academiamarginalia

The life and self-reflections of a professional mathematician

Category: teaching

Last Lecture Music

After accomplishing a big and important task – be it a paper written in throes of creation or a course of lectures that drained all energy – I hear music. Today I gave the last two lectures: on Probability Models and Applied Linear Algebra. This is my music of the end of the Fall term: Goran Bregović – Bubamara. Sa o raomalen phuchena…!

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Joe Doob on Teaching Probability

 As far as I can see, not much has changed since ancient times.

J.L. Doob (1942) “What is a Stochastic Process?
American Mathematical Monthly, 49(10), 648-653

All That’s Left

The Spring Semester is almost over. All that’s left is to create a final exam (this is on my side) and (for students) to solve it. What is next on the table? Travels.

Math 245 – Mathematics of Physics and Engineering
April 27, 2012

First Teaching Experience

My first semester of teaching is finally over! In this fall, I was teaching Math 118 “Fundamental Principles of Calculus,” the course that nobody wants to teach :)

The main lesson I have learned is that I have to do everything slower: to speak slower, to write slower, and, most importantly, do not erase things from the blackboard too fast. Students need some time to digest new material, regardless on how trivial this material is (or seems to be).

The main surprise was the overwhelming number of emails that in one way or another were related to teaching. The are exactly 115 days between August 22, 2011, the beginning of the fall semester, and December 14, 2011, the date of the final exam. Within this time slot, I received exactly 231 emails. It means, on averages, I was receiving 2 emails per day!

The main question I am still puzzled with is the following. How come that, although I can do this, I can’t do that, while almost all students in my class can. What is wrong with me? :)

P.S. In spring, I will be teaching two courses: Math 245 “Mathematics of Physics and Engineering,” and Math 408 “Mathematical Statistics.” Pretty exciting!

Why should social science students learn math fundamentals?

We all need a good reason to do things well and with pleasure. And the answer to the posed question is not obvious at all. “You will use the learned material in your future life” is a bad reason, since the statement is very likely to be false. “Because it is a requirement towards your degree” is an excuse rather than a good reason.

I can suggest two reasons – cultural and athletic – to hopefully increase your motivation.

  1. After you graduate, it would be nice not only to have a diploma, but also feel that you are indeed a well-educated person. A hundred years ago, to be well-educated, it was enough to be able to read. Nowadays the standards are slightly higher. Knowing and understanding of (very basic) concepts of mathematics is one of this standards.
  2. When we go to gym, we don’t have a goal to break a world record. We train our muscles just because we want to be in good shape and look good. Math is a gym for our brain-muscle. If we want to be in good intellectual shape, we need to workout in the gym.