## Mathematical Instruments: Sue VanHattum

February 22, 2013 § 1 Comment

### Sue VanHattum — Math Mama writes…

*Apart from Math Mama Writes…, any other places (other blogs, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc.) we can find you on?*

I’m editing a book with over 30 authors, *Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers*, and we hope to have it out in a few more months, so I have a Facebook page to promote it (Playing With Math, of course). That’s about it. I have the Twitter and Google+ accounts, but don’t use them, really.

*Would you tell us a little bit about yourself? E.g., Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?*

I live in Richmond, California, and I teach at a community college. I really want to make math accessible. I loved math when I was young. (At the library, my first foray outside the children’s section was for a book on codes and ciphers in the adult section.) Then I got convinced by the University of Michigan that I didn’t really like math, barely escaping with my math BA. When I found my niche teaching community college students, I needed a master’s degree to get full-time work. I got that at Eastern Michigan University, where I fell back in love with math. I then went to a PhD program at UCSD, knowing full well that it might be like U of M for me. It was, and I quit after a year. (I would have quit after a month, but didn’t want to lose my student housing.) So I knew I loved math, but wasn’t cut out for the rigors of a PhD. I wanted to teach.

I’ve been teaching community college for about 20 years, plus a few years teaching at other levels. I’ve always been frustrated at how little of the focus in math classes is on mathematical thinking. Almost 5 years ago, I had the chance to teach at my son’s alternative school and started looking for ideas online. I joined a homeschooler’s math list, Living Math Forum, which was wonderful, and discovered both math circles and blogs through that list.

That started me on a wonderful journey. These days I feel like I’m becoming a mathematician. It’s exhilarating.

*When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?*

Kate Nowak’s blog may have been the first one I really followed. I met Kate at my first math circle training in 2008, and when she started her blog that fall, I started following it. She mentored me as I began writing my blog the next spring. (I had created it two years earlier and done nothing with it.) She also introduced me to Google Reader. I probably follow about 200 math teacher blogs.

**What is the story behind the name of your blog?**

It took me a very long time to become a mama, and I’m very happy to be my son’s mama now. I like relating that to my other passions. And I want to try to be nurturing in my approach to math.

*Why did you start?*

I already had this idea in my head for a book about the math ed sorts of things that are happening outside the classroom setting. I knew I wanted to get Julie Brennan’s pieces from Living Math Forum on homeschooling, and I hoped to get material from people I knew in the math circle world. Since I teach in classrooms, it seemed like a good idea to bring classroom teachers into the mix, too. And the easiest way to do that was to join in on the blogging party.

*What do you write about?*

It varies a lot. Here’s what I can think of (but I may be missing some):

- I read so many other blogs and get excited about lots of what I read, so I include lots of links to other resources online. This fall I participated in the New Blogger Initiation (Sam Shah got it going), which promoted over a hundred new math ed bloggers, which sent out lots of linky love. And for years I’ve written a post or two a year for the Math Teachers at Play blog carnival.
- Reviews of math–related books, articles, games, and toys. Often my posts have given me a way to process things I’ve read. I was doing a lot of research for the book a few years ago, and needed to think about it all. These days, I just want to share the things that get me excited.
- The controversy over whether or not it’s ok to think of multiplication as repeated addition.
- Resources I’ve created – a guided visualization audio track for people who get anxious about math (especially math tests), a poem about imaginary numbers, some puzzles and a card game.
- The boy I tutor who loves math.
- My classes, on good days and bad. Celebrating the good, asking for help with the bad.
- Lesson ideas.
- Math circles I’ve run.
- Mathematical exposition. For example, recently I wanted to find something online about centroids, since that topic is missing from our textbook and I wanted to include it in the Calc II course I was teaching. I couldn’t find anything good online, so I wrote something myself and posted it on my blog.

*What wouldn’t have happened to you without the internet?*

My book! Becoming an editor. Becoming more of a writer. Becoming part of a community of math enthusiasts. Getting involved with math circles. Doing mathematics outside my teaching. Thinking about Pythagorean triples. Reading *Math Girls*, and *The Cat In Numberland*, *Out of the Labyrinth: Setting Mathematics Free*, and… (Learning how to use hyperlinks. Hee hee.) Watching Vi Hart videos. Becoming friends with Maria Droujkova, Amanda Serenvy, John Golden, and lots more great mathy people. Also, I would have been much more isolated as a single parent when my son was young.

*What does the internet need more of?*

I have no idea. Most of what I want, I find.

*Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):*

You don’t want to know all of the blogs I read – there are way too many. But I can point you to some of my favorites. (When someone claimed that more men blog about math, I made a collection of all the women I follow. Your readers may want to check that list out. My favorite bloggers include: Malke Roesenfeld (homeschooler and artist-in-schools, integrating math and dance), Fawn Nguyen, Kate Nowak, Math for Love, Gary Davis, John Golden, and Christopher Danielson. My favorite non-math blogs might be Science Teacher(Michael Doyle) and Laura Grace Weldon. Holly Graff (an unschooler) and Michelle Martin (a 4th/5th teacher) post less often, but I love their posts.

Mathblogging.org — The Blog by mathblogging.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.mathblogging.org.

## Mathematical Instruments: Alexander Bogomolny

February 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

### Alexander Bogomolny — CTK Insights

*Apart from CTK Insights, any places like other blogs, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc. we can find you on?*

My main and oldest site is Interactive Mathematics Miscellany and Puzzles. I can be found on facebook, twitter, and under my own name – Alexander Bogomolny – on Google+.

*Would you tell us a little bit about yourself? E.g., Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?*

I was born in Moscow, USSR; graduated from the Moscow State University with M.S. in Mathematics. My Math Ph.D. is from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I taught college math for many years, been tenured at the University of Iowa, but eventually decided to move into consulting.

*When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?*

The CTK Insights is in fact an after-thought. I started my web site in 1996, wrote my first JavaScript game in 1997, but then switched to Java. Blogs appeared much later. Blogs have an added facility that allows visitors to leave comments. I began blogging probably 3 years ago. However, the blog could not substitute for a 3000 page web site; I had to maintain both. Past year I have discovered software from Discus.com which to all intents and purposes converts a web site to a blog. Since then I am hard pressed to split the material between the site and the blog.

**What is the story behind the name of your blog?**

At the time I started the web site I lived at 1 Alexander Road. Being an Alexander, the association was always on my mind. I started the site with the idea of collecting interesting and beautiful mathematics – something that children do not necessarily see within our educational system.

I am very little – if at all – concerned with the quality of the educational system as it is now and as it has been as long as we care to remember. I do not believe that all children should receive more or less same education, or that algebra or geometry should be a prerequisite for graduation. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that forced studying of mathematics does any good to students’ mind. (There is a myth that math improves student’s logical abilities – it may be in some, it is a drag on many others.) I believe that the system needs a radical change. The kind of change that may be needed can be illustrated by the legend of Alexander the Great who, when offered to untie the Gordian knot, produced a sword and cut the knot into two. Cut-the-knot is a shadow of those musings.

*What do you write about?*

Math, math problems, math books, math education.

*What wouldn’t have happened to you without the internet?*

In the aftermath of the hurricane Sandy, we lived 13 days without power, i.e., no light, no TV, no internet, no mail, no news, etc. We cuddled more than usual and spent more time together as a family, but dearly felt the missing links to the outside world. Internet became part of our life pattern, and – for me – a regular workplace. Without the internet I would probably stay a math professor.

*What does the internet need more of?*

I never stopped to consider this question. I see how briskly entrepreneurship thrives on, and for, the internet and web, and feel that it is best to let it evolve on its own.

*Mathematicians on the web have…*

an extra (and a multifaceted at that) channel of communication. It’s a rich way to share knowledge and reach new audiences.

*Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):*

Jerusalem Post, Fox News, whatever news are gathered for me on my tablet by pulse.com (io9, Huffington Post, CNN, MathOverflow, many more), then also facebook, twitter, Google+.

Mathblogging.org — The Blog by mathblogging.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.mathblogging.org.

## Mathematical Instruments: Nassif Ghoussoub

February 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

### Nassif Ghoussoub — Piece of Mind

*Apart from “Piece of Mind”, any places like other blogs, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc. we can find you on?*

I do also Twitter but nothing else. I have another “UBC Board of Governors” blog connected to the University Housing Action Plan. It is now dormant, as the plan has passed. It is now waiting for another issue to pop up.

*Would you tell us a little bit about yourself? E.g., Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?*

I seem to be from “everywhere”. Born in Africa, raised in the Middle East (Lebanon), Graduate studies in Paris, Postdoctoral work in the US and now at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (for 3 decades). I work on nonlinear analysis and PDEs. I have been a vocal advocate for the mathematical sciences, working at building (intellectual) capacity: PIMS (1995), MITACS (1998), BIRS (2003), Mprime (2011)

*When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?*

I can’t really remember. I do recall however, seeing Isabella Laba’s blog, “The accidental mathematician”, and was impressed by how much her blog allows her to discuss substantive issues that she cannot discuss elsewhere and for which there is no real forum (She is my colleague and I know).

*What is the story behind the name of your blog?*

Well, I am somewhat known as (and often chastised for being) a person who speaks “his mind”. Plus, I think I was subconsciously aware of the new branding exercise at my home university, “UBC-A Place of Mind.”

*When did you start blogging? Why did you start? What do you write about?*

I happen to represent the Faculty on the Board of Governors at UBC, and I had been scratching my head on how best to relay to my colleagues information about Board issues that concern them, and on how to get their input. And one day in November 2010, as I was lying bored in bed with a nasty flu, I started typing on my laptop, and I haven’t stopped since.

*What wouldn’t have happened to you without the Internet?*

That’s a great question, because I really believe that none of my contributions to “building capacity” would have been possible without the Internet. PIMS and MITACS are both distributed institutions with many universities involved. I don’t know how scientists and staff could have coordinated and collaborated without the Internet. All my advocacy effort would have been unimaginable without it. Remember that we are many thousands of miles away from Ottawa!

*What does the Internet need more of?*

We need more mathematicians blogging, tweeting etc…our community is still relatively not well represented in the blogosphere, in spite of the list of blogs that you so rightly display and advertise.

*Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):*

I am a news/information junky, albeit scientific, science policy, political, social, etc., … Reading the links that I receive through my twitter account is already a full-time job.

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## Mathematical Instruments: Elissa Miller

February 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

### Elissa Miller — Misscalcul8

*Apart from misscalcul8, any places like other blogs, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc. we can find you on?*

You can find me on Twitter.

I am coming from a tiny school in a tiny town in Illinois. This year my mantra is to be less talkative which means I’m looking for ways to increase interaction and conversation between students. I am constantly looking for ways to teach things from a conceptual viewpoint. One aspect of that is giving students the opportunity to discover and recognize patterns on their own rather than merely presenting information. My background is a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics Education.

*When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?*

I discovered blogs about 6 months before my teaching career began. I was working as a substitute teacher and one day I was assigned to work in the library. There was literally

nothing to do and so I just started googling math teaching stuff and I stumbled on my first mathematical blog (www.samjshah.com) and have been hooked ever since.

*What is the story behind the name of your blog?*

The story actually comes from the second blog I ever read (http://function-of-time.blogspot.com/) written by Kate Nowak. Her twitter name is @k8nowak and so I started thinking of other ways to use the number 8 inside of a mathematical word. My cousins used to call me Miss Liss when I was younger because they knew that I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. It just kind of came together and my bloggy was born.

*When did you start blogging?*

I started blogging in February of 2009 as a substitute teacher. I wanted so badly to fit in but I really didn’t have anything to say yet- I wasn’t even in the classroom. And so there follows about 6 months of blogging small talk and other nonsense.

*Why did you start?*

I have a very analytical mind by nature and I love to question why things happen or why they don’t. I loved reading other teachers’ blogs and I just knew that eventually I would have a lot to contribute. I started out slowly blogging about what I knew- as I learned more, the quality of the blogging vastly increased.

*What do you write about?*

I started out writing mostly about feelings and situations, venting, bragging, and questioning. I loved to pose questions that I was facing and get feedback from a variety of teachers with a variety of backgrounds. My blog started to really head in that direction for the next few years. In the last nine months or so I feel like I’m no longer trying to survive my job but that I have a solid grasp on what I’m doing and that I can now contribute lesson ideas and resources. I hope that that is reflected in my blog- a place where teachers can come to find ideas and resources from a real live teacher.

*What wouldn’t have happened to you without the internet?*

I could not be a teacher without the internet. My entire first year of teaching was due solely to resources from the Internet. Teaching at a tiny school means there is no one to collaborate with and no planned curriculum. I was handed a textbook and that’s it. Through twitter and math blogging I found a wealth of resources- an entire support group-that accelerated my teaching ability more in four years than in twenty years without them. Emotionally they have provided me with encouragement and direction. Professionally they have provided me with resources, feedback, suggestions, and critiques. Personally they have offered their friendship. Without them I could not have made it- and would not have made it. With them, I excel at my job and enjoy doing it.

*What does the internet need more of?*

The internet needs more teachers of all content areas who are willing to share their knowledge and resources. People who are willing to be honest and open.

*Mathematicians on the web have…*

…a monopoly on the best professional development and professional learning network on the Internet.

*Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):*

To check my daily reading you would have to check my page at http://www.misscalculate.blogspot.com/p/blogroll.html because there are entirely too many amazing blogs to even start naming them.

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