For questions in Mathematics Education as a scientific discipline. For more hands-on questions on teaching Mathematics, please use the tag teaching. There is also a Stack Exchange community http://matheducators.stackexchange.com/

learn more… | top users | synonyms

533
votes
210answers
135k views

Examples of common false beliefs in mathematics

The first thing to say is that this is not the same as the question about interesting mathematical mistakes. I am interested about the type of false beliefs that many intelligent people have while ...
67
votes
77answers
12k views

Elementary+Short+Useful

Imagine your-self in front of a class with very good undergraduates who plan to do mathematics (professionally) in the future. You have 30 minutes after that you do not see these students again. You ...
24
votes
1answer
2k views

Community experiences writing Lamport's structured proofs

About two years ago, I came across this paper by Lamport http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/lamport/pubs/lamport-how-to-write.pdf on writing proofs hierarchically. It changed how I wrote ...
17
votes
7answers
2k views

Recreational mathematics: where to search?

I am not sure I can strictly define recreational mathematics. But we all feel what it is about: puzzles, problems you can ask your mathematical friends, problems that will bother them for a couple of ...
-1
votes
1answer
188 views

Everyday, real-life applications of mathematical concepts, and human intuition vs mathematical analysis [closed]

I'm working on an educational project about the applications of reasonably 'lofty', high-ish-level mathematical concepts in the real world. I've already scoured these links (1) (2) (3) after ...
12
votes
2answers
975 views

Anything special (historical?) about surface $x\cdot y\cdot z\ +\ x+y+z=0$?

QUESTION I wanted to introduce and develop the complex logarithm from scratch. As the result I've arrived a couple of months ago at the following identity after which the road to complex logarithm is ...
9
votes
1answer
483 views

Problems which use S₄ → S₃

I need examples of problems which use, directly or indirectly, the homomorphism $S_4\to S_3$ in the solution (its kernel is $\mathbb{Z}_2\oplus\mathbb{Z}_2$). Obvious candidates: Lagrange resolvent ...
87
votes
17answers
8k views

Why do we care about $L^p$ spaces besides $p = 1$, $p = 2$, and $p = \infty$?

I was helping a student study for a functional analysis exam and the question came up as to when, in practice, one needs to consider the Banach space $L^p$ for some value of $p$ other than the obvious ...
2
votes
2answers
342 views

A logarithmic cotangent inequality

I must be a terrible googling searcher but I cannot find a reference to the following inequality: $$ \forall_{\phi\in(0;\frac \pi 4)}\ \ln(\cot(\phi)))\, <\, \cot(2\!\cdot\!\phi) $$ I have just ...
7
votes
5answers
2k views

Advantages of the sequence definition of limits

I will be teaching an introductory analysis course in the coming semester. In it the students will learn about limits of real sequences, and then will learn about limits of functions in terms of ...
59
votes
15answers
6k views

Sophisticated treatments of topics in school mathematics

Sophisticated mathematical concepts typically shed light on sophisticated mathematics. But in a few cases they also apply to elementary mathematics in an interesting way. I find such examples ...
29
votes
18answers
10k views

Interesting and Accessible Topics in Graph Theory

This summer, I will be teaching an introductory course in graph theory to talented high school seniors. The intent of the course is not to establish proficiency in graph theory, per se. Rather, I hope ...
45
votes
11answers
6k views

Interesting results in algebraic geometry accessible to 3rd year undergraduates

On another thread I asked how I could encourage my final year undergraduate colleagues to take an algebraic geometry or complex analysis courses during their graduate studies. Willie Wong proposed me ...
104
votes
27answers
14k views

How To Present Mathematics To Non-Mathematicians?

(Added an epilogue) I started a job as a TA, and it requires me to take a five sessions workshop about better teaching in which we have to present a 10 minutes lecture (micro-teaching). In the last ...
140
votes
30answers
50k views

Real-world applications of mathematics, by arxiv subject area?

What are the most important applications outside of mathematics of each of the major fields of mathematics? For concreteness, let's divide up mathematics according to arxiv mathematics categories, ...
165
votes
35answers
39k views

Why is a topology made up of 'open' sets? [closed]

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I don't think I've ever been able to genuinely motivate the definition of a topological space in an undergraduate course. Clearly, the definition distills the essence of ...
246
votes
72answers
93k views

Video lectures of mathematics courses available online for free

It can be difficult to learn mathematics on your own from textbooks, and I often wish universities videotaped their mathematics courses and distributed them for free online. Fortunately, some ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Reference for a nice proof of “undetermined coefficients”

I'm teaching an honors differential equations class and have been using linear algebra heavily. I thought it would be interesting to include a proof of the method of undetermined coefficients along ...
120
votes
58answers
24k views

What are your favorite instructional counterexamples?

Related: question #879, Most interesting mathematics mistake. But the intent of this question is more pedagogical. In many branches of mathematics, it seems to me that a good counterexample can be ...
53
votes
12answers
10k views

How misleading is it to regard $\frac{dy}{dx}$ as a fraction?

I am teaching Calc I, for the first time, and I haven't seriously revisited the subject in quite some time. An interesting pedagogy question came up: How misleading is it to regard $\frac{dy}{dx}$ as ...
29
votes
13answers
2k views

Where have you used computer programming in your career as an (applied/pure) mathematician?

For background: I'm working on a book to help mathematicians learn how to program. However, I need to see some examples from people in the field that have done different kinds of things than I have. ...
62
votes
14answers
6k views

How to write popular mathematics well?

Recently, some classmates and I were lamenting the fact that our classmates in other disciplines had almost no conception of what we did, despite the large mathematics population at Waterloo. Instead ...
10
votes
8answers
3k views

Leibnizian calculus textbook

Where can I find a calculus textbook that emphasizes differentials? Is there such a book that I could realistically require my calculus students to use? I want a textbook that supports me when I tell ...
45
votes
34answers
6k views

Are there any books that take a 'theorems as problems' approach?

Are there any books that present theorems as problems? To be more specific, a book on elementary group theory might have written: "Theorem: Each group has exactly one identity" and then show a proof ...
19
votes
6answers
3k views

Euclid with Birkhoff

I'm looking for an short and elementary book which does Euclidean geomety with Birkhoff's axioms. It would be best if it would also include some topics in projective (and/or) hyperbolic geometry. ...
42
votes
1answer
3k views

Probability that a stick randomly broken in five places can form a tetrahedron

Edit (June 2015): Addressing this problem is a brief project report from the Illinois Geometry Lab (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), dated May 2015, that appears here along with a ...
48
votes
45answers
17k views

An example of a beautiful proof that would be accessible at the high school level?

The background of my question comes from an observation that what we teach in schools does not always reflect what we practice. Beauty is part of what drives mathematicians, but we rarely talk about ...
50
votes
7answers
8k views

What is Lagrange Inversion good for?

I am planning an introductory combinatorics course (mixed grad-undergrad) and am trying to decide whether it is worth budgeting a day for Lagrange inversion. The reason I hesitate is that I know of ...
60
votes
8answers
9k views

How do you not forget old math?

I am trying to not forget my old math. I finished my PhD in real algebraic geometry a few years ago and then switched to the industry for financial reasons. Now I get the feeling that I want to do a ...
4
votes
1answer
106 views

Numerical equality testing

I am working on developing an online homework system. One thing I would like to have is something which compares a student's answer (like $2\sin(x)\cos(x)$) with the intended answer (maybe ...
3
votes
1answer
407 views

What questions should -ologists of mathematics ask, in order to improve maths researcher training? [closed]

This question is part of a project funded by the International Council for Science, supported by the IMU (among other bodies). Answers gathered here on mathoverflow may be included in the final ...
61
votes
7answers
10k views

Is the boundary $\partial S$ analogous to a derivative?

Without prethought, I mentioned in class once that the reason the symbol $\partial$ is used to represent the boundary operator in topology is that its behavior is akin to a derivative. But after ...
34
votes
21answers
7k views

Nontrivial question about Fibonacci numbers?

I'm looking for a nontrivial, but not super difficult question concerning Fibonacci numbers. It should be at a level suitable for an undergraduate course. Here is a (not so good) example of the sort ...
52
votes
9answers
12k views

Relating Category Theory to Programming Language Theory

I'm wondering what the relation of category theory to programming language theory is. I've been reading some books on category theory and topos theory, but if someone happens to know what the ...
4
votes
1answer
231 views

How to teach generalizing the induction hypothesis? [closed]

I just finished teaching a class on using proof assistants (in this case, Agda) to write provably correct programs. Reflecting on how it went, the biggest difficulty I noticed the students having was ...
18
votes
12answers
7k views

How seriously should a graduate student take teaching evaluations?

Pretty much the question in the title. If a grad student gets bad reviews as a TA, how much does that hurt them later? How much do good reviews help? What if the situation is more complex? (For ...
27
votes
12answers
2k views

Historical (personal) examples of teaching-based research

The phrase "teaching-based research" brings to mind research about teaching, though important, it is not what I mean. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with a better phrase, thus please bear with me ...
25
votes
3answers
2k views

Is “problem solving” a subject to be taught?

I am witnessing a new curriculum change in my country (Iran). It includes the change of all the mathematics textbooks at all grades. The peoples involved has sent me the textbook for seven graders (13 ...
47
votes
17answers
11k views

Parodies of abstruse mathematical writing

Perhaps under the influence of a recent question on perverse sheaves, in conjunction with the impending $\pi$-day (3/14/15 at 9:26:53), I recalled a long-ago parody of abstruse mathematical language ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

In studying maths, do you tend to go through books one at a time? [closed]

Or do you read a lot of books on the same subject (say Topology)? Consider these two cases: Case 1: Suppose you want to study point set topology. You pick up a good book and work thoroughly on it. ...
63
votes
6answers
2k views

Good ways to engage in mathematics outreach?

Greetings all, I have often heard that it would be good if we as a community did more in the way of mathematics outreach: more to explain what it is we do to the community at large, more to expose ...
34
votes
4answers
3k views

Motivation for concepts in Algebraic Geometry

I know there was a question about good algebraic geometry books on here before, but it doesn't seem to address my specific concerns. ** Question ** Are there any well-motivated introductions to ...
6
votes
13answers
6k views

Useless math that became useful

I'm writing an article on Lychrel numbers and some people pointed out that this is completely useless. My idea is to amend my article with some theories that seemed useless when they are created but ...
3
votes
0answers
111 views

Applications of Freiman's theorem?

What are some interesting applications of Freiman's theorem or, better-yet, its recent generalizations (eg Green-Ruzsa) that could be included in a graduate course in additive combinatorics? I'm ...
20
votes
14answers
2k views

Insightful books about elementary mathematics

What are some books that discuss elementary mathematical topics ('school mathematics'), like arithmetic, basic non-abstract algebra, plane & solid geometry, trigonometry, etc, in an insightful ...
18
votes
10answers
4k views

Research Experience for Undergraduates: Summer Programs

Some time ago, I found this list of REU programs held in 2009. The main aspects that characterize such programs are: (a) a great deal of lectures on specific topics; and, admittedly more ...
32
votes
10answers
2k views

effective teaching

Eric Mazur has a wonderful video describing how physics is taught at many universities and his description applies word for word to the way I learned mathematics and the way it is still being taught, ...
20
votes
6answers
4k views

an engineering Ph.D. teaching math in college

I have a friend who has been teaching college-level math (e.g., all levels of calculus) for about 4 years, although all of his education, including his Ph.D., was in engineering. Now he is ...
42
votes
10answers
6k views

Possibility of an Elementary Differential Geometry Course

I have to admit I'm not sure if this is an appropriate question. It's related to research in math education, but not directly to math. I've found that in talking to professional physicists and ...
1
vote
1answer
312 views

finding permutation matrix I which minimizes TRACE( I* C*( I^T)* D) matrix

I have a problem that is really important for my thesis and i am not studding math so i will be very glad if you help me in this case... thanks for your help in advance I want to find permutation ...