Ask Dr. Math: The Math Doctors' Newsletter

by Ian Underwood

September, 2000

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

Hi Math Doctors,

I just finished compiling the statistics for September, and they look
like this:
                          September     August
                          --------      ------
  Questions asked:            8330        3929
  Questions answered:         1821        1810
  Percent answered:          21.0%       46.0%

So we answered about the same number of questions as last month.  But
the number of questions coming in more than doubled.

As I said last month, this is a terrific vote of confidence from math
students and teachers all over the world.  It's also a challenge, to
see if we can increase the number of questions that we answer each
month, without sacrificing the quality for which Ask Dr. Math has
become known.  

There are two ways that we can meet that challenge:

1. Increase the number of doctors.

2. Make it easier for all doctors to find and answer the questions
   that are most interesting to them.

We're working on both fronts. 

New doctors

Welcome to the following math interns, who started answering questions
in September: Drs. Muggle, Treat, Bart, Toughy, Tony, Saferin,
Jimstuy, Wolfson, Burma.

And congratulations to Dr. Wilson, who is newly tenured as of this

Finding interesting questions

Currently, one of the biggest time sinks in the office is opening
questions in order to find one that you want to answer.  Sometimes you
open a question to find that it's just not in your area of interest,
or it's an offer to get Omaha steaks at a great price, or it's a
question that you've already answered a dozen times...

In the near future, we plan to make it possible, upon opening and
reading such a message, to click a button or type a few keystrokes and
tag these messages so that the administrators or other doctors can 
tell what they are without having to open them.

But as Teddy Roosevelt advised: "Do what you can, with what you have,
where you are."

Everyone who has been through the tenuring process is familiar with
the use of memos to review answers in the holding tank.  But we can
use them to tag incoming questions as well.  For this, you don't need
to write anything in the memo itself -- just enter an appropriate
subject line. 

In particular, feel free to post a memo whenever you come across:

-- a question that should be removed from triage

-- a thank you for yourself or another doctor, or for the 
   entire service

-- a followup question to an answer from another doctor

-- a question that would be good for an intern to answer
   (because you're sure that an answer exists in the archive
   or the FAQ) 

-- a question whose subject line (e.g., 'Help!' or 'math question')
   gives no indication what it's about

If I spend an extra 30 seconds posting a memo, and that saves a dozen
other doctors 10 seconds each... well, you do the math.  :^D

Special thanks

This month, special thanks go to:

* Drs. Wallace and Aileen, for averaging one or more answers per day;

*** Drs. Jerry, Schwa, Jeremiah, Floor, Anthony, and Rick, for averaging
    three or more answers per day;

***** Dr. Douglas, for averaging five or more answers per day; 

and especially:

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

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

Dr. Ian
Attending Physician
Ask Dr. Math