Saturday, September 20, 2008

News in Class

I was happy this week about the two new Mersenne primes being found/verified (mathworld). It gave me something outside or the usual calculus material to talk to my class about. Don't get me wrong, the calc is, of course, fascinating. But when you're in the midst of it, day in and day out, a change is welcome, I expect. I feel the same way about my research, incidentally. Looking at it on the broad scale, it's all interesting stuff. In the daily work, it's terribly frustrating. But I digress (seems to be what I do).

So to start class off Friday I mentioned the news. I asked if anybody had heard about it, and can't say I was particularly surprised that nobody had. I talked briefly about GIMPS and about the importance of primes in modern cryptography. I repeated the statements I'd seen in various blogs about the number of digits being vastly larger than the estimated number of atoms in the universe. The students seemed to be enjoying it, for which I was glad.

At some point, one of my students asked "What do you want to do when you grow up?" That may not be an exact quote, but that was the question. This still strikes me as fairly random for the conversation. I guess he was looking at the math I was talking about, perhaps wondering why anybody would care, and if that was the sort of thing I hoped to work on when I was done here. I had to answer honestly that I didn't quite know what I wanted to do, though I do enjoy teaching.

I'd like to continue bringing in math news items for my calc class. I feel fairly well connected online, so that if something I could share were to happen, I'd hear about it. But I'm trying to remember what the last similar sort of math news I could share would be, and it doesn't seem like the sort of thing that happens often. Anybody have any recommendations where I should be looking?


Kate said...

Kudos for bringing the mersenne primes into your class. You might try casting your net a little wider...I tag anything I see that looks remotely mathy, or even just are a couple examples but feel free to add me if you are a delicious user.

sumidiot said...

Awesome, thanks for the pointers! I'm not on delicious (heavens!), but I snagged the rss feed. Looking forward to it.