The perfect cup of coffee

There is an old Hungarian mathematics quote that I love to recite, “A mathematician is a device which turns coffee into theorems.”  Well, on Christmas morning, I received the perfect gift from my daughters to complement the quote. (To my fellow geometry fans, notice the choice of word ‘complement’.)

Let’s face it, this is my dream coffee cup … a cup containing 20 of the greatest achievements of human thought. Now each morning when I drag myself out of bed at 4:30, I will have a little inspiration to go along with the first cup, and the second, the third, and, of course, the fourth … you get the idea.

For those of you looking to order your own, please click here.

The Fifth Postulate by Jason Socrates Bardi

I just finished a great book by Jason Socrates Bardi, called The Fifth Postulate.  It really is a “must-read” for anyone interested in trying to understand how mathematicians think (and geometry teachers looking to leave the realm of the textbook!).

For thousands of years, mathematicians have spent their careers trying to prove the Parallel Postulate, only to find out that all of their attempts have failed.  It took the genius of people like Gauss to think, “maybe the postulate doesn’t need to be true.”  With that thought (and a lot of work), we have the birth of non-Euclidean geometry.

The Fifth Postulate gives a great historical overview of the attempts to prove the Parallel Postulate as well as thought process leading to its eventual rejection.  It is an extremely entertaining read and has some great biographies of Gauss, Lobachevsky and Bolyai.  As with most math books written today, it keeps a “general interest” audience in mind and steers clear of the heavy-duty mathematics of non-Euclidean geometry.  However, it still gives the reader a good overview of the birth of this field.

ABC News and John Allen Paulos team-up

ABC News and Temple University mathematics professor John Allen Paulos (author of many books including his most famous, Innumeracy)  have teamed-up to bring you a mathematician’s insight into the world of news.

The articles on this site analyze the mathematical angles of current news events.  What’s nice about the articles presented is that they are entertaining, informative and written at a level that allows anyone to understand them.  Take some time to read and enjoy!

Math Pronunciations

As most of us are well aware, mathematics is a global activity.  As such, the terminology that we use often has regional ties, making pronunciations difficult.  I remember one professor in college who was so angry at me for mispronouncing the term “affine” that he almost kicked me out of the class.  (That’s not even a tough one!)  How about “Bolyai” or “platykurtic”?  As a teacher, I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times the name “Euler” has been mispronounced.

Enter the University of Wisconsin.  They have created an online Mathematics Pronunciation Guide to help us with all of our difficulties.  Thanks to them, we can all sound a lot smarter!  Click here to begin the journey.

The greatest mathematician ever?

Students often ask me who is the greatest mathematician of all time.  (Whether or not they are truly curious is debatable … they are masters at trying to get me off topic!)  While it can be a sometimes contentious debate, most people will agree that the honor goes to Carl Friedrich Gauss.  His contributions to mathematics, statistics, physics, astronomy and surveying (not to mention his inventions) certainly rank him at the top.

For those of you interested in learning more about the “greatest” mathematician of all time, here are a few places you can go:

  • For a general overview of his life and contributions, click here.
  • For a more detailed look at his life and contributions, this website from professor Douglas Ravenel at the University of Rochester gives you a plethora of links, click here.
  • For those of you looking for an actual book, check out this selection: Gauss – Titan of Science by G. Waldo Dunnington

Wherever you go, enjoy!  You will not be disappointed.