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Background

A friend and I have been meeting informally with a retired professor to do math on a weekly basis for several semesters now. He is a dear mentor to both of us. We would like to get him a Christmas present, but he is a very private person and rarely discusses his home life, so we know almost nothing about him outside of his mathematical interests. We could get him a book, but chances are good that he would already have it. (His library is enormous, and he's always bringing in obscure texts.)

Some possibilities:

  • A copy of The Emperor's Club? This is a movie about a teacher and his influence on his students. I'm worried that might be a bit cheesy or inappropriate.
  • Something mathematical, but more "popular" that he is less likely to have, like a film or a mathematics-strewn crime novel. (No textbooks!)
  • A pie with a $\pi$ carved in the crust.

We're really stumped.

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12  
If I might make a suggestion. I don't know the man, but the heartfelt words you expressed above say it all. If it were me, I would love to hear that from someone I've helped. Perhaps finding a wonderful inspirational quote and then personalizing that with both your heartfelt sentiments would be worth gold to someone as they feel like they continue to pass on their good deeds! "What you have been obliged to discover by yourself leaves a path in your mind which you can use again when the need arises." - G. C. Lichtenberg –  Amzoti Dec 24 '12 at 4:05
12  
Personally I hate math-kitch gifts like $\pi$ memorabilia. I would think twice about that one unless you're sure he would like that type of thing. –  Alexander Gruber Dec 24 '12 at 4:07
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I think @Amzoti hit the nail on the head: You might like the first quote on my profile page; but your own words, accompanying such a quote, will be the heart of such a gift! –  amWhy Dec 24 '12 at 4:10
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I agree with Alexander Gruber - especially since $\pi$ is the wrong number to care about. –  Zev Chonoles Dec 24 '12 at 4:10
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A mathematical clock should have a $0$ at the "$3$ o'clock" position, and the hands should run backwards. –  André Nicolas Dec 24 '12 at 5:09

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If I might make a suggestion.

I don't know the man, but the heartfelt words you expressed above say it all. If it were me, I would love to hear that from someone I've helped.

Perhaps finding a wonderful inspirational quote and then personalizing that with both your heartfelt sentiments would be worth gold to someone as they feel like they continue to pass on their good deeds!

I would even go as far as making it an inscription on a plaque of some sort. I would cherish such as thing forever and would display in a place of honor if I received that.

Both of you young people give us all hope!

"What you have been obliged to discover by yourself leaves a path in your mind which you can use again when the need arises." - G. C. Lichtenberg

Regards -A

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Beautiful quote +1 And I couldn't have answered any better than you! –  amWhy May 11 '13 at 0:26
    
@amWhy: This was a nice example of a wonderful professor for helping pass it along and for two very nice young people that give me hope! Regards –  Amzoti May 11 '13 at 0:28

This is actually a serious suggestion. Math and Sex has always been loved by everyone I have given it to. Nope there is nothing inappropriate in the book but the title does get everyone's attention. It is my favorite gift to give. I have given a copy to everyone.

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As a bit of shameless self promotion, might I suggest a randomly generated book, produced by Mathgen. It's unlikely he already has it!

(Full disclosure: it's my project, but I don't personally profit from book sales; all my proceeds are donated to the AMS.)

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