Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I have received a few holiday gifts I'd like to share with you:

1) A beautiful video from Ken Fan at Girls Angle

The program Ken used to make the video above is a free open source 3D creation suite you can use too. Available at www.blender.org

2) A pointer from Melissa Smith of the Ithaca Math Circle to a great article by Nate and Sam Cornell. Nate is a psychologist at Williams College and Sam is a writer in San Francisco. Their article really accorded with decades of experience for me as a lifelong educator who continues to love her own learning challenges.

Here is a link to the article:
A Really Hard Test Really Helps Learning: Challenging tests and falling short may be hard on the ego, but they can do more than mere studying for eventually getting it right

Here's an excerpt that especially struck Melissa and resonated well with me also:

Both studies independently indicate a striking fact. We tend to assume that the best way to consume and remember information is through the application of rigorous, extended study. What we fail to see, however, is that the process of trying to work through a problem to which we don’t know the answer focuses our attention on it in a way that simply studying it does not. The desire to get the answer right, and the frustration of failure, is partly to account.

But there’s another element as well. When we struggle to learn something, and fail, the moment we finally get the answer it imprints itself more deeply on our mind than it would have had struggle and failure not preceded it.

3) Excellent advice from mathematician Lillian Pierce, currently at the Institute for Advanced Study: Try again! Fail again! Fail better!

4) A random factaroony from Number Gossip: 2011 is the first odious prime number we've had since 1999. For more about "odious" and "evil" numbers, see here.

5) And one last present (especially nice during those bleak and gloomy times when it feels like winter may never end ... or when it feels that a problem may never get solved.) A hat tip to the Metroplex Math Circle for calling my attention to this enchanting video. Double-click on the video for a bigger view to see the whole picture.

For more about the mathematics behind this video, see this website.

And remember ... just as sometimes the most unpromising-looking larvae can turn into the most exquisite and magical dragonflies, so too can the most hopeless looking math problems turn into the most awesome aha! experiences.

May 2011 be filled with many wonderful problems and discoveries! And many wonderful mathematical friends with whom to share them!

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