I may not have been very active on my blog recently (sorry for the three-month hiatus), but it’s not because I haven’t been actively *doing* math. And in fact, I’ve also found other outlets to *share* about math.

**Have you used Quora yet?**

**Quora, at least in principle, is a grown-up version of yahoo answers**. **It’s like stackoverflow, but more philosophical and less technical.** You’ll (usually) find thoughtful questions and thoughtful answers. Like most question-answer sites, you can ‘up-vote’ an answer, so the best answers generally appear at the top of the feed.

**The best part about Quora is that it somehow attracts really high quality respondents**, including: Ashton Kutcher, Jimmy Wales, Jermey Lin, and even Barack Obama. Many other mayors, famous athletes, CEOs, and the like, seem to darken the halls of Quora. For a list of famous folks on Quora, check out this Quora question (how *meta*!).

Also contributing quality answers is none other than *me*. It’s still a new space for me, but I’ve made my foray into Quora in a few small ways. Check out the following questions for which I’ve contributed answers, and give me some up-votes, or start a comment battle with me or something :-).

**Mathematics Education: Should statistics replace calculus as the most advanced math course in the high school curriculum?****What does the value of a point on the normal distribution actually represent, if anything?****Does calculus make you smarter?****When should you write numbers down using numerals instead of letters and vice versa?**

And here are a few posts where my comments appear:

I found your interesting blog when I googled a question about probability; your random walk mural is quite wonderful. You seem like a really interesting teacher and, mathematics being something you either love or leave (yes, it is an excluded middle), I wish I would’ve had someone such as yourself when I was in High School. I left math and then came back to it out of necessity; now I love it.

I’m leaving this comment in response to the Quora question, “Should statistics replace calculus . . .” I think the best response by far is from John Chase and I would add a bit to this. I believe, based on my own experience, that what is missing in high school mathematics is the foundations. I didn’t learn to love mathematics in high school because I simply didn’t get it. I was good at memorizing formulas and manipulating statements but I had absolutely no idea what any of it meant! I did the military route and didn’t go on to college but long after graduating high school I had to teach myself how to use structured design techniques to engineer software for plcs (I used the excellent open access book by Hugh Jack, “Automating Manufacturing Systems with PLCs,” (http://claymore.engineer.gvsu.edu/~jackh/books/plcs/pdf/plcbook5_0.pdf). The book teaches Boolean analysis as a fundamental structured design technique and it was quite revelatory to me!

I went on to work through the fascinating book by University of Lethbridge mathematicians, Dave and Joy Morris, called “Proofs and Concepts: The Fundamentals of Abstract Mathematics,” (http://people.uleth.ca/~dave.morris/books/proofs+concepts.html). This wonderful little book, which they recommend for advanced high school students, starts with propositional logic, moves on to predicate logic, and culminates with a brief intro to graph theory; the point being it illuminates the whole point of Mathematics! If I would’ve had this book in high school I can almost guarantee I would be a professional mathematician now. I believe teaching the fundamentals is much more important than anything else being taught and, to my knowledge, it isn’t even being taught!

I’ve worked with the FIRST organization in the past and I think the best way to get kids interested in mathematics is through robotics. Recently I read an interview of Jeff Goldblum in the New York Times. He was performing with his Jazz group and he made the statement that, as a kid, he didn’t commit himself to disciplined music practice until he discovered Jazz. After discovering Jazz he committed himself because he really wanted to be able to play Jazz! The same holds true, or so I have witnessed, with mathematics. When kids play around with robotics they quickly discover the power of mathematics and robotics encapsulates everything, from logic to differential equations. If I were a math teacher such as yourself, I would start with logic and end with robotics – that simple!

You know, in Estonia they introduce simple code writing skills to grade schoolers and I think that’s great. And the tools available to educators now are tremendous; I’m thinking of the automation Legos and the Parallax materials . . .

With regards,

Wes Hansen

Wes,

Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words. I’m so glad you’ve fallen in love with math, even if it took many years!

I love all your suggestions about education. I especially think we could do better at teaching programing in K-12. I agree that it should be part of the core curriculum, beginning in grade school. Let’s follow Estonia’s example! And bring on the Lego robots, too!

John