Ask Dr. Math: The Math Doctors' Newsletter

by Ian Underwood

April/May, 2003

To: All Dr. Math Doctors
From: Ian Underwood 
Subject: Ask Dr. Math in April and May

Hi Math Doctors,

In April, we answered 4262 questions, eclipsing the record of 
4170 that we set in March.  That was just under 55% of the 
questions received. 

In May, the number of answers dropped off (to 3988), while 
our percentage actually went up (to just over 56%), which is 
a sure sign that (sing it with me) school... is out... for 
summer! (At least in the United States.) 

Nearly 50 math doctors contributed answers during these two 
months.  That's phenomenal!  Thanks to all of you, with special 
thanks going to the following:

 20 |
    | Peterson
 15 |
 10 |   
    | Mitteldorf
    | Fenton, Jerry, Roy 
  5 | Douglas, Rick
    | Anthony, Jacques, Robert
    | Rob, Schwa
    | Chita, Dotty, Luis, Shawn, Tom
    | Gareth, George, Greenie, Jeremiah, Kastner, Paul, Wilkinson
 1/ | Achilles, Carbon, Edwin, Floor, Jody, Link, Mike, Nitrogen, 
 wk | Pat, Pepper, Pete, Riviera, Samus, Stephen, Terrel, Tony, 
    | Wallace, White 
Welcome to new Math Doctors Glenn, Korsak, Nemo, and Stephen.  Also,
congratulations to newly tenured Doctors Dotty, George, Link, and

First Impressions

As we hear from people who want to volunteer to answer questions, 
I find myself telling them about the things that _I_ get out of
being a math doctor.  But I'd like to be able to provide other points
of view, as well.  To that end, if you can articulate what you
get out of it - what keeps you coming back? - and boil it down into
in a pithy sentence or two, I'd like to add some of those to the
signup page where we send prospective volunteers.

Second Opinions

Some patients write in asking for opinions, rather than solutions 
to particular problems, e.g.: "What would you consider to be 
important mathematics?", or "What is the best way teach students 
to prove theorems?". 

When answering a question like this, it's not uncommon to leave 
the thread in triage so that other math doctors can contribute 
their own points of view.  But these threads aren't always easy 
to spot. 

For this reason, I've added a new memo, 

  Other opinions?
to the Quick Memo menu.  This should make it easier to invite
other math doctors to pile on; and easier for them to respond
to such an invitation. 

Size DOES matter  :^D

Because of the way our archive pages are formatted, diagrams wider
than 580 pixels (about 4 inches on a typical screen) have to be
reduced if they're to be included in the archive.  The reduced
versions don't always look as good as the originals, so our archivists
have requested that we all try to keep our GIFs and JPEGs to within
this limit.  Thanks!


This month, we received a variety of thank-you messages, some of which
I wanted to pass on as a reminder of the range of people who are
helped by what y'all do.  They include


    I've been searching on various websites and have come across a lot
    of information that has been completly useless or of no help to
    me, simply because I couldn't understand what they were
    explaining. Then I came across your website, found an answer to
    what someone else asked, and understand everything; it has been a
    big help. It helped a lot the way you broke it down, explained
    everything from the basics, and gave examples. The easy
    step-by-step explanations were extremely helpful and they make
    sure you have a correct understanding of what's going on before
    you go to the next step. I think this is a great website and a
    great help for many people. Thanks for your consideration for
    others and keep up the good work!


    I just wanted to say thank you for all the wonderful resources I
    have found on your page.  I am teaching Algebra 2 for the first
    time this year and although I can do the math backwards and
    forwards, I sometimes have problems explaining why certain
    properties hold true or why certain operations give erroneous
    solutions, etc.  Your site has the clearest and most detailed
    explanations I've seen (from books to websites).  Thank you so
    much for all of the resources you provide.

  Parents and grandparents:
    Thank you very much.  In trying to help my 11 year old grandson
    (who I am raising) it is wonderful to have help after hours and
    hours of trying to find the answer.  You are very much

  And just folks:

    I just wanted to say thanks. I have a great time looking through
    the problems on your site and solving them. You've reminded me of
    countless things that I would otherwise have forgotten and I've
    learned a bunch of new tricks.  Thanks again for providing such a
    great resource.

That's it for now!  Go forth, be fruitful, and teach kids to

Dr. Ian
Attending Physician
Ask Dr. Math