Thanksgiving for less math?
By Murray Bourne, 10 Dec 2010
Mathematicians look for patterns and try to explain what's behind such patterns to get an idea what might happen next.
I find it interesting to follow the traffic patterns at IntMath.com, since it gives some insights into how people use the site and what they do there.
During the Northern school year (September to June), students come to the site to get quick answers to their math homework problems. As is usual with Web surfers, they are "peckers", and stay on a page long enough to get what they need, and leave quickly if the information scent seems to be running cold.
There is a minority who linger, look at 7 or 8 pages and spend maybe 15 to 20 minutes on the site.
And when are most of them interested in homework? Typically it's throughout the week, and very little at weekends.
Here is a typical one-month traffic graph (October 2010) of IntMath.com (visits per day):
The humps are mid week (Monday to Thursday), and the 3 lowest-traffic days are always Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Thanks for less math?
Towards the end of November, there is always a decline in math interest as the Americans become involved in the Thanksgiving holiday.
Interest, and therefore traffic, almost recovers in early December, but then Christmas and New Year holidays take precendence in people's lives.
The next chart is for the period 9th Nov 2009 to mid-January 2010.
I'm expecting this Christmas & New Year period to be no different.
Finally, here's how the northern summer period shapes up. In May, school is still in session, and things start winding down in June. July and August are very quiet and then suddenly people get interested in learning math again in late August and September.
I don't want to sound like a kill joy, but for those of you wanting to improve your math grades, there is a great opportunity in the above data.
While the rest are resting, keep your math "on the boil". I don't mean spend your entire holidays with your nose in a math text book, but if you spend some regular time during school breaks reminding yourself about the math you've learned so far (and look over the math that's coming up next), it will be that much easier when you go back to school.
And of course, any math anxiety you have will be reduced.
Now, that would be something to be thankful for.
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