Category Archives: Thesis

Thesis Defense

I defended my master’s thesis this afternoon, and…I passed! And there was much rejoicing! And a little editing to be done to the paper before the final sign-off from my advisor, but that’s to be expected. My committee had great questions and suggestions for my work, and it was really a cool experience (now that I don’t have the “what if they hate it” worry).

So I’ll make my edits and graduate in December (on 12/11/10, to be exact), with a master of science in mathematics education. Yay! :)

For anyone who’s interested, the title of my thesis is “Identification and analysis of pedagogical techniques in Descartes’ La Géométrie.”

Thesis: Coming Along

Since my last post on this subject, I’ve narrowed the focus of my thesis to just one mathematician, René Descartes. My advisor and I realized that with the level of detail I’m using, doing more than one mathematician would be insane. With that change, I have now finished coding my data. That process involved pretty much retyping the whole of La Géométrie (in French* and in English) into a spreadsheet so that I could enter codes for each sentence.

So, with that done, I had the whole text in a spreadsheet, copy-and-paste-able…and I thought, hey, Wordle! So here it is.

“Expression” and “equation” are both probably a bit bigger than they should be, because I started just typing [expression] or [equation] rather than typing the whole things out, as the actual values are irrelevant for my research. However, there are a lot of expressions and equations in there, so I don’t think it’s that off to have those words enlarged.

*And can I just say, the French that I learned in school and the French that Descartes was writing? NOT the same thing. I can figure it out – the letters u and v are interchanged sometimes; i is used for j; non-final s’s look very similar to f’s; y is sometimes used for i; words that now have an accent over a vowel then had an s following the vowel; etc. But it took some adjusting, and it wasn’t until I was nearly done that I realized the adverb “desia” that I kept seeing was actually the word “déjà.” All that said…it’s very cool to see how the language has changed, and I really feel like my grasp of French has increased significantly as a result of this work.

Thesis work

Assuming that Little Precious* does not spike a fever tonight (which is entirely possible with her), I should be going back to my thesis work tomorrow following my statistics class. What is my thesis on? So glad you asked! :)

I am looking at four French mathematicians from the seventeenth century (Rene Descartes, Girard Desargues, Blaise Pascal, and Pierre de Fermat). I am examining their mathematical writings with an eye for the pedagogical techniques they used to describe their ideas, and seeing what (if anything) those mathematical writings reveal about their beliefs about pedagogy.

What’s that? Your eyes glazed over? Sorry about that. I think it’s interesting, and I won’t make you read it. ;)

Anyway, I am just at the point where my prospectus has been approved by my committee and I’m coding the texts for instances of particular pedagogical techniques. I have a set of questions with which I plan to analyze my data once it’s collected. I’m hoping I turn up something interesting. If not, well, I’ll be able to say that there’s nothing interesting in that direction. ;)

The goal is to finish the thesis by the time my school year starts back (mid-August), defend early-Septemberish, and then receive my Master of Science in Mathematics Education in December. The summer has included some unexpected things that the goal didn’t take into account, but I’m not counting it as lost yet.

*Her name is not actually Little Precious, just for the record. This is a pseudonym for my 17-month-old daughter. I just wanted to disclaim in case anyone thought I had named my child Little Precious.