Mathematical Communication Blog

On Becoming Editor of the College Mathematics Journal

Posted on August 11th, 2014 by Ivars Peterson | No Comments

Underwood “Woody” Dudley (DePauw University) was editor of the College Mathematics Journal from 1999 t0 2003. He wrote the following commentary for the May/June 1999 issue of FOCUS, the newsletter of the MAA. By Woody Dudley The first thing you do is you feel humble. The tradition of MAA journals can be overwhelming. Think of…  read more

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Math by the Minute on Capitol Hill

Posted on July 23rd, 2014 by Ivars Peterson | No Comments

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….  read more

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The E8 News Story

Posted on June 9th, 2014 by Ivars Peterson | No Comments

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,…  read more

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Writing Coach

Posted on June 4th, 2014 by Ivars Peterson | 2 Comments

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…  read more

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You Be the Editor II

Posted on June 2nd, 2014 by Ivars Peterson | No Comments

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…  read more

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If You Would Know the Number

Posted on May 29th, 2014 by Ivars Peterson | No Comments

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,…  read more

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Advice on Giving a Good PowerPoint Presentation

Posted on May 24th, 2014 by Ivars Peterson | No Comments

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…  read more

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Paul Halmos on Mathematics Lectures

Posted on May 20th, 2014 by Ivars Peterson | No Comments

Paul R. Halmos (1916-2006) had strong views on the communication of mathematics, whether in written form, in the classroom, or in lectures. See, for example, “Paul Halmos on Writing Mathematics.” Here’s his reminder to lecturers: “Some lecturers defend complications and technicalities by saying that that’s what their subject is like, and there is nothing they…  read more

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Making Math Talks More Accessible

Posted on May 19th, 2014 by Ivars Peterson | No Comments

By Katharine Merow In the waning hours of MAA MathFest 2013, in Room 12 of Hartford’s Connecticut Convention Center, James Freeman addresses a sparse crowd he has dubbed “the few, the proud, and the brave.” Then, as if to determine whether “the candid” ought to be added to that list, the Cornell College professor poses…  read more

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Knowing What It Means to Know Your Audience

Posted on May 18th, 2014 by Ivars Peterson | No Comments

By Aaron Luttman and Rachel Schwell A number of years ago a graduate student was asked to give a 20-minute presentation at the Montana Academy of Sciences annual meeting describing his research on using partial differential equations to model a botanical process. The student thought to himself, “The audience will consist of graduate students and…  read more

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