**224**

votes

**99**answers

36k views

### Not especially famous, long-open problems which anyone can understand

Question: I'm asking for a big list of not especially famous, long open problems that anyone can understand. Community wiki, so one problem per answer, please.
Motivation: I plan to use this list ...

**126**

votes

**7**answers

48k views

### Where to buy premium white chalk in the U.S., like they have at RIMS? [closed]

While not a research-level math question, I'm sure this is a question of interest to many research-level mathematicians, whose expertise I seek.
At RIMS (in Kyoto) in 2005, they had the best white ...

**79**

votes

**26**answers

31k views

### What are the most misleading alternate definitions in taught mathematics?

I suppose this question can be interpreted in two ways. It is often the case that two or more equivalent (but not necessarily semantically equivalent) definitions of the same idea/object are used in ...

**72**

votes

**20**answers

9k views

### “Mathematics talk” for five year olds

I am trying to prepare a "mathematics talk" for five year olds from my daughter's elementary school. I have given many mathematics talks in my life but this one feels
very tough to prepare. Could the ...

**71**

votes

**32**answers

48k views

### Why do we teach calculus students the derivative as a limit?

I'm not teaching calculus right now, but I talk to someone who does, and the question that came up is why emphasize the $h \to 0$ definition of a derivative to calculus students?
Something a teacher ...

**59**

votes

**12**answers

11k 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 ...

**58**

votes

**10**answers

7k views

### Teaching proofs in the era of Google

Dear members,
Way back in the stone age when I was an undergraduate (the mid 90's), the internet was a germinal thing and that consisted of not much more than e-mail, ftp and the unix "talk" command ...

**58**

votes

**10**answers

13k views

### Is Euclid dead? [closed]

Apparently Euclid died about 2,300 years ago (actually 2,288 to be more precise), but the title of the question refers to the rallying cry of Dieudonné, "A bas Euclide! Mort aux triangles!" (...

**52**

votes

**32**answers

12k views

### Demystifying complex numbers

At the end of this month I start teaching complex analysis to
2nd year undergraduates, mostly from engineering but some from
science and maths. The main applications for them in future
studies are ...

**52**

votes

**7**answers

9k views

### Teaching statements for math jobs?

What is the purpose of the "teaching statement" or "statement of teaching philosophy" when applying for jobs, specifically math postdocs? I am applying for jobs, and I need to write one of these ...

**52**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### History of $\frac d{dt}\tan^{-1}(t)=\frac 1{1+t^2}$

Let $\theta = \tan^{-1}(t)$. Nowadays it is taught:
1º that
$$
\frac{d\theta}{dt} = \frac 1{dt\,/\,d\theta} = \frac 1{1+t^2},
\tag1
$$
2º that, via the fundamental theorem of calculus, this is ...

**51**

votes

**47**answers

18k 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

**15**answers

4k views

### Teaching homology via everyday examples

What stories, puzzles, games, paradoxes, toys, etc from everyday life are better understood after learning homology theory?
To be more precise, I am teaching a short course on homology, from ...

**50**

votes

**6**answers

4k views

### What does it take to run a good learning seminar?

I'm thinking about running a graduate student seminar in the summer. Having both organized and participated in such seminars in the past, I have witnessed first-hand that, contrary to what one might ...

**50**

votes

**11**answers

4k views

### How to introduce notions of flat, projective and free modules?

In the coming spring semester I will be teaching for the first time an introductory (graduate) course in Commutative Algebra. As many people know, I have been plugging away for a while at this ...

**45**

votes

**22**answers

13k views

### Interesting Calculus Questions/Exercises

I am in the process of redesigning the calculus course that I have taught five or six times. What I would like to know is if anyone has some really good examples or exercises that I could either do ...

**44**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### How do you mentor undergraduate research?

Lets say you had an undergraduate who wanted to do some advanced work and some research, possibly for a thesis, or things like that.
There are two slightly more specific groups of questions I have ...

**42**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Advice for PhD Supervisors

My first PhD student is having his viva tomorrow. Hence, I began contemplating a bit about the whole process of supervising. One thing I realized is that while there seems to be plenty of advice for ...

**39**

votes

**9**answers

12k views

### Is Galois theory necessary (in a basic graduate algebra course)?

By definition, a basic graduate algebra course in a U.S. (or similar) university with
a Ph.D. program in mathematics lasts part or all of an academic year and is taken
by first (sometimes second) ...

**39**

votes

**8**answers

13k views

### Collecting proofs that finite multiplicative subgroups of fields are cyclic

I teach elementary number theory and discrete mathematics to students who come with no abstract algebra. I have found proving the key theorem that finite multiplicative subgroups of fields are cyclic ...

**38**

votes

**20**answers

8k views

### Fun applications of representations of finite groups

Are there some fun applications of the theory of representations of finite groups? I would like to have some examples that could be explained to a student who knows what is a finite group but does not ...

**37**

votes

**5**answers

10k views

### Are there any “related rates” calculus problems that don't feel contrived?

I just finished teaching a freshman calculus course (at an American state university), and one standard topic in the curriculum is related rates. I taught my students to answer questions such as the ...

**35**

votes

**13**answers

3k views

### Applications of the Cayley-Hamilton theorem

The Cayley-Hamilton theorem is usually presented in standard undergraduate courses in linear algebra as an important result. Recall that it says that any square matrix is a "root" of its own ...

**32**

votes

**19**answers

7k views

### Interesting applications (in pure mathematics) of first-year calculus

What interesting applications are there for theorems or other results studied in first-year calculus courses?
A good example for such an application would be using a calculus theorem to prove a ...

**32**

votes

**16**answers

3k views

### Justifying/Explaining math research in a public address

I have been chosen by my university to give a 1 hour public research lecture. Every year a researcher is chosen for this honour. Traditionally people explain their own research about designing ...

**32**

votes

**10**answers

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, ...

**31**

votes

**21**answers

11k views

### Why linear algebra is fun!(or ?)

Edit: the original poster is Menny, but the question is CW; the first-person pronoun refers to Menny, not to the most recent editor.
I'm doing an introductory talk on linear algebra with the ...

**29**

votes

**19**answers

4k views

### Do names given to math concepts have a role in common mistakes by students?

Perhaps this question overlaps with similar ones, ... but I want to focus on a particular possible cause of confusion. I notice that students are often confused by the concepts of "infinite" and "...

**27**

votes

**12**answers

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 ...

**27**

votes

**13**answers

10k views

### How to draw knots with Latex?

I am writing an exam for my students, and the topic is intro knots theory. I have no idea how to put knots into the file, but I know many MO users who can draw amazing diagrams in their papers.
Can ...

**27**

votes

**6**answers

2k views

### Does seeing beyond the course you teach matter? The case of linear algebra and matrices

This question is indeed very important for me. Thus I hope you bear with my subjective explanations for a few minutes. I am an "excellent" lecturer, at least according to course evaluation forms ...

**26**

votes

**15**answers

7k views

### “Homotopy-first” courses in algebraic topology

A first course in algebraic topology, at least the ones I'm familiar with, generally gets students to a point where they can calculate homology right away. Building the theory behind it is generally ...

**26**

votes

**6**answers

2k views

### Means of Promoting Mathematics in Young Countries!

We all know mathematics is life, this question is for Mankind. It's mathoverflow here when some parts of the world we have mathunderflow! I think we can do something through ideas. A similar ...

**25**

votes

**11**answers

8k views

### Lecture notes on representations of finite groups

Next term I am supposed to teach a course on representation of finite groups. This is a third year course for undegrads. I was thinking to use the book of Grodon James and Martin Liebeck "...

**25**

votes

**13**answers

3k views

### Elementary applications of linear algebra over finite fields

I'm teaching axiomatic linear algebra again this semester. Although the textbooks I'm using do everything over the real or complex numbers, for various reasons I prefer to work over an arbitrary ...

**25**

votes

**3**answers

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 ...

**24**

votes

**17**answers

5k views

### Using slides in math classroom

I am toying with the idea of using slides (Beamer package) in a third year math course I will teach next semester. As this would be my first attempt at this, I would like to gather ideas about the ...

**24**

votes

**9**answers

12k views

### Applications of knot theory

An answer of André Henriques' inspired the following closely related CW question. Parts of the following is extracted from his answer and my comments.
I regularly teach a knot theory class. ...

**24**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Can the unsolvability of quintics be seen in the geometry of the icosahedron?

Q1. Is it possible to somehow "see" the unsolvability of quintic polynomials
in the $A_5$ symmetries of the icosahedron (or dodecahedron)?
Perhaps this is too vague a question.
Q2. Are there ...

**24**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Nearly all math classes are lecture+problem set based; this seems particularly true at the graduate level. What are some concrete examples of techniques other than the “standard math class” used at the *Graduate* level?

In the fall, I am teaching one undergraduate and one graduate course, and in planning these courses I have been thinking about alternatives to the "standard math class". I have found it much easier ...

**23**

votes

**17**answers

3k views

### What are your favorite puzzles/toys for introducing new mathematical concepts to students?

We all know that the Rubik's Cube provides a nice concrete introduction to group theory. I'm wondering what other similar gadgets are out there that you've found useful for introducing new math to ...

**23**

votes

**11**answers

8k views

### Blackboard rendering of math fonts

I learned most of my math font rendering from watching others (for example, I draw ζ terribly). In most cases it is passable, but I'm often uncomfortable using fonts like Fraktur on the board. ...

**22**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### References for “modern” proof of Newlander-Nirenberg Theorem

Hi,
I'm starting to prepare a graduate topics course on Complex and Kahler manifolds for January 2011. I want to use this course as an excuse to teach the students some geometric analysis. In ...

**22**

votes

**10**answers

1k views

### What (fun) results in graph theory should undergraduates learn?

I have the task of creating a 3rd year undergraduate course in graph theory (in the UK). Essentially the students will have seen minimal discrete math/combinatorics before this course. Since graph ...

**22**

votes

**7**answers

2k views

### Pros and cons of math teaching using smartboards

Currently, there is some talk in my university concerning a change in our lecture rooms from blackboards to smartboards (or other alternatives, such as a smart podium). For that reason, I'm interested ...

**22**

votes

**7**answers

3k views

### Why are two notions of Gaussian curvature are the same - what is the simplest & most didactic proof?

This question is still wide open - all of the answers so far rely on magical calculations. I've only accepted an answer because, by bounty rules, otherwise one would be accepted automatically. I can't ...

**21**

votes

**5**answers

3k views

### The Matrix-Tree Theorem without the matrix

I'm teaching an introductory graph theory course in the Fall, which I'm excited about because it gives me the chance to improve my understanding of graphs (my work is in topology). A highlight for me ...

**21**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### Curriculum reform success stories at an “average” research university

Greetings all,
There's a never-ending story that many of us have sunk our teeth into. How do we go about teaching subjects like calculus and analysis "well?" Most universities that I'm familiar ...

**21**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Teaching the fundamental group via everyday examples

This question is a "prequel" to a similar question about homology. Both questions were inspired by seeing a talk, by Tadashi Tokieda, about the interesting physics that appears in toys.
What ...

**21**

votes

**7**answers

2k views

### Conceptual algebraic proof that Grassmannian is closed in Plucker embedding

I'm planning lectures for my intro algebraic geometry course, and I noted something awkward that is coming up. We're starting projective varieties soon. Of course, we'll prove that projective maps are ...