Passages such as this make me think Galileo was right to explain his cosmological theories in a dialogue between actual characters. Maybe we should routinely present mathematics as a conversation between two people striving for understanding rather than as persona-free perfection.Well, now I'll have to see if the Galileo is worth reading. (I just checked using google books, and it's not too hard to read. The misogyny bugged me, but the opinions about "the Pythagoreans" were interesting. Perhaps the math will be too. Ahh, history.)
I agree with Susan Colley that presenting math as conversations is a good pedagogical device. I'd like to try it. One benefit of writing this way is that it's possible to explore a problem more fully without giving away any punchlines. Of course, it also adds interest.
Would any of my readers be interested in writing short dialogues on selected topics?
Summer's coming, and I like to think during summer about topics in my upcoming courses that need a better introduction than what I have available so far. I'll be looking for other people's goodies online, and I'll be thinking about how to create my own.
I'll be teaching pre-calculus, calculus I, and linear algebra in the fall. My long handout for finding the derivatives for sine and cosine went over like a bag of cement. I might be able to enliven that with a dialogue. And I'm thinking some of the first topics in linear algebra might do well with this treatment.
Besides Math Girls and Math Girls 2, I only know of a few other shining examples of this genre:
Check out The Cat in Numberland (a delightful retelling of the Hotel Infinity story), in which the storyline, more than the dialogue, helps the reader understand infinity more deeply.
I also loved working through some deep mathematics in the book Surreal Numbers, by Donald Knuth, which has more of the style of Math Girls. Alice and Bill are lightly sketched characters, exploring mathematical ideas together on a secluded beach.
Are there other books you know of which present math through dialogue or story? Would you like to write a short story or dialogue with math at its core? Let's form a math writing group this summer!