Ask Dr. Math: The Math Doctors' Newsletter

by Ian Underwood

March, 2003

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

Hi Math Doctors,

What is it about March?  Last year in March, we answered more
than 4000 questions for the first time ever, and that turned out to
be the highest total during the whole year. 

This year, we answered 4170 questions (about 54% of the 7663 that 
we recieved), which is a new record for us!  And we're currently
on a pace to set another record in April.

More than 35 math doctors contributed answers this month, with special 
thanks going to the following:

 20/day |
        | Peterson
 15/day |
 10/day |  
        | Robert
        | Jeremiah, Rick, Roy
        | Jerry
  5/day | Douglas, Jacques
        | Anthony, Fenton, Shawn
        | Greenie, Tom, Wilkinson
        | Dotty
        | Edwin, Floor, Gareth, Kastner, Mike, Paul, Rob, Wallace 
  1/wk  | Achilles, Marshall, Nitrogen, Riviera, Schwa, White

Welcome to new math doctors George, Link, and Samus.  And 
congratulations to newly tenured Doctor Riviera (formerly 
Doctor Nbrooke). 

Connectivity Problems?

A few math doctors have reported problems (specifically, timeouts)
while connecting to the office.

This is especially troublesome when it happens while submitting an
answer, but any connection problems waste your time, so we'd like to 
clear them up.  However, they're  hard to replicate, and the hypotheses
we've been checking so far haven't panned out.  

So if you've been having problems connecting, please contact me with 
whatever information you can provide (e.g., date, time of day, what
you were doing, and how it turned out), so that we can try to track 
down the cause.  

How do you spell 'relief'? 

Now and then, you may find yourself tangled up in a thread and 
looking for a graceful way to get out of it.  Perhaps you're
trying to convince someone that the pieces of a tangram don't
change their areas depending on how you arrange them, or trying 
to help someone see why pi is _not_ equal to the square root 
of 10.  And after a number of exchanges, it becomes clear that 
you're not really getting anywhere. 

To let the thread drop without a reply seems rude, and invites
follow-up nudges (e.g., "When are you going to reply to me?").
Sending a cleverly dismissive reply (or even a curt "Quit wasting 
our time") can be cathartic, but it can also create hard feelings 
at the other end, which is something we'd like to avoid whenever

I've added a new canned answer, under the title 'Crank', which 

   Unfortunately, we have a lot of other questions to get to, 
   so I'll have to postpone continuing our discussion 
   until we get caught up with our backlog.

So you can use this, or you can flag the thread for the administrators
to take it over.  That's what were here for!  To help with that, I've
added a new Quick Memo,

   Admin, please take this...

to the menu.  

The main thing is that if you find yourself getting frustrated by a 
thread, instead of letting that frustration show, use one of these
safety valves, and move on to questions that you'll enjoy answering,
and where you feel you can make some progress. 

(If anyone would like to propose alternate wording for this 
message, or additional messages for other frustrating situations, 
please forward your suggestions to me.) 

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

Dr. Ian
Attending Physician
Ask Dr. Math