Two lessons

Every unit in precalc, my kids get a new mathematician to research for extra credit on their unit test. Their assignment is very simple:

  1. Find a quote by the mathematician. 
  2. State the quote in your own words.
  3. Defend why you chose that quote. 
  4. Find three interesting pieces of biographical information on the mathematician. 

It’s one of my small attempts to incorporate English and history into the math classroom. Because I preach that numeracy is as important as literacy. So if I want my English teacher friends to support my subject, I must show enthusiasm for all forms of learning also. [Stepping off my soapbox.]

Anyway, I was reading the kids’ extra credit on Sonja Kovalevsky today, and came across this one:


Number 3. Why she chose the quote. <Insert applause emoji.>  “I find math intriguing and beautiful.”

Yes, yes, all the yesssss. 

I was listening to an interview of a mathematician on NPR earlier this week, and the radio host said something like, “The people who seem to talk about beauty the most are mathematicians.”

I think I laughed out loud (out of joy) when I heard that. 

It’s so true: mathematics is gorgeous. Order, simplicity, patterns–to name a few–it’s all math. And it makes me absolutely giddy knowing some of my students are starting to see the mysterious, intricate beauty that is mathematics. 

*****

I got one of the sweetest letters I’ve ever received from a student today for Teacher Appreciation Week. One of the things he said was “Your kindness inspired me to help others.”

I have these lofty goals of helping kids become better people and encouraging them to live selfless lives. But sometimes I wonder if it’s all just feel-good talk with no real substance, no practicality. 

And then I’m reminded: just be kind. 

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