Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Carnival of Math to the 2nd Power?

John Kemeny is hosting the 15th Edition of the CoM on 8-24 and you can submit your articles here. However, there are no more Carnivals scheduled at this time.

In the most recent edition of the Carnival of Mathematics, Vlorbik reported that there has been a call for change in the structure of the carnival. This idea was first raised by yours truly in the Tenth Edition of the Math Carnival and recently again by Michi over at his blog. Look here for the ongoing dialogue I've been having with John Armstrong and Michi (read the comments). John feels strongly that the Carnival has been heavily weighted toward math education of late and I agree. Since that is my main area of interest, I'm not overly upset about this but I do agree that the research-advanced mathematics side has taken a hit. I made a proposal that we split into a Carnival of Math Ed (K-14 oriented) and a Carnival of Research Mathematics (John's and Michi's idea). Although previous comments have suggested many are satisfied with the status quo, John feels that we already have a 'de facto' separation. I suggested we take the current temperature of the water by inviting comments. I volunteered to be the home base for the Carnival of Math Ed site but I would welcome support from others, particularly the most frequent contributors to the math ed blogosphere who have the time to take on this project. John volunteered to be the moderator of the Research group. He also suggested that we run the Carnival monthly and I agree. This would enable more to contribute and make the day of the each Carnival more of a significant event. If you're wondering why we seem to be ignoring Alon, the original architect of the Carnival of Mathematics, that is not the case. I am deeply appreciative of the monumental efforts made by Alon but he recently has decided to drop from the blogosphere and, presumably, the Carnival as well. I know he would want someone to pick up the reins and keep this moving. Alon, if you read this, I hope you will share your thoughts. There will be some technical problems to overcome involving the submission of posts and registering the 2 Carnivals of Math with the main Carnival site, but I'm sure we can work this out.

If I receive very few replies to this proposal, I may move forward on my own or with John , since we are willing to accept this challenge. Waiting to hear from you...

15 comments:

Jackie said...

commented on Michi's blog:
http://tinyurl.com/3dtltn

jonathan said...

I left a comment on Michi's blog as well. I'd hate to see them separated. We get enough of that in the real world, and, we get especially interesting discussion when people who work in one area of math get together with those who work in others.

Tony said...

I don't see a problem with separating them. It seems to me like it would be fairly easy to have one or two of the strongest posts each month appear on both, so there's still a strong partnership.

Jonathan said...

But where's the advantage? Certainly there's none for me. If some grad students want to run their own thing, let them. But this has not been so easy to sustain over the summer, without the split.

(suggestion, keep the carnival at every two weeks, but reduce to every 4 weeks for June, July, and August)

Jonathan said...

And Dave, Alon said he's not blogging. Did he say that he wasn't keeping up the Carnival? I think you may have misread.

Dave Marain said...

tony--
I like your point. However, I'm beginning to move in Jonathan's direction. The Math Research people probably should have their own. As I suggested in my last comment on Michi's blog, we could leave the CoM alone and it will find its own level after awhile. See, Jonathan, I am flexible!
Jonathan--
I'm not sure of the 2-week schedule. If we have enough strong hosts this may be ok, but if only 1 or 2 maintain it, monthly seems more reasonable. I do think you're right about the summer, although the traffic to this site has actually been strong, whatever that proves!
As far as Alon continuing to maintain the Carnival, I really wasn't sure of that and I should never 'ass-u-me'! I did ask Alon to comment here to let us know for certain. We do need to know in the next week or so if the Carnival is to continue into the fall.
I guess what's happening is that by raising this issue, we are moving in a positive direction. That's good! I still would like to read more reactions from others. I'm still not wholly comfortable with this, but then the Carnival doesn't have to please me!

John Kemeny said...

As host of possibly the last CoM as we know it, I feel compelled to throw my 2 cents in. I think it is great to have graduate-level mathematics mixed with K-12 level, and the lines are sometimes blurry. As a math enthusiast in grade school, I recall the pleasure of checking out high-level math texts to see what I could fathom. If the higher-math crowd is bored, we could: 1) start assigning ratings to links, like the movies (PG for post-graduate?); and 2) have every other issue "tilted" toward one side of the scale. Finally, I agree with the sentiment that a monthly publication schedule is more tenable both for writers and readers, especially during the doldrum months.

Dave Marain said...

Great suggestions, John! Your two cents have much higher value than that! I'm glad we opened up this dialogue. I've definitely rethought my position thanks to all who replied. My original instinct was that some of the educator crowd might be turned off or intimidated by the graduate level math but the responders thus far have shown me I'm wrong! I suppose some at the higher end might prefer to have their own (based on John Armstrong's comments),but I suppose the Carnival concept is still in its infancy and we need to let it find its own way. However, if there seems to be a dearth of contributions from one group or the other we may want to revisit all of this.

I like the monthly idea, particularly during the summer. If Alon is no longer able to support the Carnival, then we need to look for another moderator who can manage the main site. I'm willing to volunteer for this but help would be welcome. Perhaps, John, as someone involved in advanced mathematics and science (I guessed this from your excellent blog), it might be great to have a partnership manage this. Math educators could benefit greatly from the perspectives of professional mathematicians and scientists. Another approach might be to have co-hosts, the research mathematician/computer scientist together with the math educator. I don't know how this could be done, but, hey,'ya never know!
BTW, John, I'm sure you've been asked a 'googol' times, but are you linked to one of my heroes, your namesake, John G., who passed away about 15 years ago? Pls don't be offended by my asking...

Kurt said...

The more I think about this, the more I think it makes sense to bifurcate the carnival. It seems to me that there is an important difference in the mission of math ed bloggers - whose focus is on how to teach mathematics - and on the 'research' math bloggers - whose focus in on learning how to do mathematics. Even if the actual math topic happened to be the same, I think you'd get two very different blog entries from the respective type of blogger.

I think it would also increase overall readership to have the two types separated, by making it easier for people to find the things they're interested in. This could actually be done within a single carnival. Maybe just dividing up the submissions into two categories for 'math ed' and 'research math' would be enough to satisfy people, and in any event it could serve as a test to see if a split of the carnival is really warranted. When making a submission, the author could simply indicate which category s/he feels the post belongs in. (I would also suggest including a blurb describing the post, in case the carnival hosts can't do justice to the submission with their own description.)

Finally, I have a quibble about the phrase 'research math'. This is really 'upper division and graduate level math'. I know that Terry Tao and some others have written about their current research interests, but for the most part posts in this category have been expository pieces describing long-standing results. Doing actual research via the web would be something else altogether. Michael Nielsen has an interesting recent post advocating the latter.

Dave Marain said...

Darn it - everytime I read another great comment, I start moving in a new direction! Kurt, your idea seems to make a great deal of sense. This is exactly what I tried to do in Edition X of the Carnival. I listed the math ed pieces first, then the graduate level math posts.I asked bloggers to write a brief overview, although I didn't specifically ask them to choose a category. The content usually makes that clear. And I also agree that the term research math is too restrictive. My original comments used exactly the demarcation you mentioned.

In the end, Jonathan may have summed it up best. The summer may not be the best time to judge the pulse of the Carnival. Looks like we're back where we started with some minor modifications.

Thanks to all the wonderful respondents who have helped clarify the picture for all of us.
Pls feel free to add more comments here or over at Michi's blog. You may want to read Alon Levy's comments. He is alive and well and welcomes support. Again, as I mentioned on Michi's, I am willing to host the 16th Carnival. Alon said he would contribute to it as well!

mathmom said...

Can someone post a pointer to something explaining what the point of the carnivals is supposed to be? I don't really get it.

Dave Marain said...

mathmom--
Look at
http://blogcarnival.com/bc/faq.html

mathmom said...

Thanks, Dave, now I get it. :)

Mikael said...

Coming pretty late to this discussion I have just one point to make.

Kurt: you pick out Terence Tao as an example of someone blogging about their own research, and an argument that research mathematics is not really a topic at the CoM.

I have, several times, had posts about my own research posted at the CoM. Even more times, I have had fluffed up posts about my generic area of research posted. Similar things go for John Armstrong - he's posting with a goal in mind, which seems to be to explain his own research to the readers.

And we're not very surprised to be the ones most annoyed with the math-ed slant in the carnival (which was present before the summer slump btw) - we're among the people really writing down our research in our blogs AND simultaneously trying to help keep the CoM alive.

Dave Marain said...

Mikael--
I believe an accord has been reached. I for one appreciate your research efforts as well as John's and others and I am aware of how much you've contributed to the Carnival. I originally raised the issue of 'bifurcation' (must be a buzzword these days, 'split' is good enough for me) back in Carnival X because I thought it would lead to fruitful discussion and it did. You picked up on it as well and I responded to your comments and later to John's. I invited input and I sure got it! In the end, it appears that the Carnival will emerge stronger and a balanced reasoned solution appears to be the best, that is, keeping one Carnival but encouraging both the math-ed contributions and the upper end math pieces as well. I'm ok with this. How do you feel?