Tuesday, January 17, 2017


History of Science
Mathematics Education
Environmental & Science Education
by Edward Hessler

Blackboards, I love 'em and so do many mathematicians and scientists, especially it seems to me, physicists.

I grew up with chalk dust, erasers, of smacking them together to free them of dust, the rat-a-tat-click-click-click sound of chalk (and sometimes the hair-raising sound of fingernails dragging across their surfaces), of vying for the privilege of washing them clean and the odor of freshly washed blackboards. It was only later, in graduate school, that I was introduced to chalk holders, a marvelous invention.

[Wikimedia Commons]

Here is a recent piece from New Hampshire Public Radio covering this important pedagogical technology. They are still alive and well in some places.

Peter Woit, who writes the physics blog, Not Even Wrong made a few observations, January 13, 2017, about blackboards in the mathematics department at Columbia. When he arrived, the blackboard in the common room of the mathematics department had been replaced by a whiteboard. It was universally hated but it took several years for it to be replaced. That whiteboard was replaced last year by "a floor-to-ceiling blackboard." Now that's progress!

Dr. Woit also noted that the "newly renovated Theory Center was unveiled here in the Physics department: floor-to-ceiling wall blackboards. That's the future, the whiteboard is the past" [emphasis added].

So, find a piece of chalk and go find a real blackboard. You may have to go to a restaurant, though, to find one. I hope the owners will let you give it a try.

Whattaya' think!

A Seussian h/t to Peter Woit

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