Laptop arrived! Just in time to make final edits to my math paper.

## Archive for June 2009

### Laptop!

24 June 2009### Math paper draft finished

1 June 2009I reached a milestone tonight as I finished a draft of a paper for submission to Mathematics Magazine. (There is still the submission process to go, and once I know the result, I’ll either link to the paper, or include it here on the blog.) It took quite a bit of work to get the paper to this stage, I really tried to do a decent job with the math, and I learned a lot about *writing *about math too.

The road to this paper started with a recreational problem that came up in discussion at my work about 2 months ago. The problem caught my attention and since I’d been focusing on improving my math thinking the past few months, I challenged myself to see if I could make any headway on the problem. I sat down at lunch and worked up the basic idea for the solution. I was 70% of the way there in that first 15 minutes, and then blocked. I was blocked that night. I was blocked for the next week. For the next *two *weeks I kept the problem around and tried small avenues forward to see if I could finish it. It was frustrating, but I kept at it slowly, and after a time, had a realization that not only solved the problem directly, but yielded much more than I expected! It was that slow two week process that was the most interesting to me. I had to really detach from the outcome and instead attach to the reasoning process. I was valuing the progress of small provable steps in *any *direction rather than the final answer. (Interestingly, even after the answer was at hand, it still took me a while to verify the numbers with Sage, and even longer to clean up all the peripheral cases.) This study was a great learning experience.

The last month and a half I embarked on the writing process. I was shocked that this took *even longer* than solving the problem. It was, in fact, rather messy. However I think much of it was a first-time learning experience. I learned the value of coming back to the paper after a cool-down period. And of double checking mywork. And finishing my work. I read several wonderful articles on writing mathematics including,

- A Guide to Writing Mathematics by Kevin P. Lee – good for even casual math sentences and making them clear
- Can We Make Mathematics Intelligible? by R. P. Boas
- How to Write Mathematics by Halmos – rules of thumb
- Mathematical Writing by Knuth – from a class, showing the process of tuning up the writing
- Writing in the Age of Latex by Hwang

All worth reading if you are planning on doing any writing in math.

However the submission process goes from here – I’m very glad of the effort I put in. I’ve already learned enough to make it worthwhile.