Friday, December 31, 2004

Have you made a donation...

... for the south Asia earthquake/tsunami catastrophe?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The new math syllabus (3)

So, let's look at what's disappeared from the new math curriculum:

1. Differential equations. This is expected, and reasonable, since AFAIK no university curriculum assumes knowledge of applied maths and this has to be taught again anyway. (Except that I remember when I took a course in solid-state physics in year 1, students were supposed to solve PDEs when they didn't even know what an ODE is...)

2. Complex numbers. This is widely considered to be a difficult topic and is often given up altogther, but should we really just let students go away without knowing that a square root can be taken off from -1? So they know pi, e, but not i... and hence will not know e^{i pi} = ??

3. Harder coordinate geometry including conic sections (parabola, ellipse and hyperbola) and 3-D lines and planes.

4. Numerical methods. Even the "method of bisection" in maths seem disappeared. The stuff about Newton's method etc. get removed reasonably, I think. But strangely enough they teach trapezoidal rule.

5. The majority of the rest of Pure Maths. This includes, for a few examples,
i. logic (which I complained here before)
ii. arithmetic-geometric inequality and Cauchy-Schwarz inequality
iii. limits, covergence of sequences, L'Hospital's rule, Taylor expansion, etc.

The deletion of the majority of pure maths is inevitable, but still I'm not quite happy with this. The most important thing is not about a particular topic not being covered, but that students do not get a chance to see what mathematics really is, without the exposure to the complexity of "pure" maths.

I like pure maths.

Monday, December 27, 2004

merry christmas, spam filter

It seems that our departmental spam filter is enjoying his christmas holiday, and refuse to classify the majority of spams and let them remain in the inbox.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

noise complaint

It is not a very interesting event in the Christmas day, particularly since it happens at 9 am: someone living in the flat exactly below me come up and complain that we generate "noise" in these recent 10+ days at midnight, "opening drawers, closing doors and windows loudly", etc.
This is simply impossible for this to be true, especially when the other people living with him do not seem to hear the same thing. Given that he complains every several months, and claims that each time after he complains the problem goes away for a while, it seems that his hearing problem is quite periodic...

Monday, December 20, 2004

First day in ISAAC

We go to ISAAC at UST today. As in any other conference, my mind is doing everything but listening to the talks.

What's not so good about this conference is that student registration does not include the proceedings. OK, I know, local students do not need to pay, but I remember back in SoCG'2000, local student registration was also free but did include a copy of the proceedings...

With no proceedings at hand I don't know which session to attend; just looking at the topic is often not enough. This is particularly true when they arrange 4 talks in a "game theory" session when only one talk is about game theory. And tomorrow there will be a game theory talk that gets arranged into a session on "complexity"...

Sunday, December 19, 2004

7 seconds on ebay

I never have luck bidding on ebay (actually I never successfully bid anything there). And although I heard about this long before, this only occurs to me for the first time - that I'm outbid only 7 seconds before the deadline. Interestingly, there are actually two people who outbid me, and they differ in only 1 second.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The new math syllabus (2)

The new math curriculum is divided into a compulsory part and two elective parts. The two elective parts are more-or-less applied/statistics stream and pure math stream, respectively. And, you are not allowed to take both elective parts. So learning mathematical induction forbids you from learning statistics. While not very satisfactory to me, it is still understandable - after all, you cannot teach that much in three years, and the weaker students will never understand anyway.

Compulsory part

Basically it covers most of the materials in the old math syllabus, which is expected. What looks more interesting is its coverage of:
- set notations
- conditional probability
- permutations and combinations
All these are also taught in our discrete math class. So we do not need to teach these anymore, huh?

Elective I

This is a very "applied maths/M&S" thing with some simple calculus (involving only polynomials), but at least it talks about "e" and the natural logarithm. They seem to think that probability/statistics is very important: it includes Bayes theorem; binomial, Poisson and normal distributions; hypothesis testing, etc. Basically everything about statistics in AppliedMath.

Elective II

It is mostly AMaths/PureMaths. Talks about calculus to a greater depth, mostly at AMaths level, except including integration by parts and natural logarithms. Vectors and matrices seems being covered to the Applied/Pure level. It also covers trapezoidal rule (not quite expected), MI and binomial theorem etc.

Perhaps it is more interesting to see what is not covered... which I'll say next time...

Thursday, December 16, 2004



Thursday, December 09, 2004

紅灣 IPO

決 定 把 紅 灣 半 島 拆 卸 重 建 的 地 產 發 展 商 新 創 建 主 席 鄭 家 純 先 生 昨 天 說 , 紅 灣 半 灣 的 外 觀 「 唔 係 咁 好 睇 」 , 把 它 拆 掉 重 建 可 以 令 維 港 海 岸 更 美 觀 , 不 會 出 現 難 看 的 建 築 群 ; . . . 事 實 上 維 港 兩 岸 的 建 築 物 不 管 是 住 宅 樓 宇 或 商 業 樓 宇 都 乏 善 足 陳 , 真 正 美 觀 的 可 說 寥 寥 可 數 , 更 多 的 是 外 貌 平 庸 、 毫 無 特 色 的 玻 璃 幕 牆 大 廈 , 即 使 全 港 最 高 的 國 際 金 融 中 心 二 期 也 不 見 得 如 何 美 觀 , 有 不 少 人 就 批 評 它 的 高 度 破 壞 了 香 港 島 的 山 巒 景 色 。 若 果 按 照 鄭 先 生 的 邏 輯 , 那 不 但 紅 灣 半 島 該 拆 , 大 部 份 維 港 兩 岸 的 建 築 物 包 括 國 金 二 期 都 該 拆 卸 重 建 , 只 有 這 樣 才 能 令 維 港 兩 岸 面 貌 煥 然 一 新 , 鄭 先 生 下 一 步 是 不 是 準 備 購 入 其 他 維 港 兩 岸 樓 宇 拆 卸 重 建 呢 ?

係啦,我想炸晒 gor D 樓好耐啦...

其實想拆左佢好易,只要將個項目注入一間新公司,公開招股上市,市民爭相認購,如有任何人敢反對拆樓,實俾人指住閙: "你唔好阻住我發達!"

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The new Math syllabus

So, we are going to have yet another education reform at secondary schools. I'm interested to see how they combine Maths, Additional Maths, Pure Maths, Applied Maths and M&S into a single subject. Having been hired for producing high-school math materials for several years, and being a math enthusiast, I think I could say something about it - probably over several coming blog entries.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


If you don't know what "astronaut" mean, you are qualified as an HK university student.

Tonight a TV programme talks about kindergarten kids learning words such as "astronaut" and "slithering". It is certainly too difficult for kids as young as that. But then they go to HKU campus, and found out that an average HKU student don't know the word "astronaut"...

Maybe I'm expecting too much. There are discrete math students who don't know what "multiple of 3" is. Perhaps we'll need a quiz paper in Chinese next year.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Today, a group of talented undergrad and postgrads chat about bad things in university (CS in particular) education. This includes: things are not taught in the correct courses but appear in other courses; there's not enough theory; there should not be too practical things like MCSE; things are simply not taught at all; learnt nothing from courses except blowing water; MSc being completely money-oriented; university education is not vocational training; we didn't catch plagiarism enough; students' plagiarism skills are too bad; students don't even bother to hide evidences of plagiarism; etc. etc.

I didn't speak up. After years, I don't have the "fire", although I still remember I like to catch plagiarism years ago. Things are not going to change no matter how much you dislike it. University students are customers, and we all know what they want.