Tuesday, 9 October 2012

professor awakens, you fail

Transitions may be the only type of human-like words and phrases that could make mathematical texts accessible for — and, hopefully, even understandable to — humans. On the other hand, this document dealing with issues of mathematical communication warns:
Be careful with clearly, obviously, and surely, as graders often interpret these connectives to mean that important parts of the problem are being glossed over and that they should therefore read over the surrounding text more diligently.
And you wouldn’t want that. I recall an anecdote about great mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov who for many years was a professor at the famous Department of Mechanics and Mathematic (мехмат) of Moscow State University. Now Kolmogorov normally was snoozing his way through the exams. A successful exam strategy tactics approach was to talk non-stop whilst trying not to wake him up with a careless transition word such as obviously. Otherwise, he would open his eyes and say with a smile: “Очевидно? Докажите!” (“Obviously? Prove it!”)

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