or syntax? 1. The Euler’s constant is an irrational number. 2. Since x > 0, let y = √2. 3. If we draw a line between P and Q, it is easy to show that . . . 4. There is nothing special about 10, this analysis can be generalized by replacing a for 10 as the base. 5. Hence, x […]

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If You Would Know the Number

For those whose appreciation of recreational mathematics dates back no earlier than Martin Gardner’s “Mathematical Games” articles in Scientific American, it may be a bit startling to find that mathematics writing for a “general audience” has been around for centuries. The book A Wealth of Numbers: An Anthology of 500 Years of Popular Mathematics Writing, edited by historian and writer Benjamin Wardhaugh (Princeton University Press), is an eye-opening collection of fascinating mathematical tidbits, aimed at “ordinary people.” The 100 or so extracts included in the book add up to a history of mathematics that “shows the subject through the eyes […]

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Advice on Giving a Good PowerPoint Presentation

By Joseph A. Gallian, University of Minnesota Duluth The ability to do a PowerPoint (or equivalent) presentation well is a valuable skill that many students will find useful in connection with their academic work and employment. Preparation 1. Determine the level of knowledge of the target audience. 2. Choose a subject that will appeal to the intended audience. 3. Don’t overestimate what the audience knows about your subject. 4. Don’t try to do too much. 5. Use simple examples and concrete special cases. A “non-example” often helps to clarify a concept. For instance, if you use the integers modulo 7 […]

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