Writing Math with a Sense of Rhythm

I wanted to tell a student the other day that he had no sense of rhythm.  I was helping him with a multi-step homework problem.  His work was densely written with little white space and no narrative.  All the steps in his process had the same weight whether arithmetic calculations, algebraic manipulations or an application of a calculus concept. All this made his work hard to follow and it was nearly impossible to locate any errors.  I had to ask him for a guided tour.

I think I will start holding my students to a higher standard of organization in their written work.  When I assign the next problems I will provide an outline of an adequately structured solution and spend a few minutes discussing the difference between important steps and mere calculation and the need for a narrative.

I have noticed the same phenomena with beginning Go players. They expend the same amount of time and mental energy on a minor tactical fight as on a board-wide strategic play.  Good Go playing  has a flow with a flurry of moves followed by deep thought followed by more moves and so on.

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About jrh794

I am a sixty-five year old math instructor at Southern Oregon University. I taught at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed California for twenty-six years. Prior to that I worked as a computer programmer, carpenter and in various other jobs. I graduated from Rice University in 1967 and have a MS in Operations Research from Stanford. In the past I have hand-built a stone house and taken long solo bicycle tours. Now I ride my mountain bike and play golf for recreation.
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