Wild About Math! Making Math fun and accessible

3Feb/131

Shecky Riemann – Inspired by Math #19

I got to spend a delightful hour today chatting with Shecky Riemann, apparently not his real name, discussing a bunch of math blogging stuff. It was great to interview a peer as this conversation had a lot of back and forth chatting that doesn't happen when I'm interviewing someone in a higher plane! Shecky's Math-Frolic blog is among my very favorites so it was super fun to get to know who the man is behind the monkey picture!

About Shecky Riemann

"Shecky Riemann" is the fanciful pseudonym of a former psychology/communications major (Pomona College/U of Kentucky) and lab-tech (primarily clinical genetics), who's been enamored of mathematics since childhood, and now hails from N. Carolina. Following Martin Gardner's death (2010), he was inspired to create Math-Frolic blog (and now also MathTango) to pay tribute to Gardner and be a cheerleader-of-sorts for those doing, or interested in, mathematics. He's especially intrigued with number theory, geometry, and the philosophical underpinnings of math. He sometimes enjoys hiking, birdwatching, tennis, flea markets, and hand-drumming. Cats, parrots, and shelties adore him.

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27Jan/131

Glen Van Brummelen – Inspired by Math #18

Today I got to interview another great author of a Princeton University Press title. "Heavenly Mathematics: The Forgotten Art of Spherical Trigonometry" is a delightful exploration of the techniques that ancient and medieval people from different cultures used to navigate and map the stars and the seas along with modern methods. There's a strong focus on the historical setting for these explorations. This setting brings the mathematics to life. I was very impressed to learn how very smart ancient astronomers and mathematicians were. Our twentyfirst century perception that we are smarter than our predecessors is simply not true. I was also delighted to learn an elegant variation of the familiar Pythagorean Theorem when applied to a sphere.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting exposed to this very elegant branch of mathematics and hope you too will catch some of Professor Van Brummelen's enthusiasm.

Chapter 1 of the book is available as a free PDF download.

About Glen Van Brummelen

From the Quest University Website:

Glen Van Brummelen, mathematics tutor, is a historian of mathematics, especially trigonometry and astronomy in ancient Greece and medieval Islam. He is past president of the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics, and senior fellow at the Dibner Institute for History of Science at MIT. In addition to authoring 30 scholarly and 10 encyclopedia articles, he is co-editor of "Mathematics and the Historian's Craft" (Springer) and recently published the first history of trigonometry in over a century with Princeton University Press called "The Mathematics of the Heavens and the Earth: The Early History of Trigonometry".

Glen has taught mathematics at small liberal arts colleges his entire career. He has taught over 30 different courses, including most traditional topics in math but also mathematics and music, mathematics and democracy, mathematics and computer graphics, spherical trigonometry (using a 19th-century textbook), and how to be an ancient astronomer. Several of his students have published their undergraduate research with him in recent years. In the summer he teaches the history of math regularly at MathPath, a math camp for bright 7th- and 8th-graders.

As if this wasn't enough, he keeps busy with his three very active kids of his own: Ariel (13), Matthew (9) and Andrew (5), all of whom will be mathematicians some day, and wife Heide (age unspecified). He is an avid soccer player, and played goal on the college team at his two previous colleges. He is undefeated at chess in the past 20 years, with a record of 2-0. Glen notes that "the key is to choose one's opponents carefully".

About "Heavenly Mathematics"

From the Princeton University Press Website:

Spherical trigonometry was at the heart of astronomy and ocean-going navigation for two millennia. The discipline was a mainstay of mathematics education for centuries, and it was a standard subject in high schools until the 1950s. Today, however, it is rarely taught. Heavenly Mathematics traces the rich history of this forgotten art, revealing how the cultures of classical Greece, medieval Islam, and the modern West used spherical trigonometry to chart the heavens and the Earth. Glen Van Brummelen explores this exquisite branch of mathematics and its role in ancient astronomy, geography, and cartography; Islamic religious rituals; celestial navigation; polyhedra; stereographic projection; and more. He conveys the sheer beauty of spherical trigonometry, providing readers with a new appreciation for its elegant proofs and often surprising conclusions.

Heavenly Mathematics is illustrated throughout with stunning historical images and informative drawings and diagrams that have been used to teach the subject in the past. This unique compendium also features easy-to-use appendixes as well as exercises at the end of each chapter that originally appeared in textbooks from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries.

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22Jan/131

Keith Devlin – Inspired by Math #17

Dr. Keith Devlin joins me for a second podcast interview. Keith Devlin and I first spoke last February. Last night Keith Devlin shared in great detail his experience teaching "Introduction to Mathematical Thinking" MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). If you're considering enrolling in the MOOC when it's next offered in March, or if you might someday want to teach a MOOC, assist in a MOOC, or if you just want to understand the important role of MOOCs in the future of education, you won't want to miss this podcast.

Oh, and there's a teaser at the end about Dr. Devlin's next big "thing," being announced in just a few weeks.



More about Keith Devlin:

Dr. Keith Devlin is a co-founder and Executive Director of the university's H-STAR institute, a co-founder of the Stanford Media X research network, and a Senior Researcher at CSLI. He is a World Economic Forum Fellow and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His current research is focused on the use of different media to teach and communicate mathematics to diverse audiences. He also works on the design of information/reasoning systems for intelligence analysis. Other research interests include: theory of information, models of reasoning, applications of mathematical techniques in the study of communication, and mathematical cognition. He has written 31 books and over 80 published research articles. Recipient of the Pythagoras Prize, the Peano Prize, the Carl Sagan Award, and the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award. In 2003, he was recognized by the California State Assembly for his "innovative work and longtime service in the field of mathematics and its relation to logic and linguistics." He is "the Math Guy" on National Public Radio.

More information

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14Jan/131

Steven Strogatz – Inspired by Math #16

Shecky over at the Math Frolic Blog has been a great supporter of this podcast series and recently made this observation:

I've been pleasantly surprised by the degree to which 'math people,' including such prominent and busy ones as [Ian] Stewart, Keith Devlin, Steven Strogatz and others, are willing to share themselves with the learning community, through such online outlets. It is really wonderful, and I think a reflection of the desire on the part of mathematicians to transform their subject from one that is too-often feared to one for eager engagement.

Having had the opportunity to have a very pleasant and very informal conversation with Dr. Steven Strogatz this afternoon really brought home Shecky's point. Dr. Strogatz and others are making a difference by giving generously of their time to bloggers who aren't likely to reach as many people as their books will reach.

At the bottom of this post I feature two of Dr. Strogatz' books, "The Joy of x," published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the lesser known but equally important book, "The Calculus of Friendship," published by the Princeton University Press. We discuss both in the podcast.

About Steven Strogatz

From Dr. Strogatz' web-site:
Steven Strogatz is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. He holds a joint appointment in the College of Arts and Sciences (Mathematics) and the College of Engineering (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering).

After graduating summa cum laude in mathematics from Princeton in 1980, Strogatz studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a Marshall Scholar. He did his doctoral work in applied mathematics at Harvard, followed by a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard and Boston University. From 1989 to 1994, Strogatz taught in the Department of Mathematics at MIT. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1994.

He has received numerous awards for his research, teaching, and public service, including: a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation (1990); MIT's highest teaching prize, the E. M. Baker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (1991); the J.P. and Mary Barger '50 Teaching Award (1997), the Robert '55 and Vanne '57 Cowie Teaching Award (2001), the Tau Beta Pi Teaching Award (2006), and the Swanson Teaching Award (2009), all from Cornell's College of Engineering; and the Communications Award from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (2007), a lifetime achievement award for the communication of mathematics to the general public. In 2009 he was elected a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics for his “investigations of small-world networks and coupled oscillators and for outstanding science communication.” In 2012 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Strogatz is passionate about public outreach and loves sharing the beauty of math and science with a wide audience. He has spoken at TED and is a frequent guest on RadioLab. In the spring of 2010 he wrote a weekly blog about mathematics for the New York Times; the Harvard Business Review described these columns as "must reads for entrepreneurs and executives" and "a model for how mathematics needs to be popularized." His second New York Times series, Me, Myself and Math, appeared in the fall of 2012. Strogatz has also filmed a series of 24 lectures on Chaos for the Teaching Company’s Great Courses series. He is the author of Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos (1994), Sync (2003), and The Calculus of Friendship (2009). His most recent book, The Joy of x, was published in October 2012.

About "The Joy of x"

From Amazon.com:
A world-class mathematician and regular contributor to the New York Times hosts a delightful tour of the greatest ideas of math, revealing how it connects to literature, philosophy, law, medicine, art, business, even pop culture in ways we never imagined

Did O.J. do it? How should you flip your mattress to get the maximum wear out of it? How does Google search the Internet? How many people should you date before settling down? Believe it or not, math plays a crucial role in answering all of these questions and more.

Math underpins everything in the cosmos, including us, yet too few of us understand this universal language well enough to revel in its wisdom, its beauty — and its joy. This deeply enlightening, vastly entertaining volume translates math in a way that is at once intelligible and thrilling. Each trenchant chapter of The Joy of x offers an “aha!” moment, starting with why numbers are so helpful, and progressing through the wondrous truths implicit in π, the Pythagorean theorem, irrational numbers, fat tails, even the rigors and surprising charms of calculus. Showing why he has won awards as a professor at Cornell and garnered extensive praise for his articles about math for the New York Times, Strogatz presumes of his readers only curiosity and common sense. And he rewards them with clear, ingenious, and often funny explanations of the most vital and exciting principles of his discipline.

Whether you aced integral calculus or aren’t sure what an integer is, you’ll find profound wisdom and persistent delight in The Joy of x.

About "The Calculus of Friendship"

From the publisher's website:
The Calculus of Friendship is the story of an extraordinary connection between a teacher and a student, as chronicled through more than thirty years of letters between them. What makes their relationship unique is that it is based almost entirely on a shared love of calculus. For them, calculus is more than a branch of mathematics; it is a game they love playing together, a constant when all else is in flux. The teacher goes from the prime of his career to retirement, competes in whitewater kayaking at the international level, and loses a son. The student matures from high school math whiz to Ivy League professor, suffers the sudden death of a parent, and blunders into a marriage destined to fail. Yet through it all they take refuge in the haven of calculus--until a day comes when calculus is no longer enough.

Like calculus itself, The Calculus of Friendship is an exploration of change. It's about the transformation that takes place in a student's heart, as he and his teacher reverse roles, as they age, as they are buffeted by life itself. Written by a renowned teacher and communicator of mathematics, The Calculus of Friendship is warm, intimate, and deeply moving. The most inspiring ideas of calculus, differential equations, and chaos theory are explained through metaphors, images, and anecdotes in a way that all readers will find beautiful, and even poignant. Math enthusiasts, from high school students to professionals, will delight in the offbeat problems and lucid explanations in the letters.

For anyone whose life has been changed by a mentor, The Calculus of Friendship will be an unforgettable journey.

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13Jan/130

Mircea Pitici – Inspired by Math #15

Mircea Pitici has taken on a huge task, to present the best articles in Mathematics for the year. For three years running he's edited a book for Princeton University Press with his picks. Since identifying great communicators is a big interest of mine I'm delighted to get to pick his brain for an hour.
[ Note: The audio is a little bit choppy in places, especially the first few seconds. The phone connection was not the best so we did the best we could do. Call quality aside, this is an important interview for anyone interested in math communication. ]

About Mircea Pitici

From Mircea's Cornell web-site:
Mircea has taught mathematics courses and writing seminars at Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Wells College. He received a teaching award from the Cornell Department of Mathematics in 2011 and the Buttrick-Crippen Scholarship awarded by the Knight Institute of Writing in the Disciplines in 2008.

Deeply interested in mathematical communication to professional audiences and to the general public, Mircea edits the annual series The Best Writing on Mathematics (Princeton University Press). He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Bucharest, Romania, and a master’s degree from Cornell, and he is working toward a doctorate in mathematics education at Cornell.

About "The Best Writing on Mathematics 2012"

From the Princeton University Press web-site:

This annual anthology brings together the year's finest mathematics writing from around the world. Featuring promising new voices alongside some of the foremost names in the field, The Best Writing on Mathematics 2012 makes available to a wide audience many articles not easily found anywhere else--and you don't need to be a mathematician to enjoy them. These writings offer surprising insights into the nature, meaning, and practice of mathematics today. They delve into the history, philosophy, teaching, and everyday occurrences of math, and take readers behind the scenes of today's hottest mathematical debates. Here Robert Lang explains mathematical aspects of origami foldings; Terence Tao discusses the frequency and distribution of the prime numbers; Timothy Gowers and Mario Livio ponder whether mathematics is invented or discovered; Brian Hayes describes what is special about a ball in five dimensions; Mark Colyvan glosses on the mathematics of dating; and much, much more.

In addition to presenting the year's most memorable writings on mathematics, this must-have anthology includes a foreword by esteemed mathematician David Mumford and an introduction by the editor Mircea Pitici. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in where math has taken us--and where it is headed.

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11Jan/130

Ian Stewart – Inspired by Math #14

I was very honored to have Dr. Ian Stewart give me an hour of his time this morning to interview him about his enthusiasm for communicating Math to the public. Dr. Stewart is the author of a couple of dozen very popular Math books. You can see a list at Amazon.com. Dr. Stewart and I got to talk about one of his most recent books, "The Mathematics of Life," (published by Perseus Books Group) and about a number of other topics.

About Dr. Stewart

From Wikipedia:

Ian Nicholas Stewart FRS (born 24 September 1945) is a professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick, England, and a widely known popular-science and science-fiction writer. He is the first recipient of the Christopher Zeeman Medal, awarded jointly by the LMS and the IMA for his work on promoting mathematics.

Stewart was born in 1945 in England. While in the sixth form at school, Stewart came to the attention of the mathematics teacher. The teacher had Stewart sit mock A-level examinations without any preparation along with the upper-sixth students; Stewart placed first in the examination. This teacher arranged for Stewart to be admitted to Cambridge on a scholarship to Churchill College, where he obtained a BA in Mathematics. Stewart then went to the University of Warwick for his doctorate, on completion of which in 1969 he was offered an academic position at Warwick. He is now Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick. He is well known for his popular expositions of mathematics and his contributions to catastrophe theory.

While at Warwick he edited the mathematical magazine Manifold. He also wrote a column called "Mathematical Recreations" for Scientific American magazine for several years.

Stewart has held visiting academic positions in Germany (1974), New Zealand (1976), and the U.S. (University of Connecticut 1977–78, University of Houston 1983–84).

About The Mathematics of Life

From the publisher's site: (Perseus Books Group)
Biologists have long dismissed mathematics as being unable to meaningfully contribute to our understanding of living beings. Within the past ten years, however, mathematicians have proven that they hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of our world--and ourselves. In The Mathematics of Life, Ian Stewart provides a fascinating overview of the vital but little-recognized role mathematics has played in pulling back the curtain on the hidden complexities of the natural world--and how its contribution will be even more vital in the years ahead. In his characteristically clear and entertaining fashion, Stewart explains how mathematicians and biologists have come to work together on some of the most difficult scientific problems that the human race has ever tackled, including the nature and origin of life itself.

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16Dec/121

Alfred Posamentier – Inspired by Math #13

Dr. Alfred Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann recently co-authored a delightful book, The Secrets of Triangles: A Mathematical Journey, published by Prometheus Books. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Posamentier for 50 minutes. Aside from the fact that we both grew up in New York City and got to reminisce about some of the prominent math teachers of the late '70's and early 80's, I very much appreciate Dr. Posamentier's deep understanding of the issues that make math challenging for teachers and students, and his deep caring about my favorite subject.

About Dr. Posamentier

From Wikipedia:
Alfred S. Posamentier (born October 18, 1942) is among the most prominent American educators in the country and is a lead commentator on American math and science education, regularly contributing to The New York Times and other news publications. He has created original math and science curricula, emphasized the need for increased math and science funding, promulgated criteria by which to select math and science educators, advocated the importance of involving parents in K-12 math and science education, and provided myriad curricular solutions for teaching critical thinking in math.

Dr. Posamentier was a member of the New York State Education Commissioner’s Blue Ribbon Panel on the Math-A Regents Exams. He served on the the Commissioner’s Mathematics Standards Committee, which redefined the Standards for New York State. And he currently serves on the New York City schools’ Chancellor’s Math Advisory Panel.

Dr. Posamentier has authored or co-authored over 55 books, including:

  • Progress in Mathematics K-9 textbook series (Sadlier-Oxford, 2006-2009)
  • Math Wonders: To Inspire Teachers and Students (ASCD, 2003)
  • Math Charmers: Tantalizing Tidbits for the Mind (Prometheus Books, 2003)
  • Pi: A Biography of the World’s Most Mysterious Number (Prometheus Books, 2004)
  • 101+ Great Ideas to Introduce Key Concepts in Mathematics (Corwin, 2006)
  • What successful Math Teacher Do: Grades 6-12 (Corwin 2006)
  • What successful Math Teacher Do: Grades K-5 (Corwin 2007)
  • Exemplary Practices for Secondary Math Teachers (ASCD, 2007) and The Fabulous Fibonacci Numbers (Prometheus Books, 2007)
  • Problem-Solving Strategies for Efficient and Elegant Solutions, Grades 6-12 (Corwin, 2008
  • Problem Solving in Mathematics: Grades 3-6: Powerful Strategies to Deepen Understanding (Corwin, 2009)
  • Mathematical Amazements and Surprises: Fascinating Figures and Noteworthy Numbers (Prometheus, 2009)
  • The Pythagorean Theorem : Its Power and Glory (Prometheus, 2010)
  • The Fabulous Fibonacci Numbers (Prometheus, 2011)
  • The Glorious Golden Ratio (Prometheus, 2012)
  • The Art of Motivating Students for Mathematics Instructions (Mc-Graw-Hill, 2012)
  • The Secrets of Triangles (Prometheus, 2012)

About The Secrets of Triangles: A Mathematical Journey

From the publisher's site (Prometheus Books):
“An adventure into the awe-inspiring realms of the triangle. [Posamentier and Lehmann] show us that a study of this basic geometric figure reveals a compelling and natural aesthetic beauty, and in so doing they unravel remarkable relationships and mathematical phenomena. The authors provide examples that illustrate the fascination that mathematicians and philosophers have had with the triangle for over two thousand years. . . . Their book forms a worthy and practical adjunct to this inspiring corpus of thought.”

TOM BREEN, executive chairman, Breen Property Group, Australia

“This book exposes some of the most amazing relationships involving triangles and their parts. With just some recollection of high-school geometry, the reader will be guided through many surprising triangle relationships that could rekindle for many the beauty of mathematics. Readers will surely find this book entertaining because, through simple language, wonders of geometry emerge.”

DR. CHARLOTTE K. FRANK, senior vice president, Research and Development, McGraw-Hill Education

“This wonderful book intelligibly presents a plethora of triangle characteristics and relationships that really makes one appreciate this basic geometric figure. A must-read for anyone curious about what was missed in high-school geometry.”

DR. ANTON DOBART, director general,
Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture, Vienna, Austria

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2Dec/121

Ed Burger – Inspired by Math #12

Here's a really fun interview with a Math professor who is engaging, smart, and has won a ton of awards. If you've ever wondered how we as teachers, parents, students, and life long learners could make a difference in a subject like Math that's been so much sucked of its life, listen to this podcast and read the short book, The Five Elements of Effective Thinking.

About Ed Burger

Edward B. Burger is a professor at Williams College, an educational and business consultant, and a former vice provost at Baylor University. He has authored or coauthored more than sixty-five articles, books, and video series; delivered over five hundred addresses and workshops throughout the world; and made more than fifty radio and television appearances. His teaching and scholarly writing have earned him many national honors, including the largest teaching award given in the English-speaking world.

See Ed Burger's Wikipedia page and his page at Williams College.

About The Five Elements of Effective Thinking

From the publisher's site:

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking presents practical, lively, and inspiring ways for you to become more successful through better thinking. The idea is simple: You can learn how to think far better by adopting specific strategies. Brilliant people aren't a special breed--they just use their minds differently. By using the straightforward and thought-provoking techniques in The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, you will regularly find imaginative solutions to difficult challenges, and you will discover new ways of looking at your world and yourself--revealing previously hidden opportunities.

The book offers real-life stories, explicit action items, and concrete methods that allow you to attain a deeper understanding of any issue, exploit the power of failure as a step toward success, develop a habit of creating probing questions, see the world of ideas as an ever-flowing stream of thought, and embrace the uplifting reality that we are all capable of change. No matter who you are, the practical mind-sets introduced in the book will empower you to realize any goal in a more creative, intelligent, and effective manner. Filled with engaging examples that unlock truths about thinking in every walk of life, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking is written for all who want to reach their fullest potential--including students, parents, teachers, businesspeople, professionals, athletes, artists, leaders, and lifelong learners.

Whenever you are stuck, need a new idea, or want to learn and grow, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking will inspire and guide you on your way.

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23Sep/120

James Tanton – Inspired by Math #11

The MAA recently published a book, Mathematics Galore!, of creative classroom activities by James Tanton. These activities are great explorations for high school and motivated middle school students to work through alone, or for group work in Math Circles. I got a review copy of the book and instantly fell in love with it. I've been a fan of James' for some time, and I've plugged his work a number of times.

When "Mathematics Galore" was published I used the event as an opportunity to congratulate James and as an excuse to interview James for my "Inspired by Math" podcast series.

If you've been as enthralled as I've been by James' Youtube videos, or as impressed as I've been with his textbooks, you'll enjoy listening to this interview and getting to know James a little bit more personally.


James Tanton

About James Tanton

Believing that mathematics really is accessible to all, James Tanton (PhD, Mathematics, Princeton 1994) is committed to sharing the delight and the beauty of the subject. In 2004 James founded the St. Mark’s Institute of Mathematics, an outreach program promoting joyful and effective mathematics education. He worked as a full-time high school teacher at St. Mark’s School in Southborough MA,(2004-2012) and he conducted, and continues to conduct, mathematics graduate courses for teachers through Northeastern University and American University. He also gives professional development workshops across the nation and Canada.

James recently relocated to Washington D.C. and is currently a visiting scholar of the Mathematical Association of America. He also conducts the professional development program for Math For America program in D.C.

James is the author of SOLVE THIS: MATH ACTIVITIES FOR STUDENTS AND CLUBS (MAA, 2001), THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MATHEMATICS (Facts on File, 2005), MATHEMATICS GALORE! (MAA, 2012) and twelve self-published texts. He is the 2005 recipient of the Beckenbach Book Prize, the 2006 recipient of the Kidder Faculty Prize at St. Mark’s School, and a 2010 recipient of a Raytheon Math Hero Award for excellence in school teaching.

He also publishes research and expository articles, and through his extracurricular research classes for students has helped high school students pursue research projects and also publish their results.

James Tanton's Coordinates

Web-site: jamestanton.com
Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/drjamestanton
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/tanton.math
Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/jamestanton

About "Mathematics Galore"

Mathematics Galore!
Mathematics Galore! showcases some of the best activities and student outcomes of the St. Mark's Institute of Mathematics and invites you to engage in the mathematics yourself! Revel in the delight of deep intellectual play and marvel at the heights to which young scholars can rise. See some great mathematics explained and proved via natural and accessible means.

Based on 26 essays ("newsletters") and eight additional pieces, Mathematics Galore! offers a large sample of mathematical tidbits and treasures, each immediately enticing, and each a gateway to layers of surprising depth and conundrum. Pick and read essays in no particular order and enjoy the mathematical stories that unfold. Be inspired for your courses, your math clubs and your math circles, or simply enjoy for yourself the bounty of research questions and intriguing puzzlers that lie within.

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19Aug/120

Dora Musielak – Inspired by Math #10

Note: The first minute or so of the audio is choppy but it's fine after that.

About Dora Musielak


Dr. Dora Musielak is a research professor, the recipient of two NASA research fellowships, and teaches science and mathematics for engineers and scientists. She is member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the Association of Women in Science (AWIS), and the Association for Women in Mathematics,(AWM).

In addition to her research, Dr. Musielak is an enthusiastic promoter of the history of women in mathematics and gives talks to inspire young women. Musielak is also the author of Kuxan Suum: Path to the Center of the Universe, an unusual popular science book combining topics from astrophysics and astronautics. She is currently studying the history of mathematics, focusing on the 17th and 18th centuries.

About Sophie's Diary

Sophie’s Diary: A Mathematical Novel is a work of fiction inspired by French mathematician Sophie Germain. It chronicles the coming of age of a teenager learning mathematics on her own, growing up during the most turbulent years of the French Revolution. The fictionalized diary uses mathematics, intertwined with historically-accurate accounts of the social chaos that reigned in Paris between 1789 and 1794, to describe the learning journey of a remarkable girl that became the first and only woman in history to make a substantial contribution to the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

Sophie Germain was born in Paris in 1776. Little is known about her childhood or about her initiation into mathematics. Her first biographers wrote that, as a young woman, she assumed the name of a male student at the École Polytechnique to submit her own work to Lagrange. Yet, no biography has explained how Germain studied mathematics before that time to encourage such boldness. Sophie’s Diary is an attempt to put in perspective how a self-taught girl could have acquired the knowledge to enter the world of Lagrange’s analysis.

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