What Do Mathematicians Do?

The annual Joint Mathematics Meetings are taking place in San Diego this week. For the first time in more than a decade, they are taking place without me. Well, if I can’t actually go this year, I might as well write about it. I have a guest post up over at the Oxford University Press blog doing just that. Enjoy!


  1. #1 joemac53
    January 11, 2013

    Back in the Dark Ages I was a member of MAA and loved their publications. I would share them with my students to prove that math was accessible to them as sharp high-school seniors and would be as college students. They were a very mathy crowd, but more of them became engineers (sigh).
    I am with you completely about a math community and how it can improve both knowledge and teaching. When I was finished coaching (my own kids were in the high school, so I chased them around instead of everyone else’s) I wished to get the next degree in math (at night). Every time I signed up for a math class it would get cancelled a week before the scheduled start.
    Eventually I got a call from the office of the Dean of Graduate Studies and was informed that I was going to get booted out as I was “not making progress towards my degree”. The caused me to write a sharply-worded letter that contained the term “insidious fraud”.
    This got me a call from the Dean himself. I had to explain myself: what fraud was I upset about?
    “You offer this degree, do you not?”
    “Yes, we do.”
    “Does anyone ever get one?”
    “Uh, I believe two people got that degree last year.”
    “Well, what freakin’ courses did they take????????”
    “Uh, I believe they were largely self-directed.”
    “Well, I’ve been self-directed for 22 years! I want to hang out with the math people!”

    I gave them one more chance, but three days before a class was to begin it was cancelled. I was out. In fact, I was so far out that I get zero mail from this school to this day.
    Now I’m retired but hope to find some mathy people to hang with.

  2. #2 Charles Sullivan
    January 13, 2013

    And here i am, thinking you mathematicians either aim to find a fool-proof method to win tic-tac-toe, or aim to change the rules of tic-tac-toe in order to then find a fool-proof method to win. Sheesh. What was i thinking?

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