Quotes and back-to-school coloring book promo!

TL;DR: 30 math quote bookmarks with any coloring book order by 9/9/2017; lots of quotes and links to interesting interviews with/profiles of mathematicians below.

In my “quotes by modern or non-Greek/European mathematicians” post I asked if people knew of quotes about math that I could Instagram, basically. While there are few comments on that post I got some ideas via Facebook and email. Thanks in particular to Edray Goins for pointing me to several of these sites — Edray’s a number theorist at Purdue and the president of NAM and writes a blog on Dessin d’Enfants, which I want to give the coloring book treatment someday, and gave me a bunch more links which I’ll put below. Anyhow, here are some cool quotes I found:

Do not give up, for that is ignorance and not according to the rules of this art … Like the lover, you cannot hope to achieve success without infinite perseverance. — Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Fullani al-Kishnawi [ref Gwarzo, Hassan Ibrahim]

This is from Mathematicians of the African Diaspora, which invariably ends up leading to a long afternoon of internetting for me. On Facebook Lloyd Kilford mentions he recently came across al-Kishnawi’s work on magic squares and it seems rather modern in style, which is impressive for a guy who worked in the 1700s! However, this is one of the things I love about math: topics are addressed, explored, put away on a shelf for 100+ years, then retrieved for fresh insight. Poincare’s work was certainly that way — a lot of ideas that couldn’t be pursued then the way we can pursue them now, with computers available to explore dynamics. I’ll have to ask Lloyd where he saw the discussion of al-Kishnawi magic squares.

Next quote, which I already Instagrammed:

I see my life as a mathematician on the backdrop of a community and a network across countries and continents. — Marianne Korten

This is from an interview at Lathisms.org, another site that leads to endless clicking. Marianne Korten is a mathematician at Kansas State U, an analyst. She’s got a link at the top of that site to a freshman welcome talk, which is definitely pertinent at this time of year! In addition, Sept 15- Oct 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month in the US, and Lathisms (Latin@s and Hispanics in Mathematical Sciences) may do another profile-a-day project. Watch their site.

Another quote, which I’ve Instagrammed as well:

In much of math, you are just looking for the most beautiful thing you can think of. And only that determines if something is interesting or not. — Maria Chudnovsky

Maria Chudnovsky is a graph theorist/combinatorist at Princeton. I picked this quote from an interview with Maria by Anthony Bonato, himself a graph theorist. Anthony’s done a lot of cool interviews with mathematicians and is yet another reason this post is so late, because… more clicking & evenings spent reading instead of writing!

I’ll interrupt the quote-fest for a moment to tell you that to celebrate (?) the beginning of the school year, I’ll include 30 bookmarks with math quotes on any coloring book order that happens before Sept 9 (9/9). The bookmarks are simple — quotes on one side of a sparkly gold cardstock and a mathematical design on the other side — but I’m trying for a pretty way to advertise math, essentially. Put them in the student lounge, use them for prizes for in-class activities, give them to students who come to office hours. I’m an adult but I still love a gold star on my calendar for accomplishing a goal — why not give yourself or a student a gold bookmark?

(If you find some quotes you like about how great math is, I’ll custom print them for you! Else you’ll get a selection of 3-5 quotes.)

More quotes:

Sofia Kovalevskaya:
Many who have had an opportunity of knowing any more about mathematics confuse it with arithmetic, and consider it an arid science. In reality, however, it is a science which requires a great amount of imagination. It is impossible to be a mathematician without being a poet in soul.

(The last part of that is definitely on a bookmark already. And the Agnes Scott College bios of women in math… ok, more clicking…)

Mathematics, as much as music or any other art, is one of the means by which we rise to a complete self-consciousness. The significance of mathematics resides precisely in the fact that it is an art; by informing us of the nature of our own minds it informs us of much that depends on our minds.– John William Navin Sullivan

Infinite is a meaningless word: except – it states
The mind is capable of performing
an endless process of addition.

Louis Zukovsky, a poet

Already Instagrammed:

The beauty of mathematics only shows itself to more patient followers. — Maryam Mirzakhani (Clay Math interview)

And getting to some unexpected sources of math quotes, we’ve got the author of the Twilight series and Malcom X, expressing complementary sentiments! Mathematicians will enjoy reading these two quotes because it’s exactly this certainty, this externality, that makes a lot of us feel better. I like that math doesn’t care about my feelings or my arguments 🙂

“My first feeling was that there was no way to continue. Writing isn’t like math; in math, two plus two always equals four no matter what your mood is like. With writing, the way you feel changes everything.”
― Stephenie Meyer, Midnight Sun

“I’m sorry to say that the subject I most disliked was mathematics. I have thought about it. I think the reason was that mathematics leaves no room for argument. If you made a mistake, that was all there was to it.”
― Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

More great links to interviews, profiles, and other reading (thanks Edray for the top three):

  •  http://www.mathematicallygiftedandblack.com, started for Black History Month in 2017
  • http://bio.sacnas.org/biography/listssubject.asp#a6 The Biography Project, done by SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science). I’ll be going to SACNAS’s Modern Math Workshop in October thanks to the IAS, which I’m very excited about!
  • Grandma Got STEM, which as Edray promised was a lot of fun to read: https://ggstem.wordpress.com
  • Piper Harron’s blog and thesis: From the Prologue, “Respected research math is dominated by men of a certain attitude. Even allowing for individual variation, there is still a tendency towards an oppressive atmosphere, which is carefully maintained and even championed by those who find it conducive to success.” I so wanted to find a good quote for Instagramming here and if you find one tell me. My stumbling block is that those Instagram squares are small, and many of the great quotable lines in this thesis are long. “My thesis is, in many ways, not very serious, sometimes sarcastic, brutally honest, and very me. It is my art. It is myself. It is also as mathematically complete as I could honestly make it.” Maybe I just need a smaller font.
  • A post on the beauty of math by Vicky Neale, a lecturer at the University of Oxford.
  • A Wired Magazine profile of Sylvia Serfaty, also on the beauty of mathematics.

time to stop 🙂

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