Learning How to Learn Math

Once upon a time, while in college, I decided to take my first intro-to-proofs class. I was so excited. "This is it!" I thought, "now I get to learn how to think like a mathematician."

You see, for the longest time, my mathematical upbringing was very... not mathematical. As a student in high school and well into college, I was very good at being a robot. Memorize this formula? No problem. Plug in these numbers? You got it. Think critically and deeply about the ideas being conveyed by the mathematics? Nope.

It wasn't because I didn't want to think deeply. I just wasn't aware there was anything to think about. I thought math was the art of symbol-manipulation and speedy arithmetic computations. I'm not good at either of those things, and I never understood why people did them anyway. But I was excellent at following directions. So when teachers would say "Do this computation," I would do it, and I would do it well. I just didn't know what I was doing.

By the time I signed up for that intro-to-proofs class, though, I was fully aware of the robot-symptoms and their harmful side effects.

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Math3ma + PBS Infinite Series!

Hi everyone! Here's a bit of exciting news: As of today, I'll be extending my mathematical voice from the blogosphere to the videosphere! In addition to Math3ma, you can now find me over at PBS Infinite Series, a YouTube channel dedicated to the wonderful world of mathematics.

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Math Emojis

☺️ I love math

😀 It's so cool.

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Dear Autocorrect... (Sincerely, Mathematician)

Dear Autocorrect,

No.

"Topos theory" is not the theory of tops. Or coats or shoes or hats or socks or gloves or slacks or scarves or shorts or skorts or--um, actually, what is topos theory?

“Zorn’s lemma” is not a result attributed to corn. Neither boiled corn, grilled corn, frozen corn, fresh corn, canned corn, popped corn, nor unicorns. Though I'm sure one of these is equivalent to the Axiom of Choice.

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Commutative Diagrams Explained

Have you ever come across the words "commutative diagram" before? Perhaps you've read or heard someone utter a sentence that went something like, "For every [bla bla] there existsa [yadda yadda] such thatthe following diagram commutes." and perhaps it left you wondering what it all meant.

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Some Notes on Taking Notes

A quick browse through my Instagram account and you might guess that I take notes. Lots of notes. And you'd be spot on! For this reason, I suppose, I am often asked the question, "How do you do it?!" Now while I don't think my note-taking strategy is particularly special, I am happy to share! I'll preface the information by stating what you probably already know: I LOVE to write.* I am a very visual learner and often need to go through the physical act of writing things down in order for information to "stick." So while some people think aloud (or quietly), 

I think on paper.

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#TrustYourStruggle

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know that I have strong opinions about the misconception that "math is only for the gifted." I've written about the importance of endurance and hard work several times. Naturally, these convictions carried over into my own classroom this past semester as I taught a group of college algebra students.

Whether they raised their hand during a lecture and gave a "wrong" answer, received a less-than-perfect score on an exam or quiz, or felt completely confused during a lesson, I tried to emphasize that things aren't always as bad as they seem...

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Resources for Intro-Level Graduate Courses

In recent months, several of you have asked me to recommend resources for various subjects in mathematics. Well, folks, here it is! I've finally rounded up a collection of books, PDFs, videos, and websites that I found helpful while studying for my intro-level graduate courses. 

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A Ramble About Qualifying Exams

Today I'm talking about about qualifying exams! But no, I won't be dishing out advice on preparing for these exams. Tons of excellent advice is readily available online, so I'm not sure I can contribute much that isn't already out there. However, it's that very web-search that has prompted me to write this post.

You see, before I started graduate school I had heard of these rites-of-passage called the qualifying exams.* And to be frank, I thought they sounded terrifying.

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Snippets of Mathematical Candor

A while ago I wrote a post in response to a great Slate article reminding us that math - like writing - isn't something that anyone is good at without (at least a little!) effort. As the article's author put it, "no one is born knowing the axiom of completeness." Since then, I've come across a few other snippets of mathematical candor that I found both helpful and encouraging. And since final/qualifying exam season is right around the corner, I've decided to share them here on the blog for a little morale-boosting.

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Graduate School: Where Grades Don't Matter

Yesterday I received a disheartening 44/50 on a homework assignment. Okay okay, I know. 88% isn't bad, but I had turned in my solutions with so much confidence that admittedly, my heart dropped a little (okay, a lot!) when I received the grade. But I quickly had to remind myself, Hey! Grades don't matter.

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Real Talk: Math is Hard, Not Impossible

The quote above comes from an excellent Slate article by Chase Felker on why students shouldn't be afraid of or intimidated by mathematics. I posted the quote on Instagram not too long ago, and since it addresses a topic that is near-and-dear to my own heart, I decided to include it on the blog as well. Felker prefaces the quote by saying, "Giving up on math means you don't believe that careful study can change the way you think."

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A Math Blog? Say What?

Yes! I'm writing about math. No! Don't close your browser window. Hear me out first...

I know very well that math has a bad rap. It's often taught or thought of as a dry, intimidating, unapproachable, completely boring, who-in-their-right-mind-would-want-to-think-about-this-on-purpose kind of subject. I get it. Math was the last thing on earth I thought I'd study. Seriously.

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