Ask Dr. Math: The Math Doctors' Newsletter

by Ian Underwood

January, 2001

To: All Dr. Math Doctors
From: Ian Underwood 
Subject: Ask Dr. Math in January

Hi Math Doctors,

I just finished compiling the statistics for January, and they look
like this:

                        Jan   Dec   Nov   Oct   Sep   
                        ----  ----  ----  ----  ----
  Questions asked:      8352  5874  8253  9023  8330  
  Questions answered:   3643  2750  3082  2447  1821  
  Percent answered:     43.6  46.8  37.3  27.1  21.0  

So it appears that passing the 40% mark wasn't a fluke, which means
that we're in striking distance of answering at least half of the
questions that come in!

In January, that would have meant answering about 18 more questions
every day.  That's a lot of extra work for one or two doctors... but
we had 44 regular interns, residents, and doctors who answered
questions last month.

A note to those potential doctors who have been given accounts, but
who haven't yet started their internships... now would be an
especially good time to get started!

Special thanks

As always, thanks go to every doctor who answered even one question
during January.  But I'd like to extend a special thank-you this month
to the following doctors:

  * Drs. Aileen, Alicia, Ezra, Jeremiah, Shawn, and Wilson for
    averaging one or more answers per day;

  ** Drs. Floor and Pat for averaging two or more answers per day;

  *** Drs. Jaffee and Rick for averaging three or more answers 
      per day;

  **** Drs. Anthony, Jerry, and Roy for averaging four or more 
       answers per day;

  ***** Dr. Greenie for averaging five or more answers per day; and

  **....*** Drs. Peterson, Rob, Robert, and Schwa, who together 
            accounted for more than a third of the answers that went
            out this month!

Also, thanks to Dr. Keith, whose students at the University of Redlands
(writing as Drs. Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron, Carbon,
and Nitrogen) accounted for more than 100 answers during January. 

Finally, thanks to Dr. Rob, whose new FAQ on segments of circles,

should make it easy to respond to a large number of questions that
come in each month.  Be sure to take a look at it. 

Kudos and new arrivals

Congratulations to newly tenured Dr. Roy. 

Welcome to new interns Dr. Achilles and Dr. Jordi. 


For those of you who haven't yet noticed it, the scrub room now
contains a 'quick memo' form near the bottom of the page, which you
can use to post a subject-line-only memo without having to open a new

You can use a quick memo whenever you want to alert a doctor to a
thank-you or follow-up, rephrase an ambiguous subject line, identify a
message as spam, and so on.  Of course, if you want to write a memo
body, you can still do that in the regular way. 

A new canned answer is available, which is intended for patients
who write in with 'questions' like 'I just don't understand [some

The content of the canned message is 

  Hi _______,

  Thanks for writing to Dr. Math.  

  The best way for me to help you would be for you to write back with a
  specific problem or two that you haven't been able to solve, showing
  the steps you've tried to take on your own.  Then you and I can work
  through things one problem at a time, until you're back on track.

  I hope to hear from you soon.

I've been using this with some success -- which is to say, some of the
patients who have received this message have been writing back!  So
I'm recommending it to the community at large as one possible
alternative to simply sending the patient to the archives or FAQ.

As always, if anyone would like to suggest other canned answers to be
included in the list, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Finally, I have added the canned answer form to the scrub room, which
should make the answers themselves easier to use.  Instead of going to
the operating room and _then_ selecting a canned answer, you can do
that in a single step by selecting and applying an answer from the
scrub room.  The operating room will display with the canned answer
already in the space between the patient's question and the doctor's


Those of you who haven't yet visited the Journal of Online Mathematics
and its Applications (JOMA) web site at are in for a

The site hosts a growing collection of 'mathlets', which are
interactive tools designed to let students explore concepts like
graphing, differentiation and integration, limits, series, and so on.

Please take a few moments to look around the site, and drop back
periodically, since the collection will continue to grow.  And of
course, feel free to make use of these resources when writing your

That's all the news for January.  Go forth, be fruitful, and teach
kids to multiply...

Dr. Ian
Attending Physician
Ask Dr. Math