A few math journals flit by my desk every month or two – The American Mathematical Monthly, Math Horizon, The College Mathematics Journal and Mathematics Magazine. Why should I read them? Certainly for information on math current events – new books, and references to interesting articles and also for the pleasure of figuring out how a proof-without-words works. But the substantial remaining pages are just a blur. In part this is because there is a bit of incest happening – interviews with retiring mathematicians or new editors for instance or clarifications from the history of mathematics, but mostly because of the relative sameness of the articles containing proofs. I have described this in an earlier post.
Why would I want to read a proof-heavy article on an optimal strategy for some game I would never play for instance, or a new proof of a minor theorem. The thing is I do want to read them. I like mathematics. I like mathematical arguments. I like mathematical cleverness. I want from an article – context: How does this approach fit with other approaches? and how do the insights of the paper simplify one’s understanding. I want to see clever techniques that I might use in other areas. Given the linear structure of these journal’s articles, there is no way to scan for the meat – new insight, new technique, new structures without slogging through line by line. That is why I wrote the previous post, crude though the example might have been, and why this rant of frustration.