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Useful Fictions: Mathematics, Literature and Pedagogy
MRIC 2012/13

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"Useful Fictions: Mathematics, Literature and Pedagogy

Walter Hesford
Associate Professor of English

Robert Ely
Assistant Professor of Mathematics

April 9- 12:30 p.m.
Whitewater Room, Idaho Commons

Abstract: While chatting in the dark corridors of Brink one day, Rob the Math prof and Walter the English prof discovered that they both thought the concept of useful fictions important to their fields and that awaking students to this concept helped cultivate their understanding and engagement.  In our presentation, they will explore, among other things, what Leibniz’s infinitesimal calculus and Cervantes’  Don Quixote, both works of the early modern period, have in common.


Robert Ely earned a master’s degree in mathematics and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined the UI faculty in 2007. His research addresses student reasoning in math and how it relates to the historical development of math.

Walter Hesford earned a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College (Hartford) and a master’s and Ph.D. from Harvard, all in English. He came to the University of Idaho in 1979, when Letters and Sciences were in the same college. He usually writes about early American literature, ethnic American literature, and how biblical literature influences American literature.

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