TITLE: Transition AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 09, 2014 4:11 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Spring semester ends today. May term begins Monday. I haven't taught during the summer since 2010, when I offered a course on agile software development. I'm reprising that course this month, with nine hardy souls signed on for the mission. That means no break for now, just a new start. I like those. I'm sure I could blog for hours on the thoughts running through my head for the course. They go beyond the readings we did last time and the project we built, though all that is in the mix, too. For now, though, three passages that made the highlights of my recent reading. All fit nicely with the theme of college days and transition. ~~~~ First, this reminder from John Graham, a "self-made merchant" circa 1900, in a letter to his son at college.
Adam invented all the different ways in which a young man can make a fool of himself, and the college yell at the end of them is just a frill that doesn't change essentials.
College is a place all its own, but it's just a place. In many ways, it's just the place where young people spend a few years while they are young. ~~~~ Next, a writer tells a story of studying with Annie Dillard in college. During their last session together, she told the class:
If I've done my job, you won't be happy with anything you write for the next 10 years. It's not because you won't be writing well, but because I've raised your standards for yourself.
Whatever we "content" teach our students, raising their standards and goals is sometimes the most important thing we do. "Don't compare yourselves to each other", she says. Compare yourselves to the best writers. "Shoot there." This advice works just as well for our students, whether they are becoming software developers or computer scientists. (Most of our students end up being a little bit of both.) It's better to aim at the standard set by Ward Cunningham or Alan Kay than at the best we can imagine ourselves doing right now. ~~~~ Now that I think about it, this last one has nothing to do with college or transitions. But it made me laugh, and after a long academic year, with no break imminent, a good laugh is worth something.
What do you call a rigorous demonstration that a statement is true?
  1. If "proof", then you're a mathematician.
  2. If "experiment", then you're a physicist.
  3. If you have no word for this concept, then you're an economist.
This is the first of several items in The Mathematical Dialect Quiz at Math with Bad Drawings. It adds a couple of new twists to the tongue-in-cheek differences among mathematicians, computer scientists, and engineers. With bad drawings. Back to work. -----