The perfect pencil

The number one tool of any mathematician is the pencil.  I know, some will argue that you prefer to use a pen.  In fact, I had a professor in college who believed that “real mathematicians” used only pen.  His argument was simple and logical:  a pen records all of your ideas while a pencil encourages a more permanent destruction of your old ideas. And, how many of us mathematical hobbyists have erased our graphite errors only to realize later that we had the perfect idea ten attempts ago?  (Of course, I never had the heart to provide him with the perfect counterexample to his argument … a pencil without an eraser.  I guess I am too kind.)

Don’t get me wrong.  I, too, enjoy using a pen to work on mathematics. In fact, I have a real love of fountain pens and nothing feels better than recording your ideas using one.  However, the real workhorse of our subject is the pencil.

Where was I?  Yes … the pencil.  So, what is the perfect pencil?  Well, again, the debate will rage on … some people love mechanical pencils and some people love wooden pencils.  Mechanical pencils are cool and can fit in your pocket.  Wooden pencils have a great smell and can fit behind your ear.  Myself, I love both.

But, if I had to choose, the perfect pencil would be the Dixon Ticonderoga.  Maybe it’s because it’s the pencil I grew up with or maybe it is the smooth writing, but nothing says math to me like that pencil.

Am I right?  Am I wrong?  Please leave me your comments on the perfect pencil.

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6 Responses to The perfect pencil

  1. dannkolo says:

    Yes, but a pen or mechanical pencil allow me to ‘do math’ anywhere without fear of breaking a point and not being able to finish my calculations.

    • scottkolo says:

      Very true. However, you still run the risk of running out of lead or ink. Don’t get me wrong, though. There are times when I do use mechanical pencils. This is especially true if I am away from my desk. Wooden ones do not stay in my shirt pocket very well.

  2. lukeorph says:

    What you say makes perfect sense! However, I find that I am partial to the BIC Velocity mechanical pencils. They write very well, and have the perfect dimensions for the hand. While of course it sounds rediculous in the grand scheme of life, I am easily upset when i lose one of these pencils (which i have done many times). When you are deep in thought whether it be solving a math problem or writing an essay, there is a bond formed between a man and his pencil. It is a bond in which the pencil becomes more than just a tool, it becomes an extension of your hand. (try to stay with me here) From it, you can channel your ideas onto pages and create worlds of thought that can spawn from such a small concept. This is what pencils, and pens are capable of to me.

    • scottkolo says:

      I agree. One of things that I hate about technology is that I feel disconnected from my thoughts. When I am solving a problem or writing a proof with a pencil (or pen), I feel as though I am directly connected to it. Punching a key on a keyboard is just not the same.

      I also use mechanical pencils. I am partial to using a Pentel Graphgear 500, a KOH-I-NOOR Rapidomatic, and a Staedtler 925 09. My dream mechanical pencil is a Rotring 500/600 but these are rare and expensive.

  3. Pingback: Looking for that perfect holiday gift? « Musings on Math

  4. AndyColo says:

    I completely agree. I use a black (limited edition) dixon ticonderoga all day, every day. The eraser is superoir to all.

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