You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2011.

Literally. A Cal State Northridge math professor has been charged with urinating on a colleague’s office door during a dispute between the two men.

Cal State Northridge professor charged with allegedly urinating on colleague’s office door | L.A. NOW | Los Angeles Times.

After looking the guy up, apparently he taught at UC Irvine when I was there. I never took any of his classes. I suppose this is a good thing, although I don’t think I’ve ever pissed off any of my professors (not enough to cause him to pee on my door).

The winter career fair was this past week and it got me thinking, I need to figure out what to to with my life. I’ll have my masters degree in June (hopefully, there’s this thing about qualifying exams and I’ve yet to pass one of them, but that’s another story). The obvious choice for me is teaching at the community college level. Yes, I enjoy teaching, but it just feels so limiting to me. I feel like there is more I can do and want to do. I’d like to have a career in math education development, and for that, I would need a PhD in math education. This blurb from the Portland State website sums it up pretty nicely.

I’d like to be “a mathematics educator who can become: (i) A faculty member in a mathematics department or school of education in a university, four year college, or community college; (ii) A curriculum specialist in mathematics, supervisor of mathematics at the middle school level or secondary school level, or a mathematics specialist in state or local departments of education.”

Aside from education, a lot of the “math” related careers I’ve seen are: designing missiles, computer programing, and operations research. I don’t want to design missiles, ever. I have very limited programing skills, but I’m willing to learn. I don’t know to much about operations research, but it seems that mathematicians are the most qualified for this type of work.

I have an on going list of careers that I have seriously been considering, if math doesn’t work out for me.

  • Monk (specifically, a Zen Buddhist monk)
  • Sushi Chef

This list is constantly growing, more will be added later…

Definitely one of my favorite movies. It’s playing tonight at the Fremont, part of the great rewind series that they have. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are excellent together in this movie, great chemistry, probably one of the best on screen duo’s ever. The photo bellow is from the epic gun battle that closes the film.

A recent study shows that writing about your anxieties before a test could help you perform better.

Test-taking anxiety: Study says test-takers who write about anxieties do better –

We all experience some amount of anxiety before a test. This usually goes away once you get the test and your mind starts working. However, sometimes our anxiety can really affect how we perform. And I know that some subjects cause more anxiety than others, namely math.

I have a handout on my course website for my students that has some tips for dealing with test anxiety. In fact it’s good advice for dealing with any stressful situation.

Math Anxiety. Test Taking Skills

Some amount of anxiety before a test is normal. If you are not prepared for a test then the anxiety will be greater.

If you experience anxiety during a test (thoughts freeze, panic sets in, stomach hurts) then briefly close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply and think about something that makes you happy like freshly baked cookies. Tell yourself that you prepared for the test and that you can do it. Look at the problem again and try to remember similar problems from homework. If you must, skip the problem and return to it later.

Generally, know that test questions are not designed to trick you. If you understand the material, then you have the knowledge to do the problem. Not every problem is new there are certain problem types in each chapter, in each section of each chapter, and within each set of directions in a section. As you learn to recognize the various problem types, then the anxiety can diminish. But an honest effort needs to be made at all stages first learning, practice, and preparation for assessment.


  • A positive attitude will help
  • Ask questions; be determined to understand the math. Don’t settle for anything less during instruction. Ask for clear illustrations and or demonstrations
  • Practice regularly, especially when you’re having difficulty.
  • When total understanding escapes you, work with peers that understand the math. You can do the math; sometimes it just takes a different approach for you to understand some of the concepts.
  • Don’t just read over your notes – do the math. Practice the math and make sure you can honestly state that you understand what you are doing.
  • Be persistent and don’t over emphasize the fact that we all make mistakes. Remember, some of the most powerful learning stems from making a mistake.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is one of my all time favorite books.  Juster has another children’s classic, The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics. It was made into a 10 minute animated short film in 1965. Someone was kind enough to post it on YouTube and I’ve posted it here for you to enjoy.