Anybody want to join a Math Club?

post by smoofra · 2013-04-05T04:36:56.570Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 39 comments

I've found it's hard to teach myself math without an objective.    If I don't have a specific question I'm trying to answer, my eyes just start to skip over equations, trying to get to the "good part".   Pretty soon I've left the boring parts I know far behind.  I've also skipped the less boring parts that i sorta know, and now I'm skipping forward even faster because I only understand  half of what I'm reading.   I wind up skimming the whole book, but not really absorbing much of it.   I think I'd do better if I was planning on discussing what I'm reading with others.

So here's my idea: a math club.   We pick a book, and we read it together.   Every (week | two weeks | month) we read the next chapter in the book, and then we meet up and discuss it.    Anything we can't figure out on our own, we discuss with the other members of the math club until we get it.   The impending deadline of having to actually explain the material to other humans servs to focus and motive the reading.   

Anybody interested?

Possible topics:

EDIT: Benito made a facebook group so we can get organized and do this!  see:


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Larks · 2013-04-06T00:15:37.210Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What was the end result of the previous LW maths club, to read Jaynes? How far did we get?

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-04-06T00:05:40.588Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gwern's SR literature review suggests that answering questions is pretty critical for learning stuff. How about a collaboratively edited math test? Every club member contributes 1 question to each test, and every member takes the entire test (except their question).

BTW, LW math study has kinda been tried in the past; I didn't follow too closely and I'm not sure how well it turned out.

I feel like a mailing list would be a good idea for accountability and coordination. Most people here probably check their email more frequently than they check LW, and a mailing list would allow you to not spam LW with stuff that most LWers didn't find relevant (although maybe they'd want occasional summary posts). Maybe you'd like to create a google group or something and add it to the body of your post?

comment by algekalipso · 2013-04-05T05:59:37.536Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you lack an objective, a good goal is to be able to solve national math Olympiad problems in the time allowed for the competitions.

Replies from: ThrustVectoring
comment by ThrustVectoring · 2013-04-05T13:57:39.644Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Project Euler also is a good goal, but from more of an algorithmic/programming perspective.

From reading up on the math Olympiad, it sounds a lot like the competitions I went to in 4th through 8th grade. They taught me some quite useful skills - in college, discrete and combinatorial algebra was a breeze.

Replies from: DaFranker
comment by DaFranker · 2013-04-05T14:16:14.234Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your notation is the wrong way around. It's [Project Euler] ( (without the space of course)

You also need the "http://" part so that the parser knows you're not pointing to "./" or somesuch (omitting the http makes the comment break and not display the link or text at all, in this case).

Full comment formatting explanations

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2013-04-05T06:13:54.939Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Those books are very expensive; either we'd need a pdf, or cheaper books.

Oh, you can make a pdf out of a real book for a dollar, with this site:

Replies from: Jayson_Virissimo, Watercressed, smoofra
comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2013-04-05T07:40:58.351Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I may or may not have PDF versions of three of the four works mentioned in the article. I suppose you would have to PM me to find out.

Replies from: DaFranker
comment by DaFranker · 2013-04-05T14:09:30.502Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would have made a funny congratulatory quip here about "plausible deniability", but I'm sure I would be the only one here who knew what that was about.

comment by Watercressed · 2013-04-05T17:16:34.994Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Probability Theory: The logic of science is available in postscript form at

comment by smoofra · 2013-04-05T15:27:46.710Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

wow that's a neat service.

comment by Baeo_Maltinsky · 2013-04-05T05:09:51.219Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Replies from: smoofra, Benito
comment by smoofra · 2013-04-05T15:24:46.644Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It looks like we may have enough people interested in Probability Theory, Though I doubt we all live in the same city. I live near DC.

Depending on how many people are interested/where they live, it might make sense to meet over video chat instead.

Replies from: maia, Rixie
comment by maia · 2013-04-16T19:40:36.113Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I live near DC

Have you come to any DC meetups? They're pretty good. Though sadly, I think most people in the DC group who might be interested in doing this (including me) are already signed up to learn all the math they can handle in a formal program.

Replies from: smoofra
comment by smoofra · 2013-04-16T21:11:10.922Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I haven't. I'll see if I can show up for the next one.

comment by Rixie · 2013-04-07T10:37:32.182Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I agree.

I think that we should make a list of everyone who wants to join, split them into groups of not more than 10 based on age, and every mini-group will decide what they want to learn and go at a pace that matches their background and ability.

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2013-04-05T06:11:45.754Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Same here.

Replies from: Rixie
comment by Rixie · 2013-04-05T11:52:07.018Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And here. Maybe we could start with probability theory, seeing as how that seems to be really central to this site.

Replies from: atucker, bsterrett
comment by atucker · 2013-04-05T12:38:05.256Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Same. I'd be interested in trying this for a bit starting after mid-May.

Replies from: somervta, falenas108
comment by somervta · 2013-04-05T12:55:02.043Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Me also.

Replies from: Benito
comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2013-04-09T01:49:39.110Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm hoping you guys have all seen this:

comment by falenas108 · 2013-04-05T13:46:08.153Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd be interested as well.

comment by bsterrett · 2013-04-05T14:46:48.013Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a copy of Probability Theory, but I've never made a solid effort to go through it. I'd love to commit to a group reading. Definitely interested.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-04-07T20:37:33.855Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
comment by Dorikka · 2013-04-05T21:29:08.784Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The textbook thread is likely relevant here.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-04-09T13:54:33.737Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would be interested in trying this, and one chapter a week seems manageable. To facebook!

Replies from: Benito
comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2013-04-10T19:03:23.397Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We're here:

Replies from: MikeDobbs
comment by MikeDobbs · 2013-04-24T22:02:13.677Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just requested to join the group

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2013-04-08T20:42:51.632Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

LW Study Group facebook page:

There seems to be a lot of comments voicing general enthusiasm. I've not seen anything actually happening.

If you want to do a group study (probably starting with probability) then join up. We'll see how many people sign up, and then discuss particulars.

Replies from: alex_zag_al
comment by alex_zag_al · 2013-04-10T18:19:11.958Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

yeah I'm waiting for someone else to get everything organized I guess, maybe a lot of people are. Thanks for making some moves.

comment by Rixie · 2013-04-05T15:06:52.936Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was wondering about the ages of all the people who want to start this club.

Not that age really matters, I just wanted to know what kinds of people we have here.

How about we give our ages in a 10 year range?

Replies from: Baeo_Maltinsky, smoofra
comment by Baeo_Maltinsky · 2013-04-05T17:04:24.903Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Replies from: Rixie
comment by Rixie · 2013-04-07T10:49:42.195Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How about everyone here who is at High School age message me, and that will be our group. I feel like we would be able to work better with people who were closer in age.

Of course, once you get older it doesn't matter as much, I think, but when your education is still in progress, we might have to do more background research.

P.S. I'm 14, and I would say that I'm turning 15 in 2 months but that sounds even more childish than just leaving it at "I'm 14". In any case, I think I'm capable enough of compiling a list, and what comes after will come after.

Replies from: Baeo_Maltinsky
comment by smoofra · 2013-04-05T15:20:05.391Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm 32.

comment by shminux · 2013-04-05T06:24:04.893Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can also chat with Patrick on #lesswrong, he likes helping people one on one or in groups.

comment by ScottishDave · 2013-04-12T08:08:44.890Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd be keen on probability theory study, but have no maths background. My idea of a good intro to probability is ' Against The Gods, The remarkable story of risk' (Peter L Bernstein). So if that puts me too far behind the curve, no worries.

comment by alex_zag_al · 2013-04-10T19:02:28.931Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As Gokfar points out, we're probably going to need some kind of virtual blackboard thing. Google Docs has an equation editor, so that's an option, but I don't know if you can make diagrams in it?

Any ideas?

comment by alex_zag_al · 2013-04-06T19:46:13.626Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

oh my god I would love to read Probability Theory with you guys. I'm almost two chapters in right now :) But I haven't read it in a while :(

comment by JMiller · 2013-04-05T17:34:52.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great idea. I would be interested in joining. I can begin mid June.