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!

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I just got back from six days in San Diego, participating in the annual Joint Mathematics Meetings. Why “Joint”? Because they are jointly sponsored by the two major American mathematical organizations. I refer, of course, to the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the Amercian…
I am on the road! Tomorrow I will be in New York, as I have previously discussed. Today I was in Baltimore to hang out at the big math party known as the Joint Mathematics Meetings. I also managed to write a guest post over at the Oxford University Press blog. Enjoy!
Francis Collins and Larry Bock I was attending the AAAS annual meeting last week in San Diego, and Dr. Collins was speaking to several groups at the conference. After living in Washington, DC for almost a decade, and having worked for various federal agencies, I am used to the reverence people…
After a lengthy trip that involved not just planes and trains, but automobiles as well, I made it back from San Francisco in one piece. Yay! The conference was a big success, both mathematically and socially. Saw lots of old friends, which is, after all, the point of the conference, and also…

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.

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?

By Charles Sullivan (not verified) on 12 Jan 2013 #permalink