Wednesday, April 18, 2018

George Polya... Stand-up Comedian

Again, from David Wells' "The Penguin Book of Curious and Interesting Mathematics" (as was Monday's post); this is one of the more humorous passages I've read in a math book (quoting verbatim):

"It was George Polya who admitted to studying mathematics at college because physics was too hard and philosophy was too easy. This is his view of the traditional mathematics professor. 
'The traditional mathematics professor of the popular legend is absentminded. He usually appears in public with a lost umbrella in each hand.
‘He prefers to face the blackboard and to turn his back on the class.' 
'He writes a, he says b, he means c; but it should be d.’
‘Some of his sayings are handed down from generation to generation.’
’In order to solve this differential equation you look at it till a solution occurs to you.'
‘This principle is so perfectly general that no particular application of it is possible.’
‘Geometry is the art of correct reasoning on incorrect figures.’
‘My method to overcome a difficulty is to go round it.'
'What is the difference between method and device? A method is a device which you use twice.'

After all, you can learn something from this traditional mathematics professor. Let us hope that the mathematics teacher from whom you cannot learn anything will not become traditional."

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