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IntMath Newsletter - Earth geometry, Board math and Obama math

By Murray Bourne, 16 Nov 2008

16 Nov 2008

In this Newsletter:

1. Math tip - Earth Geometry
2. Latest IntMath Poll - Going to the board to do math
3. From the math blog
4. Final Thought - Obama math

Welcome to the hundreds of new readers who've recently joined us for the IntMath Newsletter. Welcome to you all!

1. Math tip - Earth Geometry

Several readers asked me for an article on 3-D earth geometry. So I wrote a special new section in Interactive Mathematics on this interesting topic.

It's a good article for those of you who are studying trigonometry or vectors because you can see how these topics are applied in the 'real world'.

Here's the link: 3-D Earth Geometry.

Image: Asia from 20,000 km out in space
Image from Google Earth.

2. Latest IntMath Poll - Going to the board to do math

The latest IntMath Poll asked readers how they feel when their math teacher asks them to go to the board to solve a problem in front of the whole class.

It seems that this is not a popular task (among readers of Interactive Mathematics). The results from 2000 voters:

39%   It's OK
32%   I hate it
29%   I'm uncomfortable

So a total of 61% reported that they don't really like solving problems in front of the whole class.

I asked this question because many students have reported that going to the board is an activity that increases their math anxiety.

What are your thoughts on this topic? You can comment here.

The current IntMath Poll asks you where your math anxiety comes from. You can vote on this topic in Interactive Mathematics.

3. From the math blog

1) Friday Math Movie - Sine Wave to Square Wave using Fourier Series
This movie cleverly demonstrates what Fourier Series really gives us.

2) Friday math movie - Bass guitar design
Here's a video showing how math is used when making a bass guitar. It's part of a series from The Futures Channel.

3) What's that smell? The math of air quality
Industrial pollution is inevitable in all cities. How bad is it where you live? What are the particular pollutants in your community? There's potential here to do some 'real' math.

4. Final Thought - Obama math

President-elect Obama will begin his term in late January. He faces some daunting 'real life' math problems:

  • The worst financial crisis in 100 years. Rising unemployment and poverty for millions of people — worldwide — are inevitable.
  • The Iraq war has cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths and is costing the US taxpayer around $2.5 billion per week.
  • US public debt of $59.1 trillion, or $516,348 per household. [This includes $10 trillion of federal debt, also unfunded Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare and veterans' pensions.]
  • Global warming. It is crucial that Obama puts sustainable policies into place to reduce global warming, or it will mean by the end of the century the current financial crisis will look like a picnic by comparison.

I hope Obama was a good math student. He's going to need extraordinary problem-solving abilities and wisdom to sort out this mess.

Congratulations on your win Obama. I wish you well.

See the 28 Comments below.

28 Comments on “IntMath Newsletter - Earth geometry, Board math and Obama math”

  1. lulu says:

    I actually love doing problems on the board ( only if i know how to do them) and most times the teacher asks us if we want to

  2. Murray says:

    Thanks Lulu for your input - and your enthusiasm!


    I found it is an excellent site for students and also for teachers. I am a secondary school teacher.I think it is useful for the higher study of mathematics.from this site we can take a lot of benifit.

  4. Joshua says:

    hey guys, mathematics should make one feel more inspired and fulfilled after solving one or two problems on the board. I will definitely wanna go to the board to show my classmates how far i have gone on the subject matter. Tip: talk to the class, ask questions and get everyone involved, working on the board is exciting!!!

  5. Candy Carpenter says:

    I hate it, I thought that math should have been outlawed. I remember my teacher making me stand for almost a whole hour until I solved that problem the correct way.
    I remember someone telling me that because they didn't no how to do a math problem their math teacher proceeded to walk over to the desk and pull out a straight hard wood 12 inch ruler and beat the open palm of their hand until it bleed and believe me it did bleed.
    After that person came home from work and and their parents found out what happen to their child's hand they went straight to the Board of Education and that teacher was not allowed to teach in that state at all ever again.
    I hate solving problems at the board I wonder why????
    Thank you, Candy

  6. robert says:

    i do really love to solve problems on the board because this somehow increases my confidence and lessen my stage fright. But, if i don't know how to solve it,that's the time that i get scared going in front. so, knowledge of the certain topic and ability to solve problems could be the the factors of being afraid to solve problems on the board.

  7. Christian says:

    I hope Obama have experienced every single moment in his dream to be a president. So lets hope that he was good in solving mathematic , this will assist him to solve all the problems that America will face next year.

  8. lidiya says:

    i really hate it, because i feel i will forget everything.

  9. Ward says:

    I also enjoy doing math problems on the board, as long as I know the answer. And, there is no such thing as global warming.

  10. Murray says:

    Hi Ward and thanks for your input.

    I'm intrigued by your assertion:

    And, there is no such thing as global warming.

    I'm wondering if you can show us the research behind your conclusion?

    In other words, is there a reason why we should accept your statement and not that of the 2,500 climate (and other) scientists who contributed to the IPCC reports?

  11. ram says:

    it is one of the daring step to the student. He (student) felt first to do the math on the blackboard is some shame. If he once does means in front of whole the class he will get some encourage. That encourage helps him for next time. it's my advise. Because so many times i have done the maths on the blackboard.

  12. obeng kennedy says:

    It is o.k by me.This even boost my morale when i am being asked to do some calculations on the board.

  13. christianah olanipekun says:

    I really appreciate all your effort to make everybody understand mathematics. More grease to your elbow. I want you to teach more on numerical analysis. Thanks.

  14. Joshua says:

    Why do you have to include stuff about global warming in math? And this hundreds of thousands of Iraqi war deaths...Why do we want to do math on that...
    I like the idea of using real-time events in math, but it should be math without someone putting a spin on it...

  15. Joshua E says:

    Next time just say, in your opinion Obama should do x, but I still don't see why politics should be put in math...

  16. Phil says:

    Hey Joshua - what's your problem?

    I like the fact that Zac puts 'real life' math in his Newsletters. Of course math is involved in global warming (climate modeling, measurement, prediction of sea level temperatures and heights, etc).

    And don't you think politicians should be better at math? Perhaps if they were, the world wouldn't be experiencing a financial meltdown right now.

    It seems that you don't like 'real-time events in math', after all.

    Zac: Don't let Joshua change what you are doing. Keep it up!

  17. Josh says:

    You should put politics in math(I'm correcting my statement) but not overhyped global warming stuff and not stuff with a spin on it. All I can say is, I signed up for a math newsletter, not a global-warming hype newsletter. (I know I'll get blasted for this)...See, I'm now discussing global warming when the newsletter was supposed to be a "math" publication. Why does left-wing-right wing stuff have to creep even into math publications?
    I like a lot of things about your math site, but not that.

  18. ED says:

    As Josh and some others have said,
    Please limit your newsletters to math.
    No politicing (and that includes global warming).

    As for working at the board:
    I used to love it, but I was good at math.

    We did, however, have a sadistic teacher,
    Mrs. Carlson, who
    (as I look back on it now) should have been
    kicked out.

    There was a very sweet girl in our class who
    was overweight and , frankly, not intelligent.
    School work was NOT her thing.
    This teacher belittled her, screamed at her,
    and made all kinds of bad remarks to her,
    over and over and over.

    All of the rest of us felt terribly uncomfortable,
    but were taught to obey the teacher.

    We should have reported it.

  19. Peta says:

    Ed and Johua: Problem solving in the real world should be based on scientific observations and testing of hypotheses, not emotions.

    The science is showing that global warming is definitely happening and man's activities are adding to it. As mathematics is one of the most important tools in science, of course this topic (and any other problems that affect the future of people) has a place in a math newsletter.

    Stating observable facts is hardly politicking.

  20. Murray says:

    Ed: Thanks for your scary story about Mrs Carlson. She certainly sounds like a good source of math anxiety...

    But we'll never know what was going on in her life. Her actions were clearly wrong - but perhaps there were mitigating circumstances.

    Joshua: No left-wing, right-wing politics intended, just science as Peta said.

    Heck, I'm not even American.

  21. Josh says:

    Peta: I don't know where else to put this, because after all this is supposed to be about a math newsletter. There are numerous skeptics to the man-made global warming theory, and among them are numerous scientists. Half of the websites online regarding global warming are opposed to it as invalid. There is no evidence that increased carbon emissions results in increased temperatures. This link provides the evidence

    [no longer available]

    Australian geologist Bob Carter is among many others who reject the theory of man-made global warming.
    Global warming advocates also claim that sea levels are rising because of global warming. What does this graph tell you
    [ no longer available]
    Here's another link thrown in for good measure
    [ no longer available]

  22. Murray says:

    Josh. A response like that leaves you wide open.

    Firstly - "Half of the websites online regarding global warming are opposed to it as invalid." Really? Have you counted them, one by one? Google lists over 28 million sites using the keywords "global warming". And what did you do with the sites that report both sides of the argument? Anyway, I'm not interested in what opinionated Website owners write - I'm only interested in the science.

    Your links are to right-wing conservative sites - and I seem to remember someone didn't want to bring politics into it!

    Give me scientific proof by respected scientists (not the ones paid for by the Bush administration, the oil companies or the auto industry).

    Give me peer-reviewed scientific papers from respected academic journals - not the ravings of some conservative websites.

    Finally, "There is no evidence that increased carbon emissions results in increased temperatures." Really? Take a look at Venus. It has a surface temperature of over 400°C - and is the victim of a runaway greenhouse effect. Such effects do occur. That's science. Not opinion — or wishful thinking.

  23. AFEWERKI says:


  24. Murray says:


    The <> sign is used in computer programming to mean "is not equal to".

    Another way of writing it in computing is !=.

    In mathematics, we usually use ≠.

  25. addis says:

    hi, i didn't understand what fourier transform is so plz give some info with examples. thank u for ur reply.

  26. angelo says:

    when I'm teaching getting kids to work on the board helps me
    1) make them actually do it
    2) pick up their errors
    3) get faster response on class misunderstandings

    It's not to punish them, but in teacher demonstrations everybody understands until they have to work it on their own

  27. Simplyaddmath says:

    Hello. You have a great blog with enriching content. I really enjoy reading your newsletters as you apply Mathematics to real life examples. Keep it up!

    If you have the time, please visit my blog @ Feedback from an expert like you is greatly appreciated!

    Thank you and see you soon.

  28. Murray says:

    Hi Simplyaddmath

    I checked out your blog - thanks for sharing.

    The solutions are quite clear and you have explained things in appropriate depth as you go - this is vital for most users. Your handwriting is good. I'm jealous!

    I liked the Prezi presentations - that was quite interesting. (I signed up for a Prezi account.)

    In this post, I think there is a problem with the question (it should be 10 bags, not $10 bags).

    All the best with your blog!

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