Inspiring TED talk

Here’s one that will you inspire to be a mathematician all over again!

Just try not to get excited about math. Enjoy!

[ht: Fred Connington]

 

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Mathematics Add-In for Word and One-Note

Maybe it’s old news to you, but I recently downloaded the Mathematics Add-In for Word and One-Note (download from Mircrosoft for free, right here). It works with Microsoft Office 2007 or later. It’s a super quick and easy installation–doesn’t require a reboot or anything. I was even able to install it at work on my locked-down limited-permissions account without needing administrative privileges.

I’m impressed with its ability to graph, do calculations, and manipulate algebraic expressions using its computer algebra system (CAS). It’s not as powerful as Mathematica or my TI-89, or even other free CAS like WolframAlpha or Geogebra (yes, Geogebra has a CAS now and it’s not beta!). But I like it because (A) my expectations were low and (B) it’s right inside Microsoft Word, and it’s nicely integrated into the new equation editor, which as you know, I love.

sample output

Here’s some sample output in word format or pdf (the image above is just the first little bit of this five-page document). All of the output in red is generated by the mathematics add-in package. In this document, I highlight some of it’s features and some of it’s flaws. The graphing capabilities aren’t very customizable. And the mathematics is a bit buggy sometimes.

All in all, despite its flaws, I highly recommend it! It’s really handy to have it right there in Word.

87th Carnival of Mathematics

The 87th Carnival of Mathematics has arrived!! Here’s a simple computation for you:

What is the sum of the squares of the first four prime numbers?

That’s right, it’s

Good job. Now, onto the carnival. This is my first carnival, so hopefully I’ll do all these posts justice. We had lots of great submissions, so I encourage you to read through this with a fine-toothed comb. Enjoy!

Rants

Here’s a post (rant) from Andrew Taylor regarding the coverage from the BBC and the Guardian on the Supermoon that occurred in March 2011. NASA reports the moon as being 14% larger and 30% brighter, but Andrew disagrees. Go check out the post, and join the conversation.

Have you ever heard someone abuse the phrase “exponentially better”? I know I have. One incorrect usage occurs when someone makes the claim that something is “exponentially better” based on only two data points. Rebecka Peterson has some words for you here, if you’re the kind of person who says this!


Physics and Science-flavored

Frederick Koh submitted Problem 19: Mechanics of Two Separate Particles Projected Vertically From Different Heights to the carnival. It’s a fun projectile motion question which would be appropriate for a Precalculus classroom (or Calculus). I like the problem, and I think my students would like it too.

John D. Cook highlights a question you’ve probably heard before: Should you walk or run in the rain? An active discussion is going on in the comments section. It’s been discussed in many other places too, including twice on Mythbusters. (I feel like I read an article in an MAA or NCTM magazine on this topic once, as well. Anyone remember that?)

Murray Bourne submitted this awesome post about modeling fish stocks. Murray says his post is an “attempt to make mathematical modeling a bit less scary than in most textbooks.” I think he achieves his goal in this thorough development of a mathematical model for sustainable fisheries (see the graph above for one of his later examples of a stable solution under lots of interesting constraints). If I taught differential equations, I would  absolutely use his examples.

Last week I highlighted this new physics blog, but I wanted to point you there again: Go check out Five Minute Physics! A few more videos have been posted, and also a link to this great video about the physics of a dropping Slinky (see above).

Statistics, Probability, & Combinatorics

Mr. Gregg analyzes European football using the Poisson distribution in his post, The Table Never Lies. I liked how much real world data he brought to the discussion. And I also liked that he admitted when his model worked and when it didn’t–he lets you in on his own mathematical thought process. As you read this post, you too will find yourself thinking out loud with Mr. Gregg.

Card Colm has written this excellent post that will help you wrap your mind around the number of arrangements of cards in a deck. It’s a simple high school-level topic, but he really puts it into perspective:

the number of possible ways to order or permute just the hearts is 13!=6,227,020,800. That’s about what the world population was in 2002. So back then if somebody could have made a list of all possible ways to arrange those 13 cards in a row, there would have been enough people on the planet for everyone to get one such permutation.

I think it’s good to remind ourselves that whenever we shuffle the deck, we can be almost certain that our arrangement has never been created before (since  52!\approx 8\times 10^{67}  arrangements are possible). Wow!

Alex is looking for “random” numbers by simply asking people. Go contribute your own “random” number here. Can’t wait to see the results!

Quick! Think of an example of a real-world bimodal distribution! Maybe you have a ready example if you teach stat, but here’s a really nice example from Michael Lugo: Book prices. Before you read his post, you should make a guess as to why the book prices he looked at are bimodal (see histogram above).

Philosophy and History of Math

Mike Thayer just attended the NCTM conference in Philadelphia and brings us a thoughtful reaction in his post, The Learning of Mathematics in the 21st Century. Mike wrote this post because he had been left with “an ambivalent feeling” after the conference. He wants to “engage others in mathematics education in discussions about ways to improve what we do outside of the frameworks that are being imposed on us by those outside of our field.” As a secondary educator, I agree with Mike completely and really enjoyed his post. Mike isn’t satisfied with where education is going. In his post, he writes, “We are leaping ahead into the unknown with new educational models, and we never took the time to get the old ones right.”

Edmund Harriss asks Have we ever lost mathematics? He gives a nice recap of foundational crises throughout the history of mathematics, and wonders, ultimately, if we’ve actually lost any mathematics. There’s also a short discussion in the comments section which I recommend to you.

Peter Woit reflects on 25 Years of Topological Quantum Field Theory. Maybe if you have degree in math and physics you might appreciate this post. It went over my head a bit, I’m afraid!

Book Reviews

In this post, Matt reviews a 2012 book release, Who’s #1, by Amy N. Langville and Carl D. Meyer. The book discusses the ranking systems used by popular websites like Amazon or Netflix. His review is thorough and balanced–Matt has good things to say about the book, but also delivers a bit of criticism for their treatment of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem. Thanks for this contribution, Matt! [edit: Thanks MATT!]

Shecky R reviews of David Berlinski’s 2011 book, One, Two Three…Absolutely Elementary mathematics in his Brief Berlinski Book Blurb. I’m not sure his review is an *endorsement*. It sounds like a book that only a small eclectic crowd will enjoy.

Uncategorized…

Peter Rowlett submitted this post about linear programming and provides a link to an interactive problems solving environment.

Peter Rowlett also weighs in on the recent news about a German high school boy who has (reportedly) solved an open problem. Many news sources have picked up on this, and I’ve only followed the news from a distance. So I was grateful for Peter’s comments–he questions the validity of the news in his recent post “Has schoolboy genius solved problems that baffled mathematicians for centuries?” His comments in another recent post are perhaps even more important though–Peter encourages us to think of ways we can remind our students that lots of open problems still exist, and “Mathematics is an evolving, alive subject to which you could contribute.”

Jess Hawke IS *Heptagrin Girl*

Here’s a fun-loving post about Heptagrins, and all the crazy craft projects you can do with them. Don’t know what a Heptagrin is? Neither did I. But go check out Jess Hawke’s post and she’ll tell you all about them!

Any Lewis Carroll lovers out there? Julia Collins submitted a post entitled “A Night in Wonderland” about a Lewis Carroll-themed night at the National Museum of Scotland. She writes, “Other people might be interested in the ideas we had and also hearing about what a snark is and why it’s still important.” When you check out this post, you’ll not only learn about snarks but also about creating projective planes with your sewing machine. Cool!

Mike Croucher over at Walking Randomly gives a shout out to the free software Octave, which is a MATLAB replacement. Check out his post, here. MATLAB is ridiculously expensive, and so the world needs an alternative like Octave. He provides links to the Kickstarter campaign–and Mike has backed the project himself. I too believe in Octave. I’ve used it a few times for my grad work and I’ve been very grateful for a free alternative to MATLAB.

The End 

Okay, that’s it for the 87th Carnival of Mathematics. Hope you enjoyed all the posts! Sorry it took me a couple days to post it–there was a lot to digest :-).

If you missed the previous carnival (#86), you can find it here. The next carnival (#88) will be hosted by Christian at checkmyworking.com. For a complete listing of all the carnivals, and more information & FAQ about the carnivals, follow this link.

Cheers!

More on Microsoft Equation Editor

As some of you know, I recently posted about Microsoft Equation Editor (here) and the way it’s been totally upgraded. I’ve been using Microsoft’s Equation Editor more and more, and I’ve learned a lot of new things, but I also still have questions (for instance, how do you force it to do display or in-line mode?).

Before, when I had questions, it seemed like Microsoft had no answers. I searched their website and found minimal help. I found help from third-parties, like this wonderful cheat-sheet which I still highly recommend. But today when I went searching for some more answers, I found this page on Microsoft’s website, which I swear wasn’t online two months ago.

The most interesting thing is that they mention their use of Unicode Nearly Plain-text Encoding of Mathematics and they claim that the Microsoft Equation editor adheres to the standards set forth in Unicode Technical Note 28.  I’ve now completely read this Unicode guide and it was very helpful.

I think I can finally use the new Microsoft Equation Editor without ever leaving the keyboard.

In particular, here are a few things I learned how to do. Hopefully this will save you the time of having to read through it all yourself:

Tips & Tricks with the new Microsoft Equation Editor

To start with, here are a handful of things I didn’t know how to do without visiting the toolbar. Now I can do them just by typing.

Boxed formula:   \rect(a/b) produces

boxed formula

Matrix:   (\matrix(a&b@&c&d))   produces

matrix

Radicals:  \sqrt(5&a^2)    produces

radical

Equation arrays are something I found hard to do in Microsoft Equation Editor. In their documentation, I learned you can type “Shift+Enter” to keep the next line as part of the same equation array. But here’s the more finely-grained method:

\eqarray(x+1&=2@1+2+3+y&=z@3/x&=6)

resolves to this:

equation array

A more complicated example of alignment, and a description of how it is interpreted comes from the Unicode page:

3.19 Equation Arrays
To align one equation relative to another vertically, one can use an equation array, such as

system of equationswhich has the linear format █(10&x+&3&y=2@3&x+&13&y=4), where █ is U+2588. Here the meaning of the ampersands alternate between align and spacer, with an implied spacer at the start of the line. So every odd & is an alignment point and every even & is a place where space may be added to align the equations. This convention is used in AmSTeX.

Instead of █, one can type \eqarray in Microsoft office. Also, to include a numbered equation is simple:  E=mc^2#(30).

Another nice thing I learned is how to quickly include text in your equations, without having to visit the toolbar (in retrospect, it’s somewhat obvious):

 “rate”=”distance”/”time”

resolves to

\text{rate}=\frac{\text{distance}}{\text{time}}

Like I said, one unresolved issue I still have is how to force math to be displayed in ‘in-line’ or ‘display’ mode. This is very easy in \LaTeX with the use of $ or $$. Section 3.20 of the Unicode notes isn’t very satisfying:

Note that although there’s no way to specify display versus inline  modes (TeX ‘s $ versus $$), a useful convention for systems that mark math zones is that a paragraph a paragraph consisting of a math zone is in display mode.  If any part of the paragraph isn’t in a math zone including a possible terminating period, then inline rendering is used.

So there you have it–more of what I’ve learned about the Microsoft Equation Editor. Please do share if you have other useful information.

The Arc Cotangent Controversy

I love this discussion at squareCircleZ. All my readers should check it out. Which is the graph of arccot(x)?

from squarecircleZ

from squarecircleZ

I especially like this controversy because some big players have weighed in on each side. Mathcad and Maple prefer the first interpretation, Mathematica and Matlab prefer the second.

For a more thorough treatment, check out the original post here. Three cheers for great math blogging! 🙂