Sunday, September 12, 2010

Science News Article About the Status of P not equal to NP

Julie Rehmeyer has an article in Science News about the status of of P vs NP. The explanation is excellent and well worth several reads. Particularly interesting is how the collaborative possibilities of the Internet have come into play.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

HP Labs Mathematician Claims P not equal to NP

Vinay Deolalikar, who is with Hewlett-Packard Labs, has sent to peers copies of a proof he did stating that P is not equal to NP, one of the Millennium Prize Problems. Discover Magazine has a good lay description of the problem. For those interested, the 98 page article containing the proof is online.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences

Julie Rehmeyer's August Math Trek column in Science News talks about the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences and its creator Neil Sloane. The OEIS currently has almost 200,000 integer number sequences in an online searchable database. This is a passion for Sloane begun in the mid-1960s while in graduate school.

From the article, "the OEIS ... provides a sequence’s full 'life story.' Along with listing the numbers that form the beginning of a sequence (sometimes hundreds of thousands of them), it gives all the different known ways to generate the sequence, lists references to the sequence in the scientific literature, links to any sites with information about it, cross-references related sequences, provides a graph of the sequence, and even offers a way to listen to the sequence."

It is very easy to lose yourself for hours in the OEIS so be careful ;-).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Stephen Wolfram on TED

If you haven't already seen it, spend an enjoyable 20 minutes listening and watching Stephen Wolfram's TED talk from February of this year. Note that it will probably take a lot longer than 20 minutes since you will find yourself frequently pausing to catch the Wolfram|Alpha search requests and Mathematica code. Well worth multiple viewings.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Math Standards?

One of the little dramas being played out in California and probably elsewhere has to do with whether the state should adopt the K-12 Common Core standards for mathematics and English developed by a consortium of 48 states, including representatives from California. The Sacramento Bee editorialized that the state should adopt the US math standards, agreeing with 19 of the 21 members of the California Academic Content Standards Commission, the Governor's Office and most of the academic community. The editorial referred to California's "mile-wide, inch-deep" math curriculum as a problem the Common Core addresses. In an Op-Ed piece by the two dissenting members in which they claim the new standards "would gut the state's successful program", they also refer several times to "high-performing foreign countries" teaching to something like California's current "mile-wide" curriculum. Several days later in a point-counterpoint debate, the same arguments were raised.

In a letter to the editor published on July 28, I pointed out the real problem and the real difference between the US and "high-performing foreign countries" is the length of both the school day and school year:

Fix class time, not standards

Re: "State should adopt U.S. math standards" (Editorials, July 24) and "Proposed math standards unteachable" (Viewpoints, July 24): Both the editorial and op-ed column miss the point.

California's current curriculum is indeed "mile wide, inch deep." The reason it is an "inch deep" is because the school day and school year are too short and because students are not required to take mathematics through 12th grade.

"High-performing foreign countries" teach the same breadth of material, but they can teach it better because the school day and school year are longer and students have more years of mathematics instruction.

The state's current system is not a "successful" program, it is just broken differently.

No amount of changed standards or national commission reports will catch us up with the many countries ahead of us in math education; only the realization that, like learning to play well some musical instrument, learning mathematics requires many hours and years of study and practice.

- John Burke, Sacramento

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Can playing chess improve kid's concentration?

Interesting article in the Hindustan Times suggests the answer is yes. I wonder if the same can be said for video games?

Monday, July 26, 2010

GeoGebra 4.0 Beta Release

The GeoGebra 4.0 Beta Release is well worth a look. Among the new features I've found useful are numerous additional statistics functions.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Math Trek

Science News has a (mostly) online column called Math Trek that appears roughly monthly and is a great source for interesting math stories, many of which can be shared with your math class.