It’s a Blur: Why Read Math Journals

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.


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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