I formerly taught a computer science course each term here at
UMass/Boston. My day job is at Ab Initio:
Ab Initio Software Corporation
201 Spring Street
Lexington, MA 02421
email: offner "at" cs.umb.edu
This is always the best address to use when sending me email,
because email here also gets forwarded to me at work and at home.
What I do for a living:
TStreams Project Papers
Here are papers and technical reports from the TStreams project, which
I worked on with Kath Knobe and Alex Nelson at the Hewlett-Packard
Cambridge Research Lab.
High Performance Fortran (HPF) Papers
Here are papers and technical reports from the HPF compiler project at
Digital and Compaq.
Here are some expository papers I am putting up for public enjoyment:
- These papers are written at the level of an advanced
undergraduate—say, someone who has been through advanced calculus
and linear algebra.
- This paper is written at the level of a first-year graduate student.
As I was writing this up, I got interested in some historical
questions. At the end of the paper I include a historical sketch that
includes my views on two controversial topics:
and also my thoughts on a question that I have not seen dealt with
- Did Abel prove "Abel's theorem" on the convergence of power
series? (Yes, he did.)
- Did Dirichlet really come up with the modern definition of
function? (I think it's quite reasonable to say that he did.)
- Why was Fejér's theorem such a sensation, since the
essential results had been known for many years?
- This is actually what I was using as my "last lecture" in CS 450 for the
last few years I taught it. It's an account of the origins of the lambda
calculus, from which the language Scheme developed; as well as the
significance of this in the development of computer science generally. I'm
not really an expert on this, but this is at any rate my own understanding of
how it all happened.
This paper is standard computer science. Much of it is not readily
available in books, however. It's only the bare beginning; I'd like
to add a lot more to this:
And here are my thoughts on some issues in secondary school
science and mathematics education. The paper looks at—and gives
reasons for rejecting—three principles that have been widely
promoted in recent educational reform debates. These principles were in
particular popularized around 1980-2000 by Theodore Sizer and his Coalition of
Essential Schools, but in fact, they are really older than that, and never
seem to die out:
In considering these principles, the paper touches on some common
misconceptions of science and the "scientific method". In an extended
discussion, it contrasts these with a description of what science is, what
scientists do, and—based on this—what are reasonable objectives
for secondary school science and mathematics education.
- "Less is more."
- Exhibitions as a goal or proof of successful education.
Sometimes the phrase "authentic assessment" is used for this
- High school teachers as generalists or coaches rather than
subject-matter specialists. Sometimes this is referred to as an
"interdisciplinary" model of education.