Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tumblr launched in 2007 as an image-oriented microblogging alternative to conventional text-driven blogging sites like Blogger and Wordpress. Just over seven years later, the social media monster boasts a $1.3 billion acquisition by Yahoo!, over 172 million blogs, and over 77 billion blog posts, including many by celebrities (such as John Mayer, Zoey Deschanel, and Lady Gaga, to name three).

But beyond all of Tumblr’s well-earned hype, it’s become a convenient forum for bloggers to post educational content. As its microblogging format lends itself particularly well to the posting of images, it abounds with wonderful blogs that share cool and stimulating visualizations of mathematical concepts, problems, and solutions. And since we love math, we giddily scrolled through volumes of math-related Tumblr blogs (made easier, of course, by searching Tumblr for #math), and now we present to you our five favs.

**1. Curiosa Mathematica**(curiosamathematica.tumblr.com) - Curiosa is the official Tumblr blog of professor Jens Bossaert, who teaches math at the University of Ghent in Belgium. The organization of his blog is as delightfully simple as its tagline: “A collection of beautiful mathematics: attractive pictures and fun results.” Some of the more recent posts include a YouTube video of a wooden calculator that represents binary digits with falling marbles, and a photo of Roger Penrose, a mathematician and physicist standing on a floor covered with the aperiodic tiling pattern he gave his name to (they’re called Penrose tilings).

**2. Mathwork**(mathwork.tumblr.com) - As the austerity of its name might suggest, this is a blog devoted to hardcore calculus. But while its tagline is simple (“I do math”), the equations and graphed functions showcased in some of its recent posts are anything but. Scroll down, for example, through the February 19th post about Logarithmic Integration. Or take a look at the previous day’s post that poses a series of questions about the accuracy of Major League Baseball’s official handbook instructions for laying out a field--surprisingly complex!

**3. Visualizing Math**(visualizingmath.tumblr.com) - Yes, this blog is devoted to visualizations of math. But look no further than two of the most recent posts and you’ll be delighted to see that it’s a curious mix of the whimsical and the serious. While the Feb. 20th entry features a close-up photo of “The Euclid Watch,” manufactured by a company called AnimeWild, the previous day’s post presents a colorful GIF illustration, the explanation of which begins as follows: “Given two vectors in three dimensions, one can define their vector or cross product as new vector, perpendicular to both original vectors, and with magnitude proportional to the sine of the angle from the first to the second vector.” Got that?

**4. Wolfram Alpha**(wolframalpha.tumblr.com) - Our math tutors and tutees love Wolfram Alpha, so we had to give their Tumblr blog an official shout out. And why not? It’s as organized and user-friendly as its mother-site, wolframalpha.com, and they both serve the same goal: to make “the world’s knowledge computable.” A search engine on the right-hand side of the Tumblr blog invites visitors to ask questions about math (“What would you like to know about?”), and some recent posts give good examples of the questions--and the answers Wolfram Alpha offers up. Two good examples: “Vatican City could fit into Russia 38.81 million times”; “How Many [Olympic] Medals does Chuck Norris have?” (The answer, in case you were wondering, is 0.)

**5. Applied Mathemagics**(appliedmathemagics.tumblr.com) - This fun, light-hearted Tumblr blog focuses on math humor, and its collection of playful images and jokes might provide a nice break from the slog through your AP Calculus homework. Take a look, for instance, at a recently posted photo of a cute yellow duckling curled up on a graphing calculator (caption: “So I can’t do my math homework because my duck fell asleep on my calculator…”). Or scroll down a bit further to find a close-up snapshot of the vanity plate on the back of a car belonging to the “the coolest Algebra teacher in town.” It simply says, “Algebro.”

Happy “math-tumbling”!