Setting goals as a mathematician

The Intrepid Mathematician

I finished my eighth half marathon last weekend. Since I started running in 2004, I finished six marathons and several 10k and 5k races. I enjoy running longer distances. Although I’m not a competitive runner, I am proud of my running achievements.

Running gives me time to think. Mathematical proofs have popped into my head during training runs. Beyond that, running a long distance like a half or full marathon is a goal. A hard, but realistic goal that is feasible with the appropriate training.

Cu5xE6AW8AAZuFe.jpg Souvenirs of a hard run 21.1 K.

Goals form a critical part of every successful mathematician’s tool chest. They provide us a path forward, and without them, we lack direction. One of the things I have noticed with newly graduated doctoral students is that they often experience post-PhD limbo: there are no more formal expectations from their University or supervisor. Post-docs or fresh Assistant Professors either start…

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Toward a culture of tolerating ignorance

Gravity and Levity

Lately I have seen an increasingly honest, and increasingly public discussion about the feelings of inadequacy that come with trying to be a scientist.

For example, here Anshul Kogar writes about the “Crises in Confidence” that almost invariably come with trying to do a PhD.

In this really terrific account, Inna Vishik tells the story of her PhD in physics, and the various emotional phases that come with it: from “hubris” to “feeling like a fraud”.

I might as well add my own brief admissions to this discussion:

  • More or less every day, I struggle with feeling like I am insufficiently intelligent, insufficiently hardworking, and insufficiently creative to be a physicist.
  • These feelings have persisted since the beginning of my undergraduate years, and I expect them to continue in some form or another throughout the remainder of my career.
  • I often feel like what few successes I’ve had were…

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Is Advanced Math Necessary? – podcast on American RadioWorks

Is Advanced Math Necessary? podcast on American RadioWorks.

“Before you devour this week’s episode, listen to last week’s American RadioWorks podcast“Decoding the Math Myth.” Really do it. We’ll wait.

By now that you’ve learned that last week’s guest, Andrew Hacker, argues that teaching advanced math to every student in the United States is hurting the economy by preventing people from getting college degrees.

But this week’s guest, Keith Devlin, says math is vital for developing student reasoning skills. He’s a mathematician at Stanford University and author of “The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution.”

Decoding the Math Myth – podcast from American RadioWorks

Decoding the Math Myth podcast on American RadioWorks.

“Politicians and economists say people need advanced math skills to be successful in the highly technical jobs of the 21st century. But political scientist Andrew Hacker says that’s just not true. In his new book, “The Math Myth and Other STEM Delusions,” Hacker writes that the idea that everyone needs geometry, algebra, trigonometry and even some calculus is hurting the economy by preventing people from getting college degrees. He talked to ARW senior education correspondent Emily Hanford.”

“For me art and maths has been a two way process” – artist Ann-Marie Ison

The Maths Scholars scheme interviews artist Ann-Marie Ison

“Ann-Marie Ison has been working as a teaching assistant in schools for around 7 years. She specialises in working with children and young people with complex needs and learning difficulties.  Art has also helped dramatically with really complex mathematical ideas….’As art is a passion of mine I tried to bring it into some of the maths I was teaching with the children. The way I’ve done that is to focus on ideas regarding pattern, repetition and symmetry.'”