26 November 2007

Graph paper

The history of graph paper, from Alexandre Borovik's Mathematics under the Microscope.

I often find myself thinking that graph paper is an innovation whose time has passed. Its main purpose, in my life, is to make my students' homework harder to read; there are some of them who write on graph paper despite the fact that we are very rarely asking them to graph something by hand, and the vertical lines end up distracting my eyes. And on those occasions when I do want to graph something, I use a computer.

Similarly, I can see how graph paper would be useful for numerical computation, because it makes it easier to line up the digits of various numbers one wants to add or subtract; but I use a computer for that, too.

There was a time when I was playing around with tilings of the square lattice a lot; during that period I liked graph paper. In the same vein, a few days ago Borovik illustrated multiplication of the Gaussian integers on (a simulation of) graph paper.


Anonymous said...

Actually, when I was in elementary school I had to use graph paper for homework. Each equation / expression had to be formatted with one character in each box and a space between each number / symbol. We also had to align equal signs and write out every single step. Basically we were doing monospaced typesetting and aligning of equations manually. It *really* helped me with my organization later on.

Michael Albert said...

And graph paper is the best for doing scratch work on.

Anonymous said...

i liked[d] graph paper. i remember being taught to graph equations and getting very excited and plotting equation after equation; there was something so nice about seeing them on paper.

i dislike monospaced typesetting - it becomes alphabet to easily to my eye; its like setting the letter spacing and word spacing to the same width: s u d d e n l y t h e r e i s n o w a y t o r e a d t h e w o r d s y o u o n l y s e e t h e l e t t e r f o r m s .

I. J. Kennedy said...

I am into hex graph paper these days.