Archive for April 22nd, 2010

A little experiment

April 22, 2010

For a long time, a side interest of mine has been how people think when they are doing mathematics. Two difficulties in investigating this general question are (i) that it is quite hard to examine one’s own thought processes reliably (since very often what one remembers of these processes after solving a problem is a very tidied up version of what actually happened) and (ii) that in any case I am just one mathematician with my own particular style and my own little bag of tricks.

I would therefore be grateful to anyone who was prepared to spend about 90 seconds contributing to a little experiment. What you have to do is solve a simple equation that appears just after the fold and pay close attention to your thought processes as you do so. Once you have done that, you can look at further instructions about how to record the result of your participation.

I stress once again that the whole thing should be quick and easy. But please don’t look at the equation until you are ready to start thinking about it and remembering the sequence of your thoughts, since otherwise there is a danger that the tidying-up process will take over and it will be impossible to get a reliable result. (more…)