Non-Euclidean Doom, where the value of pi is not 3.14159

Weirdly beautiful. Wonderful bit of game history exploring why the code for the 1993 game Doom uses a slightly wrong value for pi (the programmer recalls that he misremembered the 10th digit), and a bizarre exploration of what happens to the gameplay when you deliberately change pi to different values. We all know that the…

Shakespeare-themed Math Puzzles

I didn’t know I had a Shakespeare-themed-match itch to scratch. 1. Hours and hours How many hours are there in a week? And when you’ve worked it out, can you now figure out how Shakespeare expressed that number in words? He did it using only 15 letters, true to his line “Brevity is the soul…

Pythagorean Theorem Found On Clay Tablet 1,000 Years Older Than Pythagoras

Translating the markings from base 60 – the counting system used by ancient Babylonians – showed that these ancient mathematicians were aware of the Pythagorean theorem (not called that, of course) as well as other advanced mathematical concepts. “The conclusion is inescapable. The Babylonians knew the relation between the length of the diagonal of a square and…

Fun with Geometry — Biological and Theoretical

For some reason today I was thinking of the 3D shape scientists recently discovered in our cells — I had to look it up just now to refresh my memory. Not being an expert in geometry, I would describe the “scutoid” as an irregular prism-like shape with a hexagon on one end and a pentagon…

Mathematics professor Robert Talbot reports on his ongoing experiment with ungrading — giving feedback and emphasizing the students’ metacognition, rather than encouraging them to fixate on “marks.” (Students who are less equipped to self-evaluate might actually benefit from the clear signposting provided by grades, so in his experience, removing grading from education does not magically…

“We hate math,” says 4 in 10 – a majority of Americans

If 30% love math, and 30% are neutral about math, then the 40% that hate it could be the largest group, hence the majority. If so, then the headline might actually be brilliant. EDIT: Or not. A “majority” means “more than half.” The word I was thinking of is “plurality.” For the record, editors often…

Big Calculator: How Texas Instruments Monopolized Math Class

My math education predated the widespread use of graphing calculators. I remember writing my own BASIC programs to graph simple functions, but that was in a summer school programming class during middle school, not part of my high school curriculum. I’m amazed these old calculators cost this much. Bulky and black, with large, colorful push…

The history of Tetris randomizers

A pleasantly detailed analysis of how the various editions of Tetris chose what piece was next. In 1985, Alexey Pajitnov and Vadim Gerasimov released Tetris to the public. This fun and highly addictive game challenged players to fit pieces together that were dealt in a random order. Since then, over 150 licensed versions of Tetris games have…

One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings

Every Friday since Columbine, one schoolteacher has asked her students to to submit a list. Who would they like to sit next to next week? Who has been an exceptional classroom citizen this week? Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s…

Sorry, Wrong Number

Numerical errors usually occur for one of these five reasons: A journalist mishears a correct number given to them by a source and fails to double-check it. A source unwittingly provides a mistaken piece of information and the journalist fails to verify it. A source deliberately fudges the numbers and the journalist fails to verify…

Journalism by the Numbers (a pedagogical play in one scene) #math

(Lights up on a college journalism classroom. The professor enters, surveys the room.) Professor: Math! Students: (Shocked reaction.) Professor: Math!! Students: (Scattered cries of “No!”) Professor: MATH!!! Students: NO!!!   (Blackout.)   (40 minutes later.)   Professor: So, at the very least when you encounter numbers in your reporting, contact sources who can help you…

What Khan Academy’s Fun, Free Learning Empire Has to Do with Dystopian Social Control

Over the Christmas break, I’ve been churning through Khan Academy math drills, so that I can be a more effective homeschool parent. It’s actually kind of fun watching my score go up, and earning badges. In the way that birds who are trained to peck buttons for food think it’s fun to peck their little beaks bloody. As a grad student ploughing through…

How to Lie with Data Visualization

Data visualization is one of the most important tools we have to analyze data. But it’s just as easy to mislead as it is to educate using charts and graphs. In this article we’ll take a look at 3 of the most common ways in which visualizations can be misleading. —Heap Data Blog.

The Value of Failure

Upon reading that recent message from my inbox, I wanted to shout out “let your child fail.” The shouting was not due to frustration, rather to be sure that my voice was heard by many. And when I say fail, I mean fall. Let them fall. How can we learn to get back up if…

Students say “math class is stupid and boring,” and they are right. –Mathematician Paul Lockhart

I am working on some conference papers that touch on coding as a liberal art. While reviewing classics, like Stephenson’s In the Beginning Was the Command Line and Knuth’s approach to “Literate Programming,” From the insightful and quirky “A Mathematician’s Lament,” by Paul Lockhart. A musician wakes from a terrible nightmare. In his dream he…

Surprise! ‘Star Trek’ gold shirts more deadly than red shirts

Fascinating. Barsalou then goes all math geek and applies to the data the Bayes’ Theorem formula for calculating conditional probabilities. After a little mathematical shake and bake, he determines there is a 61.9 percent chance that any given casualty is wearing a red shirt. That still sounds high, but it’s not really once you consider…

Journalist math fail: “New pay-per-mile scheme would boost taxes 250 percent”

Hold on… An on-again, off-again move by the Obama administration to scrap the federal gas tax in favor of a pay-per-mile fee would boost the tab to Americans as high as 250 percent, raising their current tax of 18.4 cents a gallon to as high as 46 cents, according to a new government study. —New…