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“I think I see a mathematician!”

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

A little while ago, I was working with a fifth grader on a problem that challenged her. In the middle of the problem, she looked up at me, smiled, and said, “I’m struggling, but that’s OK. My teacher told me that mathematicians struggle.”

What an exciting moment! I am so glad that my student has a classroom teacher who is teaching her that struggling doesn’t mean that you’re “stupid,” and to persist in the face of a challenge!

My student also told me that when she was eager to stand up and give the answer to a math problem, her teacher said, “I think I see a mathematician!” I’m thrilled that this teacher is encouraging her students to identify themselves as mathematicians—people capable of deeply engaging with mathematics!


Thank you to Choco Leibniz for creating and sharing this beautiful, inspiring image of mathmaticians! The Famous Mathematicians are from left to right, top to bottom: Euclid, Boole, Al-Kwarizmi, Newton, Leibniz, Turing.

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5 Comments on ““I think I see a mathematician!””

  • Merry on December 2nd 3:51 am

    The anecdote is great. Sorry to see that there are no women in the image-mosaic. Hopefully, by the end of this century there’ll be plenty of well-known female mathematicians, too! Who knows, maybe your student will be one of them 🙂

  • Rebecca Zook on December 8th 1:06 pm

    Good point, Merry! Maybe we can make our own mosaic that includes female mathematicians! 🙂

  • Choco Leibniz on October 23rd 10:23 am

    Hello. I am the original author of the image. I’ve watched it travel over the internet for several years and have often wondered why I didn’t include any women (I am one, after all!).

    I took the opportunity to update the image, this time with Hypatia and Ada Lovelace.

    The new image has:

    Al-Kwarizmi, Hypatia, Newton, Lovelace, Leibniz, Turing.

    At some point I would like to do a full 3×3 grid including Boole and Euclid, as well as Benjamin Banneker. Unfortunately I ran out of steam before getting that far, but someday!

  • Rebecca Zook on October 24th 7:24 pm

    Choco, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your new image! I just looked at it and I got goosebumps. I never thought I would get to connect to the original creator, and I’m so glad to hear about the update!! Keep me posted if you decide to do a 3×3 version. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do next!

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