Education

Bronfman Praises Liberal Arts

Edgar M. Bronfman, famous Williams student and donor, has a new article Inside Higher Education on “Business and the Liberal Arts,” where he writes: …adaptability is where a liberal arts degree comes in. There is nothing that makes the mind more elastic and expandable than discovering how the world works. Developing and rewarding curiosity will

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MathBlast Draws 134 High School Students

134 students from Mt. Greylock and BArT High Schools attended this morning’s Williams College MathBlast, dedicated to the memory of founder Professor Olga R. Beaver, who passed on four days earlier. Sponsored by the Williams Center at Mount Greylock and the Williams College Math Department, MathBlast is a morning for 10th graders and math teachers from local

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Provoking Thought

What do you think?  How do you think?  And can you think even better? I’ve spent nearly ten years focusing on these and related questions. The result is a recently-published book, co-authored with Michael Starbird from The University of Texas at Austin, entitled The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking (Princeton University Press, 2012).  It’s a

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Majors and Careers

The teaching of my first tutorial at Williams occurred in Spring 2012, on phylogenetics, the study of evolutionary trees.  As with most tutorials, I had ten students in my class, grouped in pairs, where their strengths included pure mathematics, biology, art, and computer science.  My tutorial was structured in two parts: the first six weeks of

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Mathematical Danger

In what way is mathematics dangerous?  This past year, the Williams College Gaudino program has been looking at the idea of danger.  Hence my question, in what way is mathematics dangerous? Maybe there is emotional danger, as the media mocks the typical math professor as nerdy and dorky. (These allegations have never been officially proven.)

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Math as ESL

Introductory proof writing is much like English as a Second Language.  Developing written mathematical skills involves wrestling with issues of vocabulary, word choice, grammar, word order, punctuation, native expressions and (after enough experience) eventuates in fluency in the foreign language of mathematics.  This analogy can provide a natural context for the unavoidable frustrations a student

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Gaudino Lunches

Earlier on this blog I wrote “Math departments are full of smart people.  But with the demands (and joys) of research and teaching (and of our personal lives), most people in math departments do not talk to each other about math nearly enough.  Certainly that is true at Williams.  We do have a fairly vibrant

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Extraordinary Students

A little event last week reminded me of what I admire most in students. I was giving a guest presentation in Robert McCann’s freshman seminar at the University of Toronto. As I was setting up, I realized I needed a power strip. I said to the gathering class, “Will someone go get me a power

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Dream Chalk

A typical professor in the science division at Williams college has three key items on the agenda:  teach courses, publish research papers, and apply for grants.  Teaching and research are the bread and butter of being a faculty member, but receiving funding from a grant agency (such as the National Science Foundation) gives a tremendous sense

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Like Risk? Be an Actuary!

Do you like risk? Or, more precisely, do you like to assess and quantify risk and put a price on it (the premium that insurance collects)? If yes, consider becoming an actuary. This profession almost always makes the top 10 in the various best jobs lists (like this one, which also includes mathematicians and statisticians, both

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