Zen Diagrams: The Importance of Proofreading in Math

By Betsy Duke, Professor, Kaplan University Math Department

I would imagine that in just about any field there could be diagrams that pop up here and there. They could be used to illustrate or organize all sorts of ideas or concepts. I still remember diagramming sentences way back in whatever grade (or grades) we did that. I’m really not sure of the point of all that diagramming, though I have never given it a great deal of thought.

Today, I discovered that there could possibly be another type of diagram: Zen diagrams. This concept was presented to me in a student’s final assignment. This project required that students share two concepts that we have covered in our mathematics class and demonstrate how they could be applied to their future profession. I was immediately intrigued by this idea of Zen diagrams and was looking forward to reading his work.


© 2014 Jupiterimages

I had visions of a number of Buddhist monks sitting in various configurations that would resemble a flow chart of some sort, which would lead to a relaxed state through meditation. I’m not knowledgeable of what actually constitutes the practice of Zen other than what I stated above, but anything that can help me to relax while grading math assignments sounded like something I might be willing to try. Of course, I knew that we did not cover any such topic in our course. What he meant was Venn diagrams, which are illustrations that represent relationships between the members of a set. They are circles, not monks.

This is yet another example of how important it is to remind students to proof their writing and not to rely upon spell-check to catch any errors. It is also important that your instructors believe you did actually look over the material and were at least familiar with the concepts covered in the course even if you weren’t totally sure what they were.

I smile whenever I think of those meditating monks who are very tiny in my mind. At the same time I am sad that they do not actually exist. The idea sounded really neat.

© 2014 Jupiterimages

© 2014 Jupiterimages

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3 Responses

  1. Zen diagrams — I love it! He might be on to something… 😉

  2. Loved your post! As a Zen priest myself I can assure that we sit in various and sundry shapes and configurations some easy to replicate and others”not so much”… I am sure that my Zen friends will enjoy reading you post and so I will pass it on to them!

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