It's good to chalk

January 18, 2002

Two years after the Oxford University Natural History Museum replaced its blackboards, the switch is still causing uproar and is debated hotly at high-level university strategy meetings.

The old blackboards, which went from ceiling to floor, were used to teach first and second-year mathematics students. But the rolling mechanisms broke and the museum could not find anyone to replace them. And, anyway, they had had to employ a special cleaner just to remove the clouds of chalk dust that descended daily on the exhibits. So they installed white boards and markers instead.

The mathematicians remain adamant that chalk has just the right edge on it to allow them to write at the correct speed to explain to the students. Marker pens that glide across are considered too fast.

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