Expository Writing

Expository writing is a recognized area of scholarship in mathematics, and one with a long tradition. It combines elements of original mathematical thought, literature synthesis, and historical research, as well as the kind of creative activity associated with literary writing, particularly in the investigative and nonfiction genre. The work that goes into a typical paper includes developing original mathematical results and presenting these in a context that will be accessible and interesting to a broad audience of mathematicians. This often involves summarizing and organizing a body of related published work, or tracing the historical background of a subject. Frequently, the intellectual effort invested in order to make an original mathematical discovery is matched by an equal measure of creative energy in polishing the prose and presentation.

Traditional research publications in mathematics are narrowly focused on a specialty area in mathematics, or on a particular topic within such an area.  They are intended to communicate new results to the specialists who work in the same area as the author.  In contrast, expository publications are intended for a broader audience.  Some contain little or no new mathematics discovered by the author.  The point is to popularize or disseminate interesting mathematical ideas to large audiences, which can include mathematics researchers, teachers, students, and anyone outside the discipline with an avocational or professional interest in mathematics.  In addition to mathematical results, expository papers often include historical, pedagogical, and philosophical elements.

In the world of mathematics, there are many awards for outstanding achievements in research.  These awards recognize the discovery of important new ideas, methods, and results that have had or are expected to have a significant impact on the evolution of the field.  Awards for expository writing in mathematics are different.  They recognize achievements in communicating (as opposed to discovering) mathematical ideas.

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