Lauren Miller’s favorite number is 23. “I really liked being 23, that was the year I decided to become a mathematician,” Miller told me over burgers and beers in Claremont, California this week. After taking a circuitous route through education that took her through costume design, working as an optician, and eventually landing her in a mathematics program, Miller is now a mathematician, librarian, lady-hacker, and blogger at Life By Number.
Life by Number is a blog, in the words of Miller, “for people who find math fun.” Whether that’s the students she’s teaching this semester at Lindenwood University, the great math teachers of the #MTBoS, or her own mother, Miller’s goal is to bring math to the level where people are. “I started writing it for me,” she says, “but then I also want to the share interesting things I’ve found, the amazing literary resources that are out there!”
She covers a range of topics, but working on the staff of the St. Louis Public Library, her book reviews are a particularly unique feature to her blog. Written in a chatty and comfortable style, they make me want to hit the stacks and nestle up to a good mathematical biography. She discusses the relative merits of several children’s books on Ada Lovelace (I know, can you believe there are several of them? I’ve been hanging out in the wrong Dewey decimal numbers) as well as some books on fellow mathematicians.
Miller also has a keen interested in math history. In one post she gives a brief history of the axiom of choice, tracing the AC from Cantor to Cohen. As a mathematician who likes to sweep this sort of thing under the rug all the time, it’s fun to see a glimpse at the drama behind it all. Miller places the axiom of choice in context, she says, viewing it in terms of the main players’ “attitudes towards others as well as in communication standards of the time.” It is fun to trace an idea from 19th century Germany all the way to New Jersey.
I met Miller at a Women In Sage workshop where she’s been working on a project in dynamical systems, a topic she studied while completing her Master’s degree at St. Louis University. Miller has been involved in other initiatives for women in programming, including a partnership with Girls Who Code at the the St. Louis public library where she is the adult research and community outreach coordinator. She’s also participated in — and blogged about! — her experiences in Google’s Summer of Code.
Check out the blog, and let Miller know your favorite number. Mine is 7, which apparently makes me not very unique . I just like that it’s prime, congruent to 3 mod 4, and big but not too big. Also, it was at age 7 that I first decided I wanted to be an engineer and dressed up as one for career day. I wore a sensible knee-length skirt and carried physics books around all day. Some of that came true.