# Living Proof: Stories of Resilience Along the Mathematical Journey

Share this page *Edited by *
*Allison K. Henrich; Emille D. Lawrence; Matthew A. Pons; David G. Taylor*

Bulk orders of 10 copies or more are available at a
discount. Please contact
cust-serv@ams.org for
information.

**This book may be freely downloaded in PDF format.**

Living Proof provides a wealth of stories
showing even accomplished mathematicians have failed exams and that even the
most well-respected members of the community have been told that they
aren't cut out to be mathematicians. Sharing these stories can become
an important part of someone else's story of resilience.

This book is published in cooperation with Mathematical Association of America

#### Reviews & Endorsements

Wow! This is a powerful book that addresses a long-standing elephant in the mathematics room. Many people learning math ask “Why is math so hard for me while everyone else understands it?” and “Am I good enough to succeed in math?” In answering these questions the book shares personal stories from many now-accomplished mathematicians affirming that “You are not alone; math is hard for everyone” and “Yes; you are good enough.” Along the way the book addresses other issues such as biases and prejudices that mathematicians encounter, and it provides inspiration and emotional support for mathematicians ranging from the experienced professor to the struggling mathematics student.

-- Michael Dorff, MAA President

This book is a remarkable collection of personal reflections on what it means to be, and to become, a mathematician. Each story reveals a unique and refreshing understanding of the barriers erected by our cultural focus on “math is hard.” Indeed, mathematics is hard, and so are many other things—as Stephen Kennedy points out in his cogent introduction. This collection of essays offers inspiration to students of mathematics and to mathematicians at every career stage.

-- Jill Pipher, AMS President

# Table of Contents

## Living Proof: Stories of Resilience Along the Mathematical Journey

- cover cover11
- copyright page ii3
- Living Proof iii4
- Foreword v6
- Preface ix10
- Contents xi12
- Part I Mathematics Just Suddenly Feels Hard! 114
- 1 In the Deep End in Algebra 316
- 2 The Road Less Traveled? 619
- 3 Help Will Always Be Given at Hogwarts to Those Who Ask for It 922
- 4 I Don’t Know What I’m Saying: Using Language as a Model for Embracing Mathematical Struggle 1225
- 5 A Complex Conundrum 1528
- 6 An Accidental Mathematician 1831
- 7 Nowhere to Go But Up 2134
- 8 Hitting the Wall 2437
- 9 To Algebra or Not to Algebra 2639
- 10 The Unnecessary Struggle of Self-Mandated Isolation 2942
- 11 The Struggle of Qualifying Exams 3245

- Part II Who Are These People? Do I Even Belong? 3548
- 12 I Am a Black Mathematician 3750
- 13 Cold, Austere, or Queer 4053
- 14 A View of Mathematics from Behind the Veil 4356
- 15 When You Are Told You Can’t: Do Just the Opposite 4760
- 16 Look for the Helpers 5164
- 17 Good, But Not on the Team 5467
- 18 Othering and Such Climatic Joy Killers 5871
- 19 Black, Female, … Bigger 6275
- 20 Moving Beyond Affirmative Action for Men 6578
- 21 Struggling with the Messaging of Mathematics 6881
- 22 The Harassment Is Real 7184
- 23 Sustaining Through Mathematics 7386

- Part III Can I Really Do This? How Do I Muster Through? 7790
- 24 Good Things Come to Those Who Shower 7992
- 25 Winning by Impression 8194
- 26 A Walk in the Park Isn’t Always a Walk in the Park 8497
- 27 Just Don’t Bomb the GRE 88101
- 28 Sometimes When Your Hopes Have All Been Shattered 90103
- 29 The Compassion Is Life-Changing 93106
- 30 A Close Call: How a Near Failure Propelled Me to Succeed 96109
- 31 Oh My Darlin’ Clementine 100113
- 32 A Dream Almost Deferred 104117

- Part IV What Do I Do Now? What Happens Next? 107120
- 33 Mathematics, Beauty, and Creativity: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mathematics 109122
- 34 Five Dollars 112125
- 35 Am I “Good Enough’’? 114127
- 36 My Journey from Slippery Rock to Duluth 117130
- 37 Failure By the Numbers 120133
- 38 How I Learned to Research Like the Incredible Hulk (or I’m Always Angry) 123136
- 39 Anxiety Attacked Me, But I Survived 126139
- It’s Like a Jungle Sometimes, It Makes Me Wonder How I Keep From Going Under 131144
- 41 Should I Quit Mathematics? 134147