I’ve been helping put together some materials for a new class we’re tentatively calling “Math and Public Life”, organized around ten or so concepts from higher mathematics and how they relate to the way we think about life and each other. One of the themes I’m hoping to show is that often as our understanding … More Better than binary: four kinds of false dichotomy
For a future blog post, I’ve been thinking about how sometimes, when we have two alternatives, one is really a special or “limiting” case of the other, the way a square is just a special case of rectangle. I’m still working on that post, but meanwhile I’ve been distracted by thinking about other shapes that … More A Quadrilateral Venn Diagram
A frequent reader of this blog sent me a link to this video on Facebook, of a side-by-side comparison between a traditional method for doing multidigit multiplication (which is over very quickly) and a new “grid” method (which takes a long time to explain): She wanted to know why anyone would use the long, drawn-out … More New Math vs Old Math
If you’re considering making some change in your life — waking up at a different time, adopting a pet, starting a business — there are generally only two possibilities for the outcome: it will make your life better, or it will make your life worse. (Very rarely, it might make a net zero difference, but … More The Wheel of Outcomes
I remember when I first found out about racism as a child. I was astonished that people were mean to each other based on the color of their skin, and resolved that I would do something nice for a Black person every day (holding open a door, letting them go first if we arrived at … More The four quadrants of racism
This month Clara and I welcomed our first child, a daughter, into the world. She is unbelievably wonderful and it already feels like she’s been with us forever. Here are some thoughts on life with a newborn (sometimes, on life with this newborn specifically), in no particular order: When she cries, it’s often just sad … More Welcome to the world!
Minnesota has recently gone from its “Stay Home” order to a series of “Stay Safe” guidelines for which activities to reintroduce when. Here’s an example graphic posted by our governor last week: This type of advice puts each activity at any given time into one of two buckets: “Allowed” or “Not allowed.” And that makes … More Three questions to ask instead of “Is it safe?”
I’m writing this on the fifth night of protests and riots in Minneapolis. We live relatively far away from the main sites of conflict with the police department, and having been staying home for pandemic and pregnancy reasons, we’ve been grateful to our friends on the ground for keeping us informed. For those of us … More It doesn’t have to be senseless
When I think about the different aspects of my life, I keep coming back to this list of goal types Gretchen Rubin collected for her book Better than Before: Eating healthfully Exercising regularly Spending wisely Enjoying rest Accomplishment Simplifying one’s environment Deepening relationships I’ve been astonished how much this pandemic has disrupted every one of … More Quarantine Knits
A recent Washington Post article has the title “When a danger is growing exponentially, everything looks fine until it doesn’t.” The article talks about how suddenly exponential growth seems to go from vanishingly tiny to passing a major threshold. This made me wonder if there is some natural moment in time at which we can … More Does an exponential curve have a corner?