Commencement Speeches for Mathematicians

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18 thoughts on “Commencement Speeches for Mathematicians

  1. Tee hee. Entertaining, as always.

    I heard a variation on the ‘sign error’ in an anecdote about (I think) Paul Dirac. Some hapless graduate student was demonstrating a proof, and at the end got a bit flustered and said, “Oh, I appear to have made a sign error.” Dirac: “Yes, an odd number of times…” Ouch.

  2. These are all really fun. I agree that I’d buy these as postcards or greeting cards. What great graduation cards they would make! I don’t wear t-shirts, but I’d get one for my son. 🙂

    Isn’t it relatively easy to get these things made up nowadays? Cafepress or something like that? Hint hint…

  3. The one on sign errors really takes me back. When we were doing group assignments, the one dreaded phrase was “Show that…”. Since we already were given the answer, the teachers felt like they had free reign to make the problem as complicated as possible. So, one innocent question, “Show that expression X implies expression Y” meant 10 pages of algebra. Invariably there was at least one sign error, so I invented [kwan3217]’s Law of Signs. That law states: At the end of the problem, you get one free minus sign to stick wherever it helps, in order to make the answer what you know it needs to be.

  4. If something seems impossible.

    Assume that it is, in fact, possible. Examine the implications. Find a contradiction. And mark it with a tombstone.

  5. “It’s a mistake to seek your true identity. We all have two identities: multiplicative and additive.” I LOVE IT! I think I need to access my other identity in this time of my life.

  6. Thank you! I really needed this article!
    My school released its latest newsletter. It contained so much sexism directed against boys that I wanted to cry. Sexism in education seems to have a exploded in popularity in the last few years. Why so much hate?! I feel like we need another Rosie Parks.
    It’s like a battery recharge coming here. Thank you for not following modern trends of discrimination… er, I mean diversity.
    You had me hooked at the first quote!

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