I've got one more meeting in an hour and a half, and commencement tomorrow...but then everything...classes, projects, meetings, grading...EVERYTHING...is over for the semester.

Give me a week, and I'll be bored out of my ever-loving skull, itchin' to get back into the classroom.

The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of excitement (grant-related activity, proposal-writing, this meeting and that, toying with various research ideas), and I'm looking forward to starting a few weeks of mercifully highly unstructured busyness.

For the moment I've got nothing to say, really, but I thought I'd post the second of what will be three rounds of student-authored math-themed poetry.

I should say up front that I've received permission from all of the students from whom permission was sought to post their writings; the only two poems I'm not including in this post are rich concrete constructions in which the pagination plays a very meaningful role. I'll have to see if I can render the effect in Blogger, I might have to settle for obtaining the original MS Word files from the students themselves and posting links to those.

For now, I give you

Let's begin with a simple haiku, courtesy of Mark. Mark indicates that he felt justified in forgoing the tradition in American haiku of making mention of a season, since his poem deals intimately with the theme of Nature:

Nature is Chaos, by Mark

Nature is Chaos,

Math brings order to Chaos,

Math Quantifies life

Cory's poem deals with the sweet taste of victory, written after Leibniz had been exculpated in his section's reenactment of Newton v. Leibniz; Cory was one of several of his classmates who described the experience as an immensely positive one:

Newton v. Leibniz, by Cory

It started with a proposition

Which led my team to the path less traveled

Whitney, Cory, Ben, and Justin...Leibniz and his colleagues

We were doomed from the start

Newton this, Newton that, all in favor say Newton

With the invention of calculus at hand

We had to bring it home for the one and only Leibniz

As we ravaged the library and surfed the web

Little by little it pieced together

Closer and closer victory was ours

As underdogs we had no choice but to be prepared like no other has ever prepared

Days grew long

Nights became dawn

And before we knew it the hourglass was empty

The epic trial of Newton v. Leibniz was here

In only minutes we could see that we were better prepared

Minutes passed and minutes left before the deciding factors

As the trial came to an end Leibniz and his colleagues left the room with their heads held high

And a sense of pride lingered in their step

BAM

It was here

The verdict

Dead quiet

Leibniz found not guilty

Therefore he published first

And was crowned the king of calculus

It came with no surprise to Leibniz and his colleagues

WE WERE PREPARED FOR GLORY

AND NOTHING LESS!

The following is the only e-based poem I received, strangely enough. I love the way the author has made use of the fact that e's first several digits alternate between 1s/2s and 8s/9s: this alternation leads to a series of quick exclamations followed by more prolix elaboration.

e, by Anonymous

.

Can put to use in everyday situations.

Crazy.

Challenging yet the only subject that is constant.

Mind boggling.

Sometimes you want to pull your hair out.

Satisfying.

Confusing/makes perfect sense at the same time.

Intricate simplicity.

If used can solve many problems we face.

Ben's work, below, paints an idealized picture of the way the world might look through a mathematician's eyes. I'm not sure exactly what's meant by the cryptic closing lines.

mathematician, by Ben

late nights and classroom lights

chalk board dust and old book must

soda redbull coffee and tea

oh! the world the mathematician sees

to take heed - a desire planted so deep

to justly discover and describe

the fine natural truths held inside

deep blue seas, big old trees. its

size, shape, speed, that he sees

joy and fulfillment abound

beautiful! the answer is found

and my dear! the truth will set you free

oh! i long to see the world that he sees

but as his time ends, there is one regret -

his curiosity reigns supreme

and learning all is but a dream

some regret a dollar lost

or an unforeseen cost

but as it comes fro'

his time to go

things unknown

leave him

'lone

the world the mathematician sees

is the world the mathematician must leave

this is the pain the mathematician knows

I felt the next poem was one of the strongest submitted, I've mentioned it in a previous post as its author was working it out in its preliminary form. Its theme is one of the most personal I encountered as well. Stylistically, the author expresses an affinity for the chiastic form the lines took on the page, and, not surprisingly, professes to be a fan of alliteration!

Frustrated, by Anonymous

Never being challenged or troubled

Always loving the beauty and complexity of it,

Now getting bogged down in the cumbersome intricacies,

Confused not knowing how to help myself,

Frustrated with the fucking functions,

Wanting to get back to the beauty,

Seeking guidance.

Elise's piece was a particular clever one. Wanting to work with the Fibonacci sequence, she soon came up with the idea of laying out a flower garden, in which the nth flower named not only occurs Fn times, but also possesses Fn petals in its floral structure!

I think this poem would make a lovely children's book, if we could find the right illustrator.

My Fibonacci Flower Garden, by Elise

In my garden I have many flowers

The bloom elegantly after May day showers.

Here, I must bring you on a tour

Unless you've seen it all before.

It first starts off with a single white calla lily

That a friend gave me named Billy

Then next is a single pitcher plant

This is home to some ants.

After that is two euphorbia flowers

Couldn't you just look at them for hours?

Then there are three trilliums

Don't tell, I picked them from a mausoleum!

Then come five columbines

I swear, they bloom all the time.

And eight bloodroots

Aren't they just so cute?

Next to those are thirteen black-eyed Susan

Susan shouldn't have been cruisin' for a bruisin'.

And twenty-one asters

They seem to grow faster.

Then last but not least, thirty-four field daisies

I hope I don't seem crazy.

Now that you have seen my garden

Please beg your pardon.

It is now time for you to go

It looks like I have to put on another show.

Nathan's pi-based poem used the number's decimal places to count off the syllables occurring in each line, rather than the words. The effect is to render each line tighter, more succinct. What results is a geometric tour involving everyone's favorite constant:

Wonderful Pi, by Nathan

Ace.

Vast bottomless

Pi.

Without existence

Not a Circle would ever compute.

Golden.

True value never known

Yet still you exist.

Essential.

Impossible, no

Inside an orbicular world

Your escort, radius, assists

finding area and volume

Infinite. Great. Infinitely great.

You, my friend,

Are pi.

I love this next poem, an ode on an abbreviation I use frequently when grading: "w.b.c" stands for "wrong, but consistent," and arises whenever a student makes use of an incorrect calculation but does so in the correct manner, resulting in a solution which is wrong, but consistent with an incorrect intermediate value. "W.b.c" is good, because generally it means the student's got the right idea, but just made a minor boo-boo in her computations. Partial credit-wise, "w.b.c." might mean only a point or two off.

Clearly our anonymous author has been haunted by this abbreviation:

Untitled #1, by Anonymous

Progress.

I stare and stare at the door

Feeling the approach of a familiar stranger

(Like pointless anticipation

Of an unnamed and unknown event)

Lingering.

On the very brink of my thoughts

The solution totters

Awaiting enlightenment (as a form of escape)

From the chamber of my mind

Disappointment.

Wrong but consistent.

Partial credit.

Sarah's poem, much like Sam's (see the previous post!), poses a mathematical puzzle embedded in its lines. In addition to performing this feat of numerical legerdemain, she based the structure of her poem on the sequence of prime numbers, the only student to do so.

Magical number, by Sarah

Magical number

Add twenty-four

Then multiply me by two

Half of my last digit is one

Eventually there will be a number that is right for me

Multiply my very first digit by six then subtract it all from me

Average my two digits and you will find a golf term

Triple me to see consecutive numbers

I am only one digit

Count backward to

See me!

In unpoetical news, I've just come back from the final faculty meeting of the calendar year, at which our fearless Learning Circle leader delivered directly into my hands the text for the LC in which I will be participating: Learning partnerships: theory and models of practice to educate for self-authorship, by Marcia Baxter Magolda and Patricia M. King. It should prove an interesting follow-up to Meszaros's book from this past semester.

This is the book we should have read first, perhaps?

Allow me now to end this post and set to work reading the paper I've been asked to referee for the Journal of Combinatorial Mathematics and Combinatorial Computing. (Say that one three times really quickly...)

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