4.5 Ways to “Keep Calm And __[incert anything]”

How to manage grad school, a part-time job (or jobS), a relationship (or a family) and not to go crazy? If you’ve been to grad school for over 6 month you have probably figured out that it’s a rhetorical question. However, we c

an always brainstorm strategies to “Keep calm and ______”.

The next question is HOW do we keep calm?

1. Put it in perspective

We might be constantly broke, criticized for our life choices or academic performance, etc., etc., etc BUT most of us have a roof above our head, we are not starving, not terminally ill… Hence, we can’t complain TOO much.

Of course there are tons of things that we can complain about such as problems within academia, complicated family dynamics, other less-than-perfect living arrangements, and we continue this list forever. However, it’s OUR choice which list we’ll focus on: the list of complaints, or the list of blessings.

2. Focus on the list of blessings instead on the list of complaints

Of course, a good complaint session might be therapeutic once in a while, however, it’s in our best interest to focus on the list of our blessings and make it as lengthy as possible.

Think your life sucks? Watch The Theory of Everything (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUayjO_KgsQ), or Leviath ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpawdA34HNk )

 still think your life sucks as much as the main characters’?

3. Life is more than just grad school

That’s the hardest one to keep in mind at times. We get so immersed in our research or just everyday motions and routines of reading, going to seminars, keeping up with employment, etc, that it is difficult to forget that our personalities are not confined within our theses.  Have you ever had a hobby? Who did you want to become as a kid? What did you friend and relatives think you’ll become? Where is your favorite spot in the city? When was the last time you tasted your favorite ice cream?  Our personalities are somplex and we have so many roles (students, children of our parents, partners, parents, etc).  It is true that we might have chosen the role of a ‘graduate student’ to be the main one at this time, but it is TEMPORARY.

Grad school is not a permanent state of being (although most of the time it feels like one), and if things become unbearable, it’s a great point to keep in mind.

4. Grad school is TEMPORARY, but this fact should not be a panic-trigger

Most of us are worried about employment after obtaining our degree, and we should definitely work towards obtaining experience and keeping our ears and eyes open for relevant possibilities. However, even if you are not 100% sure what kind of employment you wish to take up after graduation, it should not trigger a panic-attack while you are still working on your thesis.

Imagine that you went for a hike up a mountain. The higher you are getting, the more you can see.  Similarly, with your graduate studies: the more you know and the more experience you get, the better is your ‘view’ of other possibilities. You are NOT a horse. You don’t have to wear blinkers or follow a stricter-than-necessary route.

4.5 But really, what all of us need at times to keep calm is a nice friendly hug, so walk over to the nearest human and exchange hugs (if socially acceptable, of course 😉 )

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Assorted Stereotypes About Grads

Some people perceive millennials as a generation of spoiled coffee-drinking infantile youngsters with hyper-extended childhood who take about 30 years to ‘find themselves’ only to find themselves working as baristas while pretending to be engaged in ‘vaguely creative activities’.   Misconceptions about graduate students, especially the ones in humanities go even further.

Just for laughs – here are some stereotypes about graduate students that my fellow grad-school mates and I have heard:

Graduate students ___

  • are trying to extend their childhood into their 30’s
  • are not ready to face the ‘real world’
  • use light illegal substances on regular basis
  • are trying to put away major life decision out of emotional immaturity
  • are incapable of creating serious relationships
  • are selfish by definition (as in “you would not go to grad school if you cared about anything else)
  • stay unemployed into their 30’s
  • drink way too much coffee
  • are either vegans, OR junk-food monsters (or even vegan-junk-food monsters)
  • are antisocial OR too social, to the determent of their academic careers
  • are too promiscuous OR celibate (with nothing in-between these extremes)

… the list can go on, but let’s look at some assumptions that are sometimes made about women in graduate school:

Women in graduate school ________

  • are all tomboys (with a negative connotation)
  • have low chances of getting into long-term relationships
  • don’t care about creating families
  • have hard time socially adjusting in male-dominated academic departments

… again, the list can go on

BUT as millennials, we are also resilient, ambitions and determined to succeed in whatever that is we do :).

So instead of taking offence at any of the listed stereotypes that may linger in our society – as some young people do – we can either debunk those myths, or laugh at ourselves for consciously or unconsciously reinforcing them.  Grad-school is a lifestyle that some of us chose to lead for 1-7 years (depending on your program), so, let’s not take ourselves too seriously, embrace our life-style choice and discuss things like creativity, relationships, and other relevant topics (but – in the next posts :))

What kind of stereotypes about graduate students have you heard?

Canadian Mathematical Society Winter Meeting 2016 – Niagara!

This weekend was really mathematical for me!

I went to Canadian Mathematical Society Annual Winter Meeting! This year it was held in Niagara falls. We didn’t get to see the falls and the fire alarm nearly chased us out of the conference halls, but overall the trip was incredibly productive and fun. I also met up with friends who I haven’t seen in such a long time!

Continue reading “Canadian Mathematical Society Winter Meeting 2016 – Niagara!”

How not to have a ‘teenage debate’

I work with teens and most of them love arguments and debates [i love debates as well!] But debating is a form of art.  Some of my students have not mastered it yet, so they often end up having a ‘teenage debate’. A ‘teenage debate’ is a discussion where participants criticize each other instead of each others’ ideas, blame each other for not understanding their points of view, and  – most importantly – everyone is very poorly informed about the topic of discussion. Another characteristic of a ‘teenage debate’ is that it gets started to procrastinate on some real tasks that the students have to do at a given moment.

Continue reading “How not to have a ‘teenage debate’”

Essentials for a freelancing math teacher

I’m a math teacher and a graduate student. I don’t teach at a public school. Instead I teach at special programs for gifted children, or work with children individually. I guess that makes me a freelancing math teacher. Continue reading “Essentials for a freelancing math teacher”

Fields Medal Symposium 2016

There’s no Nobel Prize in math but there’s a Fields Medal which is given to mathematicians under the age of 40 for their outstanding achievements. Every year Toronto’s Fields Institute hosts an annual Fields Medal Symposium to honor one of the medalists. This time we have Prof. Manjul Bhargava  – a number theorist born in Hamilton – is the honored guest.

Prof. Bhargava is the first Canadian born mathematician who received the Fields Medal! This makes this year’s symposium even more special. There were no empty seats in the Isabel Bader Theatre where the Public Opening of the Symposium was taking place yesterday evening. The audience was composed of professionals from a variety of fields and students. Prof. Bhargava’s talk was engaging and accessible for everyone in the audience.  Colorful diagrams and interesting facts about nature that he mentioned were especially appreciated.

We brought our Math Circles class from UTM to the public opening. This was their first time attending such a large event.  Luckily, they enjoyed the talk and the festive atmosphere around the Public Opening night.  Moreover, they even had a chance to take a picture with Prof. Bhargava!

Prof. Bhargava will be giving a special lecture for high school students this evening at the Fields Institute, but unfortunately I will not be able to attend it, cause I’ll be teaching my own students.

If you want to find out more information about the Fileds Medal Symposium, click here:

http://www.fields.utoronto.ca/activities/16-17/fieldsmedalsym

 

Math Snippet: Graphs, Instagram, Internet

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I’m taking an online course on graph theory now and the lecturer is so good that listening to him is like watching an engaging movie.  His language is simple enough and he does not assume any previous knowledge of higher level math (just high school knowledge). For now, here are some very basic snippets about graphs:

Imagine we have a classroom full of desks that can seat two people.  We could represent people as dots (vertices) and connect these dots with lines (or edges).  We have created a graph that provides us with information about the pairs of students, the ways they are paired up.  More formally, graphs are structures that describe pairwise relationships between objects.

Continue reading “Math Snippet: Graphs, Instagram, Internet”

Pedagogy -Balancing on the Border of the ‘Image’ and the ‘Body’ of Knowledge

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I notice that I work better when I have very concrete goals in mind, or when I hold myself accountable to someone. I am in the process of creating a draft of my thesis and I will be sharing some excerpts with you. Most likely they will not be direct or exact excerpts, but rather adapted snippets.

Here is the first one in which I’ll tell you about the ‘image’ and the ‘body’ of mathematics, and about pedagogy that falls exactly into the intersection of these terms.

In summary, the body of knowledge encompasses the intellectual content that a certain scientific discipline is concerned with and the image of knowledge represents the attitudes, beliefs and concerns of the scientific community about the body of knowledge  Continue reading “Pedagogy -Balancing on the Border of the ‘Image’ and the ‘Body’ of Knowledge”

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Things to do in 5 spare minutes

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Do you ever have these awkward 5-minute time slots in your day when you are either waiting for a bus, getting ready for  a conference call, etc.?  Here are a couple of ideas on what to do in those 5 min. You can exercise, snap photos, call a friend… the rest of it is on Lifehack in my new post:

http://www.lifehack.org/467214/5-things-to-do-in-5-spare-minutes

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Recover Your Creative Spirit

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All of us have a creative bone in our bodies. Have you ever broken in? If so, I posted a step-by-step guide for recovering your creativity just in time for the back-to-school season.

http://www.lifehack.org/456391/5-steps-to-get-creative-again

How do you stay in tune with your creative side? Any tips?

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Your Most Productive Morning Commute

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Are you trying to become a ‘morning person’ for the back-to-school season? See a tip that would help with beating the morning grogginess while keeping you productive.

http://www.lifehack.org/452497/one-tip-for-beating-the-morning-grogginess

What do you do during your morning commute?

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How to stop putting things off

 

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Another post on Lifehacker.Org about taking 5 minutes a day to start off a project hat you have been putting off, finding and eliminating the reasons that are holding you back.

http://www.lifehack.org/445462/start-a-project-you-have-been-putting-off-in-just-5-steps

Is there a project that you have been putting off?

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Math Anxiety Inducing Phrases

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I became a contributing author for Lifehack.Org

Here is my first post about math anxiety inducing phrases that all of us should avoid when talking to kids about math or academic subject matter in general.

http://www.lifehack.org/431623/3-phrases-that-contribute-to-math-anxiety-in-children

Lifehack.org would not appreciate if I just pasted my post here, but in short, whenever you  talk to kids about anything math related, avoid emphasizing that math is only for the ‘geniuses’, that you were ‘never good at it’, and that it is ‘too hard’. You never know how these phrases can be misinterpreted by kids, and most likely they will be used against you (or against math and other academic subjects) at some point down the line.

Do you know anyone suffering from math anxiety? Were you anxious about math when you were at school?

A ‘quirk’ that Dedekind, Mendeleev and Hilbert had in common :)

I always get an extra boost of creativity, motivation and productivity in my graduate research after periods of teaching.  I’ve been working at different math summer camps for the last few weeks, and the experience was tiring and challenging at times.  However, after the camps were finished I noticed that some ideas related to my research have just ‘appeared’ in my head – sounds great, right? …Except that when I share this experience with some of my friends in academia, they usually exclaim: “But teaching is a ‘distraction’ from your ‘real’ work, isn’t it!”

So I convinced myself that I’m just an ‘odd apple’ in academia with this strange quirk of not hating the process of teaching… Then I found out that I’m not the only one.  Apparently many works of Mendeleev, Dedekind and Hilbert were inspired, and driven by their teaching experiences, or dissatisfaction with existing teaching methods.

For instance, Dmitri Mendeleev’s table of elements was first published in [drum roll] a TEXTBOOK!  At the start of his career Mendeleev was one of the many professors with a high teaching load and not-so-high salary.  His famous table was a result of frustration with his students and the teaching materials that he was provided with.  Contrary to a relatively common belief, Mendeleev was NOT the first scientist to attempt organizing and classifying the elements.  Other classification systems were widely published in textbooks but Mendeleev’s class was unable to make sense out of those classification systems. Hence, Mendeleev set off to create his own way of organizing the elements and presenting them to his students.  Soon the famous periodic table appeared in an ordinary textbook for university level chemistry class.

Richard Dedekind was absolutely appalled by methods of teaching calculus at university level.  He was unhappy with all the gaps in students’ knowledge of math in general as well as in subject-specific areas.  This frustration with poor pedagogy of calculus has inspired his works on integers.  In fact, it inspired him to push the ‘boundaries’ of algebra so far that some mathematicians were doubting that his works should even be considered a part of the realm of algebra (for those who are specializing in history of sciences, I’m just trying to say that he has altered the ‘image’ of algebra).

David Hilbert always surrounded himself with as many talented students as he could, especially during the mature stages of his career.  He claimed that tuning into their ideas and bouncing his own ideas against them motivates him to expand his academic views and provides him with inspiration to keep learning.

There are countless examples of other scientists and mathematicians who were motivated by teaching such as Kolmogorov, Alexandrov, etc. (each of them deserves a BOOK  – not a paragraph).

Of course, there are equally as many successful and famous scientists who were sure that teaching is not their thing, which is fine, and deserves a discussion as well – but maybe in a different post 🙂

P.S.: mini-bibliography/inspiration sources:

A Well Ordered Thing: In the Shadow of the Periodic Table by Michael Gordin

History of Modern Algebra  by Leo Cory

Hilbert by Constance Reid

Teaching an online course: Online Math Kangaroo Enrichment Classes

This summer I have been teaching a Online Math Kangaroo Enrichment Classes for grade 4.

In each class we looked at several core concepts and then solved numerous problems that resembled problems from Math Kangaroo Contests.

Teaching an online class was a new experience for me and I am extremely happy that i had a chance to try it.

The trickiest part about teaching an online class was finding an effective way to communicate with the audience.  This challenge, however, could be resolved by asking the students to ‘raise their hand’ (by clicking an appropriate icon) and typing their questions in the chat window provided.

I found that giving the audience plenty of time to think about each posed question on their own.  Providing sufficient time allowed the students to understand posed problems and to formulate meaningful questions afterwards.

This summer the audience was quite active and well prepared for each class.  Although the group of students was quite diverse in terms of academic background and age, everyone caught up to the same speed and academic level very fast.

I am quite proud of my students and I wish them the best of luck in their next academic year and the upcoming Math Kangaroo Contests!

Although the summer course is over, please see the related information at https://kangaroo.math.ca/index.php?kn_mod=news  and stay tuned for information on further classes

 

Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2014

 

I was honored to be one of the speakers at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Mathematics held with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Once again, I was speaking of various regional differences in the Soviet mathematics education.  The comments from the attendees were extremely helpful!

The program and the list of abstracts – including mine – can be found here:

http://www.cshpm.org/archives/programs/prog2014.pdf

 

The congress took place close to the Niagara Falls at Brock University in the city of St. Catharines (May 25th – 27th).

After the Meeting was over I took a detour to see the Falls.

The first thing that I saw upon exiting the university campus was a demolition site

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followed by a ‘haunted’ – or just abandoned – house

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The flowers along the side of the Niagara River smelled wonderful before the rain has started

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and Americans are building something on their side of the falls

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Classroom Adventures in Mathematics Summer Institute 2014

Last week Department of Mathematics of UofT welcomed school teachers and teachers in training for a week of professional enrichment – Classroom Adventures in Mathematics Summer Institute 2014.  UofT faculty and graduate students spoke to the teachers about enrichment of traditional curriculum for students of different ages and academic backgrounds as well as highlighting the wide possibilities of interdisciplinary studies of STEM subjects.

Please see http://mathplus.math.utoronto.ca/home/caimsi to read more about the covered topics and stay tuned for the videos of selected lectures that will be posted soon!

Meeting experienced teachers from local school boards was an invaluable learning opportunity and I am very glad that I could be a part of the program!

 

 

Canada Math Camp 2014

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Last week I had a pleasure of being a camp coordinator of Canada Math Camp! Working at a camp is always intense but very exciting.  Although it can be tiring at times, I can’t wait to do it all over again already!

Canada Math Camp is for students who achieved high scores at the Canada Open Math Challenge (COMC) or for those who were recommended by their mathematics teachers or other members of the mathematics community.

Check out our daily updates here: http://mathplus.math.utoronto.ca/home/b_cmc2014

General information about the camp can be found here: http://mathplus.math.toronto.edu/home/cmc

If you re feeling nostalgic for the last year’s CMC camp, CMC 2013 info and daily updates can be found here: https://cmc.math.ca/home/blog/category/daily-updates/

 

(image from https://cmc.math.ca/home/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/DSC_4700.jpg)

Geek Street Fair powered by Google – Toronto Distillery District

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Last Thursday I, along with a great group of volunteers, had a pleasure to participate in the Toronto Distillery District Geek Street Fair powered by Google.

The event was designed to demonstrate how fun and exciting STEM subjects can be.

Read more about this event at out new website at

http://mathplus.math.utoronto.ca/home/a_geek_street

Localities – Graduate Student Conference at York University

On May 3rd and 4th York University hosted the Localities conference. See the following link for the program that was offered http://yorkustsgradconference2014.wordpress.com/program/

I was honored to be one of the speakers.  I was speaking of regional differences in mathematics and science education of the Soviet Students.  This was a new talk that I have recently prepared and I am happy that the audience was very attentive and responsive.

My presentation focused on discussion of various regional based differences in math and science education of soviet students based on primary sources such as laws and decrees issued between 1958 and 1980.  during the 1960`s the government was acknowledging the differences in educational needs of students in rural and urban areas.  By the 1970’s such acknowledgements became sparse.  The Communist ideology implied that all Soviet children were given exactly the same opportunities and were able to achieve high results regardless of their geographic location.  Although such statement could have ‘worked’ in the conditions of ‘perfect world’, in reality children from rural areas were often missing out on contacts with highly qualified scientists and artists whereas their urban peers benefited from such contacts.

 

I was pleasantly surprised and humbled by a tweet that was sent out regarding the illustrations that accompanied my presentation.

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Beautiful visuals of Soviet mathematics education in the 60s presented by @mariya_boyko12 at the @STS_YorkU grad conference #STSYU14

— Yana Boeva (@dropsmops) May 3, 2014

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