As readers of this blog can probably guess, I’m very interested in math education. I teach undergraduate math and I’m always on the lookout for a fresh perspective. One such is the blog Math With Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin.
As the name suggests, it’s kind of hard to describe this blog with words. Each post is illustrated with photos of a whiteboard with really crude drawings (stick figures with giant heads and cartoon text bubbles) but together with the content it somehow becomes something quite sublime.
For example, his latest post is The Calculus of History, a contemplation on what sort of paper he’d assign to his calculus class. It begins with this line:
Forget the history of calculus. Write me a paper on the calculus of history.
Orlin then goes on a wonderful journey of pondering the implications of viewing history through a mathematical lens. Consider history as an integral, an infinite series, a solution to an enormous set of partial differential equations. It’s not a long piece but it’s poetry.
Not all posts are this philosophical. Some are downright funny. Consider The New Math Teacher (hint: he’s a TeleTubbie whose stomach plays Khan Academy videos), A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems (not to mention cookies into corollaries) and The Argue-About-Anything Club. He mixes these in with insights from his teaching experiences.
One in particular I love is 39 Ways to Love Math. Orlin went to a recent mathematics conference in Baltimore and put out papers, markers and the following invitation:
In one sheet of paper, capture why you love math.
Then he posted the results, creating a truly charming read as all of these very smart people try to communicate through words, pictures and sometimes equations their passion for mathematics.
So go over there and give his blog a read. Tell him I sent you. (He has no idea who I am, but I’m trying to start a thing.)