Ask Jordan Ellenberg Your Questions About How To Think Mathematically

Illustration for article titled Ask Jordan Ellenberg Your Questions About How To Think Mathematically

How can we use math to answer some of our most basic questions? Mathematician and writer Jordan Ellenberg is here today to take our questions about everyday mathematics, how to teach math literacy, and the hidden math of our world.


Ellenberg's new book, How Not To Be Wrong: The Power Of Mathematical Thinking, looks at the mathematical underpinnings of our world and how we can use math to answer everything from how much extra time you should give yourself to catch a flight to how to watch baseball.

Ellenberg has both a PhD in math from Harvard University and a Masters in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University. He's a professor of mathematics at The University of Wisconsin at Madison, where his mathematical research focuses on number theory and algebraic geometry. He has also published a novel, The Grasshopper King.

He will be joining us today from 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. (Pacific time). Ask him whatever you want about mathematical literacy and what we're doing wrong in math education, number theory, the world of everyday mathematics, and what we can do to better understand it all.

Image: Carol M. Highsmith / Library of Congress.


Tom Scocca

Hey, Jordan -

The book's explanations of non-numerical mathematical thinking led me to a vital insight: one reason public restrooms are often foul is that people have no choice but to use the nearest restroom when they're in the throes of messy and explosive distress. So public restrooms end up catching a disproportionate sample of people's very worst gastrointestinal events.

But the average person, confronting a horrific spatter in a public restroom, compares it to his or her own everyday results. Even though it's really someone else's outlier. And so everyone goes around believing that he or she is a much tidier crapper than the general public.

This is mathematically sound reasoning, right?