As a prospective freshman at MIT, I sat in on several lectures.
One of them was given by Gian-Carlo Rota. I had never
imagined that such a large lecture could feel so intimate, so alive,
so electric, and the experience continues to inform my approach to
teaching.
Unfortunately, I never got the chance to thank Rota -- he
died unexpectedly two weeks later.
This essay is a written version of an address
Rota gave in 1997. I have never taught differential
equations, so I have no strong opinions on much of the content.
However, I found it both entertaining and informative, full of
the character I remember from that MIT lecture, so I thought I'd
share it.