A Collaborative Educational Model

So a friend and I recently decided to start a little educational experiment. I unfortunately don’t have a lot of experience with writing proofs, and he suggested that we work through some simple proofs together so I could better see what was going on and the logical steps one takes when proving a theorem.

Reading a book or studying theorems is all fine and good, but I think that the real learning comes from interacting with others, sharing ideas, contributing insights to a final goal. While many people see mathematics as a solitary profession, I think that intimate collaboration with a few others can really be useful. In the current education system, we have professors lecturing to rooms of dozens if not hundreds of students. I know from my point of view, as someone who has little experience with “professional mathematics”, it is like having a mentor with which I can ask questions and learn together with. It’s really nice.

At my university, we had an academic mentoring system similar to this. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, mentoring and being mentored. Its definitely worth doing and a great experience if you have the chance. Find someone in your field that you can work with and learn from. It will be worth it, I promise.

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How I learned Python

So this summer I finally learned Python. It was something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and I’ve done a few simple programs (see here) but still didn’t really “get” it. Two things about how I learned the basics of Python and made them stick:

1) Code every day. And I do mean every day. It doesn’t matter if its just a few minutes of work, the repeated exposure helps the learning process go along soooo much smoother.

2) I used the Python track on Codecademy . They have interactive exercises and achievements you can earn for completing different courses. They started out teaching Javascript, and have since expanded into teaching HTML/CSS. The Python track is currently in beta (although I had only a few minor, if any, bugs), and they’re preparing a Ruby track as well. The site also implements a feature called “streaks” where it shows how many days in a row you’ve coded. I even got my family in on it, and they would ask me every day, “Hey Allison have you done your streak yet?”

The combination of the simple exercises coupled with coming back every day really helped me get the concepts into my head. Finally! Expect some fun Python things to come about in the future.