Sunday, January 09, 2005

Reading / (Not) Working

I can't decide if I should be relaxing my one last weekend before school resumes, working at a normal clip to be ready for the start of school, or working franticly to do all the work-related things that I meant to do over break but didn't. As a bit of a compromise, this morning I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This is likely to be the book that all the freshmen starting in Fall 05 will be told to have read by the time they arrive. And so, in my role as go-to person for anything interdisciplinary and/or time-consuming, I've been asked to think about finding ways to include things from the book in the gen-ed class that I teach. (Can I get a t-shirt that says, "I'm a team player with the reading across the curriculum initiative"?)

This was actually a fairly reasonable request -- the main character in the book is autistic but mathematically gifted. And the character talks about things like prime numbers, the Monty Hall problem, the Pythagorean theorem, and other things that are already in the class.

I'm not sure what I think about yet another work that identifies math with weirdness and severe social ineptness. (And here I'm thinking of the upcoming tv shows.) And I realize that I do poke fun of the profession for being populated by odd people -- but there are a substantial number of very normal mathematicians; they just draw less attention than the odd ones. In the Numb3rs script that K sent me (secret message to K: yes, I owe you email, as I have 93,000 things to tell you), the character Mike says about Charlie, "In junior high, we stuffed guys like him head first into trash cans." Charlie's brother replies, "He knows that," and then Mike says, "Good." People seem to value and/or respect the work but not the people who do it.