Mathematical Instruments: Haggis the Sheep

December 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Haggis the Sheep

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places we can find you on (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc)?

1) Knot your average sheep…
2) What’s on my blackboard?
I’m on Twitter as @haggismaths.

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

I live in Edinburgh with my partner-in-crime Julia Collins, who is the Maths Engagement Officer at the Edinburgh University maths department. We finished our PhD in Knot Theory last May and now spend most of our time doing science communication (public lectures, science festivals, school talks, art-science things) and research communication (i.e. telling the world about the great research going on at Edinburgh). Julia also does some undergraduate lecturing and I often make her put sheep-related questions in her problem sheets. 🙂

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

I’m not sure how to answer this question.

When did you start blogging?

According to WordPress:
1) 25th May 2009
2) 21st June 2011

Why did you start?

1) I wanted to have a place where I could tell people about all the cool maths I learnt, the lovely mathsy people I met, ideas I had for maths communication and interesting places that I travelled to. One of my first posts was a rant about how one of the curators at the National Museum of Scotland told me that maths was boring, but usually my posts are more full of happiness than angriness.

2) Working in a maths department I’ve come to take it for granted that every day I will see blackboards filled with incomprehensible symbols, beautiful pictures and strange words. One day, after seeing a particularly nice picture on the board in my office, I decided that it was about time to share these works of art with the rest of the world!

What do you write about?

1) See previous answer! I write about any sort of interesting experience of seeing, hearing, doing or communicating maths. Often it’s about events I set up myself, such as the Edinburgh Mathsjam, school talks, science festivals or crafty workshops, but sometimes it’s about maths I see on TV or places I’ve travelled with unexpected maths (e.g. the Vatican in Rome). I’m open to suggestions on things to write about!

2) I post up photos of interesting black/whiteboards, sometimes taken by me around the Edinburgh maths department and sometimes sent in by people around the world. Underneath each picture I write a short caption of what the maths is about or a story behind the board itself. If you have a blackboard photo, please send it in to me! It doesn’t have to be a beautiful work of art – it can be a total mess of scribbles, so long as it means something interesting to you!

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

Without the internet, I doubt I would get recognised by random people I’ve never met before. That’s not bad going for a stuffed sheep. More seriously, there are a lot of great events happening to promote maths which I wouldn’t have heard of or been able to get involved with, and a huge number of wonderful maths enthusiasts I’d never have met. For example, the MathsJam community is very much held together by Twitter where we share our favourite puzzles and games every month.

What does the internet need more of?

People leaving comments on blogs. Seriously, I get over 100 views every day, and maybe 2 comments per blog post if I’m lucky. Say something, people!

Mathematicians on the web have…

Not enough of a presence. Whilst there is a good community of people promoting maths and science, I think there are not enough maths researchers out there who are willing to talk about what they’re working on or how it feels to be a mathematician. I know that research-level maths can often be very hard to explain, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

I love the web comics xkcd, Abstruse Goose and PhD Comics. I check up on the BBC News website a few times a day. Twitter – far too often! Richard Wiseman does a weekly puzzle (on Fridays) which are often worth a look. And the Aperiodical is a great new blog for keeping up to date with maths news and interesting articles. But mostly my web reading consists of whatever Twitter points me to!

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Mathematical Instruments: Guillermo Bautista

December 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Guillermo Bautista — Math&Multimedia and many more

Any places like Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc. we can find you on?

My main Twitter account is @jr_bautista. I have also several blogs and every blog has its own Twitter account. I am also 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 am from the Philippines. I have a BS in Computer Science and an M.A in Mathematics. I work at the UP NISMED at University of the Philippines (Diliman Campus). UP NISMED is involved in teacher trainings, curriculum materials development, and educational research. I specialize on the integration of technology in teaching mathematics.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

I know about mathematical blogs since 2003 I think.

When did you start blogging?

I think I started in 2003 when I was in the undergraduate. I had a blog in Friendster but it was not really a math blog. It was a blog with miscellany of topics and several math posts.

Why did you start?

I just want to write about my thoughts and share it with my friends.

What do you write about?

I write about school mathematics and technology in my Mathematics and Multimedia blog. I  also write about math appreciation in The Mathematical Palette. I explain mathematical proofs in Proofs from the Book.

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

Well, I would have wasted a lot of time and I wouldn’t have learned this much.

What does the internet need more of?

People who comment responsibly on controversial issues.

Mathematicians on the web have…

opened opportunities to a lot of non-technical people.

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

I read Yahoo News, Science Daily, Reader’s Digest, Twitter, and Facebook Feeds.

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Mathematical Instruments: Peter Rowlett

November 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Peter Rowlett — Travels in a Mathematical World

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places we can find you on (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc)?

My own blog is Travels in a Mathematical World. I also contribute to blogs at The Aperiodical, Second-Rate Minds and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications’ blog “IMAMATHSBLOGGER” (see what they did there?).

I am on Twitter as @peterrowlett. I’m on Google+ too (though I use that much less frequently). I don’t have a Facebook account. You can also find me as one half of the Math/Maths Podcast.

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

I’m from Nottingham in the UK and still live there. I grew up in a village in Nottinghamshire and took a mathematics degree at the University of Nottingham. Since graduating I’ve taken a Masters in computing and worked in various maths/stats education jobs. I’m very interested in the challenge of helping people understand something new about mathematics, whether this is teaching or ‘outreach’ (writing or talking), and aspire to be a lecturer.

When did you start blogging?

February 2008.

Why did you start?

I had started working for the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the UK professional body for mathematicians. My job was to travel around the UK talking to university students about mathematics and their careers. As a member-led organisation, I felt it was important that the members are able to find out about what I was doing, if they choose to, and blogging seemed to be a natural way to do this.

What do you write about?

Many of the early posts tracked my travels around the UK for the IMA, either talking about places I’d been or things that had happened to me. After a while I started releasing a podcast, also called Travels in a Mathematical World, and the blog held the shownotes for this. My ‘travels’ were always both literal and metaphorical, but latterly they have been more often the latter as I no longer work for the IMA, with posts about neat things I’ve seen online and stuff I’ve been thinking about.

Since April, Travels in a Mathematical World has become my ‘column’ on The Aperiodical. The Aperiodical aims to be a meeting-place for people who already know they like maths and would like to know more. We publish various columns, features, video and news. I have been contributing to The Aperiodical news feed, with short items covering news of interest to the mathematically-minded.

Second-Rate Minds is a kind of blogging experiment/practice for Samuel Hansen and I. We take turns to write a post that the other edits before it goes live. I’m afraid the posts aren’t as frequent there as I would like and it’s entirely my fault as I so rarely find time to write anything or edit what Samuel has written. We had a popular few posts and this puts the pressure on to write something excellent, rather than just messing around! We try to stick to a tight word limit because we think this is good practice. Theoretically, I’ve experimented with a piece giving a puzzle that’s useful for education, an opinion piece that I thought would get people going but really hasn’t, a same-day write-up of a press release and a short historical account.

Finally, I contribute to the IMA members’ blog IMAMATHSBLOGGER. This is still finding its feet but it has a list of contributors who write about things that may interest IMA members. I wrote a sort-of ramble through numerology and several posts giving brief accounts of IMA East Midlands Branch talks I had attended (the trick, of course, is to say something interesting without giving too much away – I don’t want to spoil the speaker’s talk!).

Mathematicians on the web have…

Plenty to read? I’m amazed by the volume of content that goes through the Mathblogging.org index page every day. I’d love to say I aspire to reading it all but really, there’s no way I’ll have time to catch up! And yet I meet mathematicians in the real world who are barely aware that mathematicians blog at all. Astonishing!

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

I really have very little time to regularly read anything. I keep an eye on Twitter and daily read one or more articles that people have posted, and I try to keep an eye on the news for The Aperiodical and Math/Maths through Twitter and a series of searches. I generally keep up with xkcd, though often in fits of two weeks at a time. I certainly try to read everything that goes through The Aperiodical, the writing Samuel puts on ACMEScience and Edmund Harriss’ Maxwell’s Demon. Inevitably, though, I fail to keep up. I like what Michael Lugo is doing with God plays dice and what Tony Mann is doing with Tony’s Maths. I’ve been trying to keep up with Keith Devlin’s MOOC experiment.

I read the most when I host a Carnival of Mathematics (new volunteer hosts welcome!). People send you their favourite blog posts and you have a decent excuse to take some time reading them!

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Mathematical Instruments: Peter Cameron’s Blog

November 24, 2012 § 2 Comments

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Peter Cameron

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc) we can find you on?

The blog is unimaginatively named “Peter Cameron’s Blog“, but I use the name Cameron Counts, taken from a novel by Richard Brautigan, “The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western”, one of whose heroes was called Cameron. His trademark was counting things.

I don’t do Twitter etc.; I am on Facebook only because I wanted to comment on something and found I had to join and then couldn’t unjoin. I never go there! I am a bit of a technophobe really: at my age, I don’t have to apologise for this. I do run another blog, qmdiscrete.wordpress.com, for the Centre for Discrete Mathematics at my university; and I have a personal web page which has some features of a blog (such as a “photo of the month” taken on one of my walks) at www.maths.qmul.ac.uk/~pjc.

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

I’m Australian, but moved to Britain when I was 21, and am still here at the age of 65. So I am a child of the 1960s, and have kept the liberal attitude that goes with that.

I have lived in East London for the last fifteen years, quite close to where I work. This is an excellent place to live: a vibrant urban community, and with excellent transport links for when I want to get away (as, for example, when the Olympic Games were on earlier this year).

I am the sort of mathematician who is not good at delving deep; I would rather find unexpected connections between apparently unrelated fields. One of my most cited papers connected up root systems (from the theory of Lie algebras) with graph spectra.

If you divide mathematicians into discrete and continuous (prickly or gooey, as Alan Watts said), I am definitely on the discrete side.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs? When did you start blogging? Why did you start?

I will answer these three questions together, since it is all the same story. A few years ago the London Mathematical Society was in the middle of a heated debate over whether to merge with the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. A group of mathematicians I respected were running a blog in support of one side of the debate; when things turned nasty and lawyers were called in, they (as officers of the society) had to take their hands off, and asked me to take over as an administrator of the blog. This was all entirely new to me, so I thought I would start up my own blog first, so I could make my mistakes in private. At that stage, I really had no idea what a blog was.

Of course, I found that it was quite addictive, and was a good way of letting off steam when the bosses had done something that really annoyed me, by having a public rant about it; so I have just kept going.

What do you write about?

More than half of what I write about is mathematics, mostly expository. If I discover a new piece of mathematics, I want to tell people about it; but I like to do expositions aimed at non-specialists, such as a series of a dozen posts about the symmetric groups. I find that these are among the most popular and long-lived of my posts; there is often one of the symmetric group series among my top ten.

As well as that, I write about the mechanics of teaching, the technology (one of my most popular posts was about how to use non-default LaTeX fonts in Beamer presentations), and the politics; and I am not averse to talking about my hobbies, such as walking, music, and poetry, from time to time.

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

Many things! One of the best things about the internet is that people I have never met, from all over the world, get in touch. Often these contacts result in meetings, joint papers, or invitations. But there are several people far away who have commented on my blog, and I regard as friends, as far as you can be friends with someone you haven’t met.

For example, the tagline on my blog, “Always busy counting, doubting every figured guess”, is the start of an abecedarian poem by JoAnne Growney; I get a warm feeling every time she posts a comment.

And there is no doubt that the internet makes mathematical collaboration much easier. I started research in the days when it was necessary to exchange letters with people in America or Australia; the letter would take a week or two and probably cross with one from my collaborator, so work was duplicated unnecessarily and everything went very slowly.

What does the internet need more of?

The problem with the internet is that content is growing faster than tools for dealing with it. Mathematicians need some permanence; our work doesn’t become obsolete for decades, maybe centuries if we are lucky. But if you search for a particular piece of content, recent papers tend to come up; they are maybe at the end of a long chain of citations from the one I am looking for.

Of course the search box will find anything on my blog, but how do you know what to look for? I have a table of contents which is meant to help fill this gap.

Mathematicians on the web have…

Most importantly, the arXiv. All the current debate about open-access and author-pays are largely irrelevant to mathematicians, since most recent papers I am looking for will be there.

It is a little hard to believe that in the early days of the web, not much more than 20 years ago, mathematicians were in the forefront of using it!

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

I have three sites I look at regularly:

  • Astronomy Picture of the Day (a feast for the eyes)
  • Diamond Geezer (a blogger who lives just down the road from me, and knows everything about what is going on in our part of London)
  • XKCD (another person I am sure I would get on with if we ever met)

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Mathematical Instruments: The Renaissance Mathematicus

November 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Thony Christie — The Renaissance Mathematicus

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc) we can find you on?

I blog at The Renaissance Mathematicus and am present on Twitter as @rmathematicus.

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

I’m an aging English freak who has now lived half of his life in Franconia in Germany. I have a lifelong passion for the history of science in general and the history of mathematics in particular. I originally studied archaeology, metallurgy and mathematics in Britain but dropped out after one year. I have extensive experience as a field archaeologist, theatre technician, sound technician and quite a few other things as well. In Germany I studied mathematics, philosophy, history, English philology and a couple of other things with an emphasis on the history and philosophy of science for 10+ years as a mature student but dropped out again shortly for completing my master’s degree! I spent 10 years working as a researcher in a project on the social (read external) history of formal logic, special area of research 19th century British logical algebras i.e. Boole & co.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

Maybe five or six years ago.

When did you start blogging?

I started blogging three years ago.

Why did you start?

Because somebody on whose blog I had written extensive comments and a couple of guest posts suggested it was about time that I started my own blog.

What do you write about?

I write mostly about the history of the mathematical sciences mostly in the period between about 1400 CE and 1800 CE but I have been known to deviate quite widely.

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

I wouldn’t have become part of a worldwide community of people interested in practicing and propagating the history of science and my life would have been considerably intellectually poorer as a result.

What does the Internet need more of?

No idea!

Mathematicians on the web have…

The chance to find and communicate with people from all over the world who share their interests.

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

Vast, wide, scattered and often very random.

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Mathematical Instruments: Keith Devlin

November 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Keith Devlin

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc) we can find you on?

I have three personal blogs: profkeithdevlin.org, mooctalk.org, devlinsangle.blogspot.com, and I also blog for The Huffington Post.

Twitter: @profkeithdevlin

I have a FB account but am not active on it.

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

Born and grew up in the UK, lived in US since 1987, US citizen since around 2000. BSc and PhD in mathematics, both from the UK. I’m a rationalist. I don’t state opinions for which i don’t have some fairly good supporting evidence.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

Natural progression soon after they began from my online column for the MAA, though it was some time before I started my own personal blog, profkeithdevlin.org

When did you start blogging?

The only meaningful answer is 1984, when I started to write a twice monthly column in The Guardian newspaper in the UK. The medium has changed since then, but I do the same thing.

Why did you start?

I was asked to by the Guardian, but they asked me after I sent them in an unsolicited article they liked. I sent in that article because I noticed they almost never covered mathematics in their weekly science section.

What do you write about?

Mathematics, pure and applied, educational uses of video games, technology, mathematics in society, mathematics education, and online education.

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

I would have done the same things, more or less.

What does the internet need more of?

Spam and malware control.

Mathematicians on the web have…

the potential to reach and connect meaningfully to a large number of people, even though it will be a small percentage of the total population.

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

Almost all my reading (and viewing) is on the Web: primarily news outlets.

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Mathematical Instruments: cp’s mathem-o-blog

November 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Christian Perfect: cp’s mathem-o-blog

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places we can find you on (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc)?

My blog’s name is “cp’s mathem-o-blog” or checkmyworking.com. I thought the domain name was very clever when I bought it but it doesn’t really work as a name for a blog. I also edit The Aperiodical and I’m on Twitter as @christianp.

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

I’m a postgrad mathematician from Newcastle upon Tyne in the north-east of England. My research is in group theory and computability, but I don’t do very much of it. I have Asperger’s syndrome, which probably explains a lot of my way of thinking.
I currently work in Newcastle University’s school of maths and stats as “e-learning officer”, which means I do lots of things to do with putting maths on the web for students and academics.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

I think the first mathematical blog I encountered was www.mathpuzzle.com (does that count as a blog?), during my undergrad. I hadn’t seen any recreational mathematics at school and I found my degree quite boring, so it gave me a lot of ideas about what I want to do with maths.

When did you start blogging?

When I started my PhD, in 2010.

Why did you start?

To make myself write down notes about my research in an intelligible form. Hence the domain name.

What do you write about?

Most of my posts on checkmyworking.com are either about Newcastle MathsJam, which I organise, exposition of puzzles or trivia I’ve encountered, or programmery stuff about putting maths on the web.
On The Aperiodical I collect interesting maths esoterica, do occasional round-ups of maths links I find, collect art with maths in it, and I find myself writing up an increasing number of dreary news stories.

What would have happened to you without the internet?

I’d know a lot less and I’d have a lot fewer friends, I suppose.

What does the internet need more of?

I don’t know if the internet needs anything. The question is really about what I’d like the internet to have, right?
Actually, The Aperiodical is my statement about what I want the internet to have more of. I’m happy to watch the world go by, though. I will waive this opportunity to ask for anything.

Mathematicians on the web have…

…got to see the prime-number pooing bear – http://alpha61.com/primenumbershittingbear/

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

Far too much to list usefully.
MetaFilter, Images des Mathématiques, NOTCOT.org, Google+ is great for watching real mathematicians talk, Slashdot (only the neckbeards are left! It’s tolerable now!) and lots and lots of Twitter. Turismo matemático is a lovely little blog that I think I might be the only person following.

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Mathematical Instruments: The Endeavour

October 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

John D. Cook — The Endeavour

Any places like Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc. we can find you on?

I have a personal Twitter account, @JohnDCook, and I have a dozen Twitter accounts where I schedule daily tips on various topics, mostly related to math and computing. There’s a list here: http://www.johndcook.com/twitter/.

I’m also on Google+.

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

I live in Houston, Texas. I did a PhD in math at University of Texas, then a postdoc at Vanderbilt. After that I left academia and worked as a software developer for a few years. Now I’m working in biostatistics at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

It’s funny, but I don’t remember.

When did you start blogging?

January 2008.

What do you write about?

I write about math and computing the most, but I also write about other topics: creativity, books, coffee, anything I think other people might find interesting.

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

There are a lot of people I wouldn’t know, and a lot of ideas I would not have been exposed to. But I also might have had deeper friendships and been more focused. 🙂

What does the internet need more of?

People with patience and a sense of humor.

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

I subscribe to a lot of blogs, but most of them don’t post very often, so the mix changes. I enjoy reading “What’s New” from Terry Tao when I can understand it. “God plays dice” and “Division by Zero” are a couple good math blogs. Ribbonfarm is thought-provoking. Twenty two words is a lot of fun.

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Mathematical Instruments: Mr. Honner

October 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Mr. Honner — Patrick Honner

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places we can find you on (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc)?

MrHonner.com@MrHonner on twitter, +PatrickHonner on G+, Mr Honner on Facebook.

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

I’m a math teacher in Brooklyn, New York.  I teach at Brooklyn Technical High School (a “specialized” HS in NYC with around 5,000 students).  I teach Math Research, Single and Multivariable Calculus, and other courses.

I have a BS in Math, a BA in Philosophy, an MA in Math, and an M Ed in Math Education.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

I’m not sure it’s a “blog”, but Alexander Bogolmony’s “Cut the Knot” was one of the first math sites I used heavily, both for teaching and learning. I probably started stealing his stuff in the early 2000’s. Wolfram Mathworld was around back then, as well as the Math Forum.

When did you start blogging?

I started blogging in June, 2010.

Why did you start?

I wanted to explore blogging as a teaching and learning tool, and I figured I’d start by curating some of the wonderful mathematical content out there for my students. My hope was to extend our mathematical conversation beyond the physical classroom and the daily schedule.

What do you write about?

I primarily write about my mathematical experiences. I encounter mathematics all the time in my life and I try to share those encounters with my students, other teachers, and other math enthusiasts.

I also post mathematical photography and occasionally share my thoughts and ideas about teaching and learning.

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

I probably would have traveled less. I probably wouldn’t have been able to maintain so many good relationships throughout the years. I wouldn’t have learned as much, or as quickly. I wouldn’t have met such a wide variety of interesting and inspiring people.

What does the internet need more of?

Real conversation and real collaboration.

Mathematicians on the web have…

Greatly influenced me as a teacher and a mathematician. I routinely get great ideas to share with my students from the digital mathematics community, and it’s fun to observe and interact with working mathematicians and participate in their conversations.

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

Twitter
NYT
ESPN
CNN

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Mathematical Instruments: Katie Steckles

October 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Katie Steckles — The Aperiodical

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc) we can find you on?

I blog as part of the Aperiodical, a shared maths blogging outlet started by myself, Peter Rowlett and Christian Perfect. I’m on Twitter as @stecks, and also on G+ and FB. I’m terrifyingly easy to find on the internet.

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

I’m a maths communicator, which means I give talks about maths and perform at science festivals and basically anywhere people will pay me to come and do maths in front of a crowd. I started doing this during the latter stages of my pure maths PhD, which I finished last summer and have since been building up a freelance career. I believe maths is a fantastic subject and something people can really get a lot out of if they give it a fair chance. My work visiting schools is hopefully a way to help people realise it’s about more than the stuff you’re required to learn for your exams, and I try to take maths to places you wouldn’t expect to find it. Doing outreach is really rewarding but it’s not easy, as sometimes maths is seen as the horrible difficult boring subject (and don’t get me wrong, it can sometimes be all three) – there’s a problem with people’s general attitude and I’m hoping that will change, albeit slowly.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

As part of the stuff I’ve been doing I’ve found myself working with Peter Rowlett and other mathematical bloggers, and I love reading stuff that interests me so it’s a great thing. I know there’s far too much out there for me to read it all, and I partly regret not getting into it while an undergrad. I guess blogs weren’t so much of a thing back in those days (all of eight years ago!).

When did you start blogging?

I’ve had various blogs since I was young, on different topics – both personal and factual, and as I’m increasingly busy I found myself limited to one blog (which was mainly a round up of things I’d found online which interest me, and almost entirely comprised posts about robots and baking). I was asked by Peter and Christian if I was interested in joining a new thing they’d had an idea for, which at the time was slightly amorphous and was something to do with maths and the internet, which turned out to be the Aperiodical. I started writing posts there and making videos for it when the site was created, so maybe a few months ago, although we had our official launch on 25th April.

Why did you start?

I was intrigued by the idea of having a shared blogging outlet, as they’re both prolific maths bloggers and the idea was to also draw in other media such as video, and a regular feed of mathematical news posts, as well as inviting guest posts from other authors. Nothing quite like that already existed, and I was very excited to become part of it – we weren’t sure how much success we’d have, and we were realistic about the kind of audience we’d get. The launch was a huge success, and a couple of our posts have been mentioned/linked to elsewhere (not least on Radio 4, and on Hacker News, which has generated a huge amount of traffic). We get a fairly decent regular readership now, as well as having a bunch of people following on Twitter and via RSS, although who knows what will happen in the future.

What do you write about?

I tend to write posts about things I’ve found which I think people will find interesting, which could be anything from a toy or game to some nice application of maths I’ve seen. I also hope to make increasing numbers of videos, although time is a huge factor and we all have actual jobs, so it’s a wonder we have as much material on the site as we do! I write roundups of the monthly MathsJam event we have in Manchester, which I’m the organiser of, and occasionally persuade people to write guest posts. I also help with general editing and tweaking of the site. All the decisions we make are group decisions, so there’s a lot of emails flying around but it pretty much works.

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

The internet is an amazing and terrifying beast, and it’s bizarre to think that this time twenty years ago it was barely anything, and something nerds were playing with. Now, it’s such a big part of everything and it’s fantastic. Any information you could ever want is there. Not knowing something is no longer a valid excuse, ever, and it’s changed everything. It’s even on my phone now! I can look things up while waiting for a bus. And people are so much more connected – I have friends in Australia, and I’m kept more up-to-date with what they’re doing than my friends in the same city as me.

What does the internet need more of?

Politeness, courtesy, and thinking twice before you hit submit. I get quite riled up by the attitude that since it’s anonymous, anything goes. People can be rude and vicious and it’s completely unnecessary. Kids get bullied by their friends on Facebook, and they type things they’d never even dream of saying to their face. Not only that, but when something is typed, it’s so easy to misinterpret what you’re saying and even well-meant comments can become hurtful if the person’s not there to explain themselves. It’s a blunt instrument I guess, and not everyone sees the effect of what they’re doing.

Mathematicians on the web have…

… a fantastic way to communicate with each other and share things they love.

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

Twitter is amazing. I follow just enough people that I have time to read it all, and it nicely fills my spare time (waiting for buses and so on). I can’t make specific follow recommendations, as it’s a personal thing, but I do recommend trying new people sometimes, as they can surprise you. And follow people you disagree with! It’s great to keep you grounded. I also have a lot of RSS feeds, so I read things like Ben Goldacre, various Guardian columnists, Cake Wrecks (of course) and a blog called Futility Closet which posts some lovely linguistic and mathematical oddities. I also read a couple of webcomics – Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Buttersafe and XKCD. Also, even having been finished for almost a year now, PhD Comics never fails to raise a smile, with its witty take on the experience of working in research.

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