Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
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12 of 12, May 2016

Ugh. A rather mixed day for this month’s 12 of 12.

This week and the coming fortnight are just a little crazy in terms of scheduling. Here’s this week, according to the “office hours” notice pinned to my door. (You will probably notice that I don’t know what week it is. You can see why.) Even though there were white spaces today, they seemed to be filled with stuff, and I kept forgetting that I was supposed to be taking photos for the 12 of 12 tradition.


I had a meeting in the morning. It was in our excitingly decorated and poorly heated video conference room. I went down a quarter of an hour early to turn the heater on so that we wouldn’t freeze during the meeting (our mild autumn came to a chilly end earlier in the month).


This worries me. My computer and Outlook (my email program) seem to be having difficulty with the idea of having 23000 items in my In box. The rainbow beach-ball is a bad sign on a Mac; it goes away after a few seconds, but I think I need to regard it as warning sign for impending doom. The trouble is, I am  having difficulty with the idea of having 23000 items in my In box, and I’m not sure when I am going to be able to do much about it.


Some of my colleagues and I are attending a maths teachers’ conference this weekend. This is their attempt to fill my car with their stuff.


This is my stuff. Actually, I ended up taking only the stuff on the right, but only after I was distracted by a nice little problem: which tub contains more blocks?


I mentioned that the mild weather has ended. Not only has it become colder but it is also very windy. This is difficult to see through my office window, but it was certainly easy to hear.


Did I mention that my schedule is ridiculous. It was so ridiculous — and my mind was so distracted from taking my 12 of 12 photos — that I ended up kind of repeating myself with the photos. Those of you with good eyesight can see the gory details.


In the early evening there was a lecture about education in Tasmania, given by Professor John Hattie. He was identifying things that make a difference for students’ learning. I paid some attention, but I confess I was also trying to read and give feedback on a graduate student’s essay.



At some point during the previous 24 hours one of my work colleagues, visiting Hobart from Launceston, suggested going to the movies to see a film about Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (The Man Who Knew Infinity). Neither of us had the time to go, and the least impossible time for us not to go was the late evening session … so we went anyway. We had a light meal in the cafe beforehand, but apparently I was so hungry (and so incapable of remembering to take a decent collection of 12 of 12 photos) that I didn’t take a photo until after I’d finished the salmon pate.


We had hot chocolates during the trailers. (You can tell that my quest for a set of 12 of 12 photos is getting desperate at this point.)


Towards the end of the movie, I leaned across to my friend and said “1729” seemingly at random. The pay-off came about 5 minutes later in the film, when the mathematician G. H. Hardy (played by Jeremy Irons) tells Ramanujan (Dev Patel) about the apparently boring number of the taxi in which he had travelled. Ramanujan then points out that 1729 is the smallest number which can be written as the sum of two cubes in two different ways. When I got home, I worked out which four cubes were involved, since I didn’t actually know already. Consider yourself enlightened. 1729 is now known as the “Taxi Cab Number” or the “Hardy-Ramanujan number”


(The “12 of 12” project involves taking 12 photos on the 12th of the month. This provides the opportunity to get snapshots of different aspects of your life. I have been doing this since 2009.)

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