Mathematics and the WWW


About this document


18 March 1997

Goals

  1. To give novices a good overview about what the World Wide Web is now doing for mathematics.
  2. To fill in gaps in the knowledge of more advanced users (in preparation I picked the brains of my co-workers at the Math Forum and other friends, and learned a lot).
  3. To examine where we appear to be going. Some of my conclusions may be controversial, but they are backed up by the other sections.

Structure

There are a fair number of pointers to interesting sites in the body of this document which may well be a distraction (one of the problems of using the Web for education). As I think we do need to try to understand where we appear to be headed (either blithely skipping along or being dragged kicking and screaming), I put the Conclusions first, followed by the supporting sections.

This is a hypertext document (see Section 4) and one of the strengths of hypertext is that it facilitates intelligent skimming. I trust this will make it possible for everyone to read and explore according to interests and level.

This is a World Wide Web document, so it can be easily modified. I've provided an easy feedback mechanism and will be happy to incorporate interesting ideas -- the date at the top of each section will indicate when it was last changed. It would be useful if this were to converge to a document that was a genuinely good expression of where we are with the Web and where we're likely to be going. I'll be delighted to work with you in this endeavor, and to credit your good ideas.

How it came about
This effort was sparked by an invitation to speak at the spring meeting of the local EPADEL (see glossary for translation) section of the Mathematical Association of America, on the occasion of the nationally celebrated (we hope) Math Awareness Week. I'm not really an EPADEL chauvinist even though I frequently refer to Web work within the section, but it seemed useful to anchor many of the activities to the particular region.

I still haven't figured out how to present this as a talk -- maybe just give people the URL and go home?

Who did it
Thanks to Steve Weimar for helpful discussion, comments, and vast knowledge (our Forum Internet collection is called "Steve's Dump" in his honor), to Herb Wilf for a nice discussion about Web publishing, to Melissa Dershewitz, Ms. Math Awareness Week '97, for rendering it into attractive html, to Ken Williams and Richard Tchen of the Math Forum for useful suggestions, to Janet Talvacchia of the Swarthmore Math Department for tough suggestions, to Todd Drumm and Tom Hunter for good references, and to Sarah Seastone, editor extraordinaire, for rendering me coherent.

Thanks also to the following folks for useful ideas:

Section 2: Davide Cervone
Section 4: Herb Wilf
Section 5: Louis Friedler (from sabbattical in Ghana), Patrick Ion, and Robert Minor
Section 6: Doris Schattschneider, Michael Gage
Postlude: Bob Jantzen.

YOUR NAME HERE IN ELECTRONS FOR JUST ONE GOOD IDEA OR CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM! (for two I'll leave it off).

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Gene Klotz