[IAEP] Cut the Knot! creator Alexander Bogomolny live Wednesday, May 19, at 9:30pm

Maria Droujkova droujkova at gmail.com
Tue May 18 17:27:53 EDT 2010

Cut the Knot live event is a part of the Math 2.0 weekly series. You are
invited to participate!

Login information:

All Math 2.0 events are free and open to the public. Information about all
events in the series is here: http://mathfuture.wikispaces.com/events

Wednesday, May 19th 2010 we will meet in the LearnCentral public Elluminate
room at 6:30pm Pacific / 9:30pm Eastern time:

About Cut the Knot:

Cut-the-knot is the site with delightful stories, interactive eye openers,
and other "miscellany and puzzles" bringing much math joy to the world.
During the event, we will chat with the site's creator, Alexander Bogomolny,
about his educational projects.

Cut the Knot Manifesto:

    Raymond Smullyan, a Mathematician, Philosopher and author of several
outstanding books of logical puzzles, tells, in one of his books, a
revealing story. A friend invited him for dinner. He told Smullyan that his
teenage son was crazy about Smullyan's books and could not wait to meet him.
The friend warned Smullyan not to mention that he is a Mathematician and
that Logic is a part of Mathematics because the young fellow hated

    A person who abhors reading in general may be suspected of lacking in
intelligence, but otherwise, in the absence of further personal data, would
likely be judged "normal." A rare person would dislike music as opposed to
the one who dislikes a particular kind of music (classic, chamber, pop,
country, etc). You would probably be surprised to meet a fellow who feels
indiscriminately dizzy at the sight of a painting. Why then has it become an
acceptable norm to confess a dislike and misunderstanding of Mathematics as
a whole?
Artisans vs Mathematicians

    If you are a mathematician you surely know what I mean. If you are not,
pretend you are, and next time when making a new acquaintance suggest as
much. Chances of a response in the spirit of "Oh, really. I have always had
problems with math," or "Math was the most difficult subject I ever ..." are
overwhelming. Somehow I feel that a biologist would not hear (at least not
too often) complaints about biology, and a chemist about chemistry. I am
sure of this because the term "math anxiety" has gained a respected position
in our vocabulary long ago which may only compare to the position afforded
to a more recent "computer illiteracy." But whoever heard or confessed of
"biological anxiety" or "chemical illiteracy"?

    Two attributes (real or perceived) of Mathematics place it apart from
other subjects and sciences. Mathematics is the only deductive science, and
Mathematics is pervasive. Mathematics is pervasive and fundamental in the
sense that more human activities require at least some math skills than is
true of any other field of knowledge. I believe this to be a standard
perception. Why is it then that so many people (after having troubles with
math in school and learning very little or next to nothing) live their lives
happily without missing Mathematics in the least?

    The answer is simple. You cannot design an efficient engine without good
knowledge of Calculus. Still you can drive a car without any understanding
of the internal workings of the engine; much less of the mathematics needed
to design or build one. In pragmatic terms we need mathematics very rarely,
and, when we do, the mathematics we need is mostly trivial. Counting change
in a supermarket, mortgage cost, interest on a loan, the best time to start
a driving trip, frequent flier mile count, and what else? However, thinking
along these lines is a great simplification and injustice towards both
Mathematics and the average person. I know for sure that Mathematics may be
beautiful. Judging Mathematics by its pragmatic value is like judging
symphony by the weight of its score.

    What is a pragmatic value of music or literature? Yet would you rather
do without either? Few among us attempt to or practice writing music. Most
are just happy to be able to appreciate it. Appreciation of music enhances
our lives. Likewise, the ability to appreciate Mathematics enhances the
lives of those who possess it.
Proofs: simple and beautiful
    Here we come to another distinctive attribute of Mathematics.
Mathematics is the only deductive science. The peculiar beauty of
Mathematics lies in deduction, in the dependency of one fact upon another.
The less expected a dependency is, the simpler the facts on which the
deduction is based -- the more beautiful is the result.

    Roger Schank observes that we may choose what to remember, but are not
free to forget at will. One interpretation is particularly pertinent to
understanding of the prevailing attitude towards mathematics. Once you
created a mental barrier that hinders you from approaching math study in a
rational way, it must be hard to change your mindset. Without going into
research and speculations as to what causes math anxiety I hope to create a
resource that would help learn, if not math itself, then, at least, ways to
appreciate its beauty. Working in reverse, if it's hard to forget an
unpleasant experience, it's as hard to forget a pleasant one.

    Learning starts from wondering, and another purpose of this site is to
serve as a resource for things, simple but curious, related to Mathematics.
I do not intentionally classify topics according to their simplicity. There
must be an element of discovery involved to enhance a learning experience.
This site is a Miscellany. A few topics are so related that they cannot be
treated independently. Make your own selection that, I hope, may lead to
other discoveries.

Event Host:

Alexander Bogomolny is the principal at CTK, a software development and
consulting company maintaining Cut the Knot web site. This project combines
his professional interests in mathematics, mathematics education, and
software development. In the past, he worked as a professor of mathematics
at Rutgers, University of Iowa, and Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Alexander also wrote a monthly Cut the Knot column for the Mathematical
Association of America (MAA) Online. Alexander also worked as the Vice
President of Software Development at CompuDoc, NJ and senior software
developer at Lake Kinneret Research Laboratory and Ben Gurion University,
Israel. His research career started in the early seventies at Moscow
Institute of Electronic Control Devices, where he worked on numerical
methods and nonlinear programming.

Maria Droujkova

Make math your own, to make your own math.
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