Liked a tweet by Laura GibbsLaura Gibbs (Twitter)

👓 Limits, schlimits: It’s time to rethink how we teach calculus | Ars Technica

Read Limits, schlimits: It’s time to rethink how we teach calculus by Jennifer OuletteJennifer Oulette (Ars Technica)
Ars chats with math teacher Ben Orlin about his book Change Is the Only Constant.

Finally, I decided to build it around all my favorite stories that touched on calculus, stories that get passed around in the faculty lounge, or the things that the professor mentions off-hand during a lecture. I realized that all those little bits of folklore tapped into something that really excited me about calculus. They have a time-tested quality to them where they’ve been told and retold, like an old folk song that has been sharpened over time.

And this is roughly how memory and teaching has always worked. Stories and repetition.
–November 11, 2019 at 09:56AM

👓 Cracking pass codes with De Bruijn sequences | John D. Cook

Read Cracking pass codes with De Bruijn sequences by John D. Cook (
Suppose you have a keypad that will unlock a door as soon as it sees a specified sequence of four digits. There’s no “enter” key to mark the end of a four-digit sequence, so the four digits could come at any time, though they have to be sequential. So, for example, if the pass code is 9235, if you started entering 1139235… the lock would open as soon as you enter the 5. How long would it take to attack such a lock by brute force? There are 104 possible 4-digit codes, so you could enter 000000010002…99989999 until the lock opens, but there’s a more efficient way. It’s still brute force, but not quite as brute.

An interesting serendipitous read just as I’m coincidentally doing some other combinatorial work relating to Polya and De Bruijn.

👓 More on attacking combination locks | John D. Cook

Read More on attacking combination locks by John D. Cook (
A couple weeks ago I wrote about how De Bruijn sequences can be used to attack locks where there is no “enter” key, i.e. the lock will open once the right symbols have been entered. Here’s a variation on this theme: what about locks that let you press more than one button at a time?

Originally bookarked on November 06, 2019 at 12:08PM

👓 Don’t just Google it! First, let’s talk! | Jon Udell

Read Don’t just Google it! First, let’s talk! by Jon UdellJon Udell (Jon Udell)
Asking questions in conversation has become problematic. For example, try saying this out loud: “I wonder when Martin Luther King was born?” If you ask that online, a likely response is: “Just Google it!” Maybe with a snarky link: was martin luther king born? https:...

I love the idea of this… It’s very similar to helping to teach young children how to attack and solve problems in mathematics rather than simply saying follow this algorithm.

Replied to a tweet by Frivolous AxiomFrivolous Axiom (Twitter)

When you’re back and settled, I’d love to get together for coffee to discuss Domains 2019 and math. I couldn’t make it but caught big chunks remotely. I’m nearby in the Pasadena area and happy to come to you if necessary.

👓 Applied Category Theory Meeting at UCR | John Carlos Baez

Read Applied Category Theory Meeting at UCR by John Carlos Baez (Azimuth)
The American Mathematical Society is having their Fall Western meeting here at U. C. Riverside during the weekend of November 9th and 10th, 2019. Joe Moeller and I are organizing a session on App…

👓 Track changes with latexdiff | TeXBlog

Read Track changes with latexdiff (texblog)
Track changes is a popular tool in Word. If you are looking for something similar for LaTeX latexdiff is the answer. For example if you are an academic researcher submitting papers to journals, you…

This looks cool. I should play around with it a bit.

🔖 Yet Another Introductory Number Theory Textbook (Cryptology Emphasis Version)

Bookmarked Yet Another Introductory Number Theory Textbook (Cryptology Emphasis Version) by Jonathan A. Poritz (

Preface This is a first draft of a free (as in speech, not as in beer) (although it is free as in beer as well) undergraduate number theory textbook. It was used for Math 319 at Colorado State University – Pueblo in the spring semester of 2014. Thanks are hereby offered to the students in that class — Megan Bissell, Tennille Candelaria, Ariana Carlyle, Michael Degraw, Daniel Fisher, Aaron Griffin, Lindsay Harder, Graham Harper, Helen Huang, Daniel Nichols, and Arika Waldrep — who offered many useful suggestions and found numerous typos. I am also grateful to the students in my Math 242 Introduction to Mathematical Programming class in that same spring semester of 2014 — Stephen Ciruli, Jamen Cox, Graham Harper, Joel Kienitz, Matthew Klamm, Christopher Martin, Corey Sullinger, James Todd, and Shelby Whalen — whose various programming projects produced code that I adapted to make some of the figures and examples in the text.

The author gratefully acknowledges the work An Introductory Course in Elementary Number Theory by Wissam Raji [see] from which this was initially adapted. Raji's text was released under the Creative Commons CC BY 3.0 license, see This work is instead released under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license, see (The difference is that if you build future works off of this one, you must also release your derivative works with a license that allows further remixes over which you have no control.)

  • Available for download and remix, under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 licence. First used for Math 319: Number Theory at Colorado State University-Pueblo in the spring of 2014.
  • pdf — 864K
  • source code can be found here
  • You can buy a physical copy, if that's your thing, from the on-demand printing service Lulu at this link for $6 (plus shipping and handling). [I make 61¢ profit for each such sale: I'm happy to reimburse you that amount if you will personally contact me.]


Hat tip:

🔖 How a Swiss-based mathematician helped lift the lid on the Facebook data scandal |

Bookmarked How a Swiss-based mathematician helped lift the lid on the Facebook data scandal (
They are lying, says Paul-Olivier Dehaye. They are all lying: Facebook, Tinder and Uber.

Hat tip:

Read The Funniest Math Joke by Evelyn Lamb (Scientific American | Roots of Unity)
No disrespect to "why was six afraid of seven," but "base 10" is the funniest math joke.

I get it, but I’m not getting it. There’s nothing funny about it to me, or I’m completely missing it. 7,8,9 on the other hand is still stupidly hilarious.

🎧 Steven Strogatz Bonus – What to Do When Things Keep Changing! | Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda

Listened to Steven Strogatz Bonus - What to Do When Things Keep Changing! by Alan Alda from Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda

Alan Alda wanted to get off the island quickly. Steven Strogatz explains how an 18th century British clergyman could have helped. In this short bonus episode, Steven helps Alan understand something that he’s wondered about for years.

Quadrilateral equation?? Did he mean the Pythagorean theorem?

There’s a reasonable basic discussion of Bayesian statistics here.

🎧 Steven Strogatz Says You Can Understand Math | Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda

Listened to Steven Strogatz Says You Can Understand Math by Alan Alda from Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda

Steven Strogatz possesses a special ability to see into the unseen. How does he do it? Steve is a world class mathematician, who sees through the window of math. But, lucky for us, he’s also a world class communicator. An award-winning professor, researcher, author, and creative thinker, Steve can help anyone (even Alan Alda) understand some of the unseen world of numbers. In this episode, Alan and Steven start from zero, not the number, but from a place of not knowing anything. He emerges from the darkness for a moment as Steve actually gets Alan to understand something that’s always mystified him. Steven's latest book, "Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe," is now available online and at all major book sellers.

While doing a good job of warming people up to math there was still a little bit too much “math is hard” or “math is impenetrable” discussion in the opening here. We need to get away from continuing the myth that math is “hard”. The stories we tell are crucially important here. I do like the fact that Alan Alda talks about how he’s been fascinated with it and has never given up. I’m also intrigued at Strogatz’ discussion of puzzling things out as a means of teaching math–a viewpoint I’ve always felt was important. It’s this sense of exploration that has driven math discovery for centuries and not the theorem-proof, theorem-proof structure of math text books that moves us forward.

I’ve always thought that Euler and Cauchy have their names on so many theorems simply because they did a lot of simple, basic exploration at a time when there was a lot of low hanging mathematical fruit to be gathered. Too many math books and teachers mythologize these men for what seems like magic, yet when taught to explore the same way even young children can figure out many of these same theorems for themselves.

If we could only teach the “how to do math” while children are young and then only move to the theorem-proof business later on as a means of quickly advancing through a lot of history and background so that students can get to the frontiers of math to begin doing their own explorations on their own again we would be far better off. Though along that path we should always have at least some emphasis on the doing of math and discovery to keep it at the fore.

👓 Nation’s Math Professors Announce Plans To Continue Wearing Chinos With Running Shoes Indefinitely | The Onion

Read Nation’s Math Professors Announce Plans To Continue Wearing Chinos With Running Shoes Indefinitely (The Onion)
QUINCY, MA—Confirming that they have no intention of modifying the traditional uniform of their profession at any point in the foreseeable future, mathematics professors from across the country joined their voices Monday to reaffirm their commitment to wearing chinos with running shoes. “We believe that this singular look has really been working for us for the past few decades, allowing as always for slight variations such as the presence or absence of pleats and the availability of slightly different varieties of white Reebok footwear, and we have decided to formally recommit to this outfit for as long as our profession continues to exist,” said Boston University vector analysis professor Paul Slavish, explaining that the pairing of khakis with cross trainers had become the symbol of his profession, as it offered a perfect combination of professionalism, approachability, and the comfort vital for on-campus life. “We acknowledge that our sneakers, while technically advanced, will never be used for actual running; our pants, while relatively clean, will never actually be ironed; and that this lower ensemble will always be paired with either a dress shirt two sizes too large or a sweat-wicking polo shirt that has never—and will never—wick away the sweat of exercise. Never shall we stray from this sacred combination, which proclaims at a glance that we are casual, unfussy people who happen to be very serious about mathematics. Plus, check out all these side pockets!” Slavish also confirmed that certain professors would occasionally wear a wacky necktie printed with mathematical symbols, but that this would occur at a maximum of three days per semester.