Robert Jacobson:

After Math

A mathematician goes home and writes a blog.

about me

I am an assistant professor of mathematics at Roger Williams University. I write about mathematics, education, mathematics education, computer science, and whatever interests me.

The Grammar of Mathematical Expressions

- - posted in computerscience

Using computers to do automatic translation has a long and rich history in computer science. A course in compiler construction is a veritable survey of topics in computer science running the gamut from formal languages to data structures and algorithms to Hopfcroft’s algorithm to minimize deterministic automata. One of the first things a student learns in a compiler construction course is how to formally describe the grammar of a language using (extended) Backus–Naur form (EBNF).

How Springer Sent Me to Collections for Adopting Their Textbook.

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The story begins with one of those little mundane activities that fill every professor’s day. Right before the spring semester began I was evaluating various textbook options for the next time I teach undergraduate real analysis. Stephen Abbott’s Understanding Analysis published by Springer seemed to be exactly the kind of book I was looking for.

Sneaky Continuous Functions

- - posted in Calculus

While the target audience of this article is my fantastic calculus students, other math teachers might enjoy it as well.

Sneaky Continuous Functions

When students in first semester calculus first start learning about limits, they are often asked to determine limits using the graph of a function, which we will call the graphical method, and also by constructing a table of values of the function, which we will call the numerical method. Students should be warned that these methods, while perfectly legitimate and often quite useful, are really just fancy ways of guessing the value of the limit, that is, the graphical and numerical methods do not supply us with mathematical certainty regarding the value of the limit. After all, what if your function is very sneaky and merely looks like it’s approaching a value $L$ as $x$ approaches $c$ when in fact it ultimately approaches a different value $K$?

Blogging the JMM: Saying Goodbye

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It’s over. Getting my internet fix in the hotel lobby at midnight, walking 18 miles a day through the convention center, sitting in uncomfortable chairs for hours, getting dinner in a local restaurant and realizing halfway through the meal that every single person dining there is also a mathematician, randomly bumping into an old friend or mentor or student–it ended today at around lunchtime when I made the trek back to the hotel lobby one last time.