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Being comfortable while doing math

  1. Feb 7, 2014 #1
    Doing math for any extended period is very stressful on the neck. What do you guys do or suggest to combat this? I was thinking that maybe buying a book stand and using it to write while standing upright might take off some of the discomfort, but I haven't found one that would do very well.
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  3. Feb 7, 2014 #2


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    I do very little math on paper anymore -- I do almost everything in latex on-screen. (That also banishes many silly copying errors from line to line, since I can cut-and-paste, then modify the pasted line.)
  4. Feb 7, 2014 #3
  5. Feb 7, 2014 #4


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    I saw a cool video of Feynman recently, where he has a bowling ball on a string and swings it out over the students and stands there without flinching as it swings back towards his face and stops just short of hitting him. He has a cool blackboard with two sections that slide over each other so he can quickly hide or expose what he has written.
  6. Feb 7, 2014 #5
    ^ That sounds like Walter Lewin.
  7. Feb 7, 2014 #6
    Walter Lewin's cooler than Feynman...
    sF-m3XZKvLI[/youtube] That's how you do physics... (Physics works I am telling ya!)
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2014
  8. Feb 8, 2014 #7


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    Feynman had the ball swing out over the student's heads.
  9. Feb 8, 2014 #8
    Lewin had Lewin swing in the class.
    ^OP is not advised to do this to treat neck pain.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2014
  10. Feb 8, 2014 #9
    I don't see how that's comfortable.
    I have to restart too often when doing proofs etc.

    My method is using a clipboard, sit tilted back in my desk chair (it's a rather good one) with my feet on the heater or whatever. It is a kind of relaxed position to sit in. Problem is after diner when my stomach is working I sometimes fall asleep.
  11. Feb 8, 2014 #10
    What math do you use it for? I can imagine it would be inefficient if it is a subject where you like to draw graphs and diagrams like in my PDE class. But higher up where it gets more abstract I can see it being helpful.

    But you have to erase the information afterwards, what is your method of saving the information?

    That sounds like a relaxed position. If you are tilting your desk chair back then what is your clipboard resting on?
  12. Feb 8, 2014 #11


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    Take a picture. Not my method, but I know it works well if you like whiteboards.
  13. Feb 8, 2014 #12


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    And this is relevant because he solves at least one math problem in his head during the time it takes the bowling ball to swing out over the students and back to within inches of his face, right?

    I agree, that would certainly be a comfortable way to do math. (And given Feynman's ability to do calculations in his head, not totally unrealistic.)

    Or, you could do like Rene DesCartes and invent a Cartesian system of vector notation while lying in bed and watching a fly flit about the corner of the ceiling above his bed.
  14. Feb 8, 2014 #13


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    Why is doing math so stressful on your neck? Is it as stressful on your neck doing any other activities? Do you take any breaks? Stand up, stretch your legs, etc...?
  15. Feb 8, 2014 #14
    Because I tend to tilt my neck down and lean forward while I am doing my work. I've been trying harder to get over that habit and I am making good progress. When I have to go get a drink, food, use the bathroom, want a break, or I am finished. I don't get up to stretch though. I do like to take a nice break by working out (gym a block away).
  16. Feb 9, 2014 #15


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    I have to restart sometimes too, or go back and revise things extensively. So what? I either delete back to the first error, or else start a new version in case I decide to go back to the earlier version. It's really quite easy after Latex has become 2nd nature.

    Maybe my screen setup is different from yours. (I have a very large screen, elevated high enough so that I'm looking at it horizontally rather than down at an angle.)

    I sit like that too (though I don't need a heater). Actually, reclining is not good long-term, since blood flow to the lower legs can be restricted. So I try to sit properly upright until I forget...

    Post-prandial somnolence. I know it well. :frown:
  17. Feb 9, 2014 #16


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    Yes -- I'm not talking about diagrams. I hardly ever need them in my interests. When I do, then yes, I revert to paper-on-desk temporarily.
  18. Feb 9, 2014 #17
    Nothing beats pen and paper.
  19. Feb 9, 2014 #18
    Just on my legs. That's why I use the clipboard, to have a hard, portable surface for writing.

    I only have a 17 inch notebook. It is on an elevated stand so that's comparable.
    My problem might be that I've never really learnt how to type.
    Also my latex isn't 100%.

    About the heater, it is more or less to keep me in that position.
  20. Feb 9, 2014 #19


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    Hmm. Have you done really long and complicated solutions or calculations where there's a significant probability of introducing errors merely by mis-copying from one line to the next? I almost gave up on attempting big calculations in advanced field theory because of that. :blushing:

    I never learned (formally) how to type. That doesn't matter -- just keep practicing...

    My latex skill only grew gradually, by accumulation and asking questions.
  21. Feb 14, 2014 #20
    I think a blackboard is far superior to a whiteboard :smile:

    I hate whiteboards :mad:

    But, I defiantly recommend a blackboard,
    I loved doing my math on a blackboard

    Then, you can just take a picture of the board, if you need to save it for later
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