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Sometimes Math is not the answer

April 29, 2012 10 comments

I would love to stand corrected in this case, though. Let me explain first the reason behind this claim—It will take a minute, so bear with me:

Say there is a new movie released, and you would like to know how good it is, or whether you and your partner will enjoy watching it together. There are plenty of online resources out there that will give you enough information to make an educated opinion but, let’s face it, you will not have the complete picture unless you actually go see the movie (sorry for the pun).

For example, I fell for “The Blair Witch Project:” their amazing advertising campaign promised me thrill and originality. On top of that, the averaged evaluation of many movie critics that had access to previews claimed that this was a flick not to be missed… Heck, I even bought the DVD for my sister before even watching it!—She and I have a similar taste with respect to movies. The disappointment was, obviously, epic. Before that, and many a time afterwards, I have tripped over the same stone. If nothing else, I learned not to trust commercials and sneak previews any more (“Release the Kraken!,” anyone?)

The only remaining resource should then be the advice of the knowledgeable movie critics—provided you trust on their integrity, that is. Then it hit me: My taste in movies, so similar to my sister’s, could be completely different to that of the “average critic”. Being that the case, why would I trust what a bunch of experts have to say? The mathematician in me took over, and started planning a potential algorithm:

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What if?

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment


Sara, Spencer and Cam (left to right) discussing their projects in office hour

What if?” is a truly powerful question. It is the question that separates the child from the adult; the student from the professional. Average students will go through the motions of a course and ask themselves many times: “What is the point of all this?” On the other hand, the notable students on their way to excellence will ask themselves: “How can I profit from this?” It is these inquiring minds who make it at the end: they are a pleasure to work with, they have the drive and the passion to get the job done, enjoy the process, and they are more likely to give their future employers more of their time in pursue of solutions—not because there is monetary or status gain alone, but because their commitment is only matched with their skill and curiosity.

It is a thrill to witness your own students pose that “What if?” question to themselves, and take steps to accomplish that little dream with the knowledge obtained in class. This semester, I had been blessed with a group of extremely talented people in all my different teaching assignments—especially those in my course on elementary differential equations.

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