Dr. Sarah's What is a Mathematician?
Read through the sheet, and take
notes while you are watching the video
The Proof -
A Nova video about Princeton University
Professor Andrew Wiles and Fermat's Last Theorem.
Andrew Wiles and Fermat's
Andrew Wiles' Influences, Support and Barriers
What influences led him to become a mathematician / Why did
he become a mathematician?
Did he have support from family and society?
What kind of barriers did he face while becoming a mathematician?
Gender, Racial or
Multicultural/Ethnic Issues in Andrew Wiles' Experiences
What are the gender, racial, multicultural/ethnic,
diversity (broadly defined) issues in his
Be sure to also address whether he is married and has a family, and
whether his spouse or partner is also a mathematician or scientist.
Andrew Wiles' Mathematical Style
How does he
describe the process of doing mathematics and/or mathematical research?
How does he get the flashes of insight that he needs to do research?
How does his
mathematical mind work? Does he have a photographic memory?
Is he really good with numbers? Is he good at visualization?
Does he often collaborate (ie write papers with
other mathematicians) or instead mostly work by himself?
How does he describe what mathematics is and/or where it comes from?
In The Heart of Mathematics: An inviation to effective thinking,
authors Edward Burger and Michael Starbird explain that the lessons we
learn from the process of mathematics research apply to a variety of
decisions in life. Which of the following strategies (adapted from their
list by Dr. Sarah) apply to what we saw of Andrew Wiles in the video?
Explain briefly next to the points that you choose how or when he
used the methods:
Don't be paralyzed by fear of the unknown. Take risks, try new things and live with a "just do it" attitude.
Make mistakes and fail but never give up. Instead, learn from your mistakes and use them to grow.
Life is a journey - not a destination. Someone could give you all THEIR answers, but it is your experiences and what you've learned during the process that really matters.
To really learn something new, you must experience it yourself via hands-on hard work. We don't learn deeply by watching someone else. You could watch many movies about baseball, but in order to really learn how to play well, you must actually pick up a bat yourself.
Seek the essential.
Take what is vague or confusing and seek clarity, focus and comprehension.
Break difficult problems up into easier ones.
Use what has already been done and adapt it for your own use.
Look for patterns and similarities.
Understand issues deeply, especially those ideas which seem simple.
Communicate your ideas effectively.
Keep an open mind.
Try to examine situations from diverse viewpoints.
Treat people and their ideas with respect.
Explore the consequences of new ideas.
The only stupid question is the unasked question.
Additional Research After the Video
How many published works did we find for Andrew Wiles?
What is Andrew Wiles doing now?
What Kind of Mathematician are You?
Think about the questions in the mathematical style section and come
prepared to share an answer to one of them tomorrow:
How would you describe the process of doing mathematics to someone else?
How do you get the flashes of insight that you need to do math?
How does your mathematical mind work? Do you have a photographic memory?
Are you really good with numbers? Are you good at visualization?
Do you prefer to collaborate or instead mostly work by yourself?
How would you describe what mathematics is and where it comes from?