The heart of mathematical discovery is solving new problems. This is worthy, challenging work requiring creativity and perseverance. As you search for an answer, the end result is very much in question. Sometimes, however, it can be a welcome change to complete a task with explicit instructions.
My students have been learning about the four most common triangle centers, and look what beautiful work they produced! Be sure to notice the beautifully written, precise language used to describe each center.
Vietnamese, like other languages, varies depending on what region of the country you are in. The most prominent division is between the Vietnamese of the North and that of the South, as I experienced in a recent trip to Da Nang. As with the soda/pop and hoagie/submarine disputes in the US, many of the variations in Vietnamese center around food. A waiter was quick to correct me when asking for “chanh leo” (passion fruit). He was insistent that I call it “chanh dây.”
Another regional language is about a word that is printed on every banknote the government prints. The word “nghìn” (thousand) is appears on every bill of the Vietnamese Dong. However, the currency is produced by the federal government in Hanoi in the North, where I live. Even though “nghìn” is on the physical bill, everybody in the South uses the word “ngàn” for thousand when quoting prices. By refusing to use the word “nghìn,” it appears that the South is continually thumbing its nose at the North.
Given the history of conflict between the North and the South, this is a reasonable interpretation of the nghìn/ngàn dispute. Even as someone who has only spent three months learning northern Vietnamese, I couldn’t help but feel that the Southerners were saying the word “ngàn” just to mess with me. A brief interaction with a local in Da Nang sheds some light on the situation. I pointed out that I was familiar the word “nghìn” in Hanoi, and that hearing “ngàn” was throwing me off. The vendor just smiled and laughed. Perhaps her amusement at my attempts at language masked a deep resentment for the vocabulary of the North. However, I find a more likely explanation is that the difference in terminology isn’t that big a deal to her. Difference in language is one of the inconveniences we put up with for the benefit of interacting with each other.
I started this blog to share my transformation from math nerd to math nerd who loves to share math with young people. I teach high school in Hanoi, Vietnam. Your comments are always welcome.