I had the great pleasure of being present for Edray Goins’ MAA Invited Address, “A Dream Deferred: 50 Years of Blacks in Mathematics”, Thursday morning from 9 to 9:50am. This talk was a beautiful combination of history and mathematics, and a great reminder that however far we think we have come, the reality is that Black mathematicians are still vastly underrepresented in the mathematical sciences. (Full disclosure, Edray is my friend, he is a fellow Number Theorist, and he even was a fellow blogger at my other blogging home, the inclusion/exclusion blog).

Edray Goins. Photo by Kate Awtrey, Atlanta Convention Photography.

Age is a funny thing. I feel kind of old when I see all my friends either here with their infants and children, friends who are expecting, or friends who are happy to be able to get some sleep because they left their children with a spouse or other caregivers (even though they clearly miss their kids too, as evidenced by their showing me all of the cute kids pictures possible). When did everyone start having kids? And how will I get to hold and play with them all? Auntie Adri is reporting for duty.

I’m at this talk by Dan Spielman of Yale University, who’s trying to give us an introduction to spectral and algebraic graph theory. I’m here because he was my friend’s undergraduate advisor and my friend said that “Professor Dan” is great! Dan has won a ton of fancy prizes and there are so many people in the audience to watch him.

This talk wove together computer science, graph theory, physics in a very engaging manner. It was a lot of fun, and any errors in this blog post are mine alone, which is embarrassing because I should know a fair amount of spectral graph theory and group theory (I even did my senior math seminar at Yale in spectral graph theory in 2010. Woof.)

In spectral graph theory, we relate graphs to matrices. The first example is an adjacency matrix, where you label the vertices of a graph and then use those labels as row/column labels for a square matrix, and put a “0” when there is no edge between the corresponding vertices, and a “1” if there is such an edge.

Dan: “I think it’s an accident that the adjacency matrix is useful.” He’ll go on to talk about associated matrices, linear equations, quadratic forms, and operators that are less accidental.

Quadratic forms give us some beautiful theorems about graphs.

This morning, Karen Hunger Parshall talked about the flourishing world of mathematics post WWI in the Roaring Twenties in American Mathematics. Parshall framed the advances of the era through the bifurcation of topology into the point set branch, led by R.L. Moore, and the algebraic branch to Oswald Veblen, and a similar splits in other fields.

In the words of Dieudonne, this was a period of “development and chaos,” and unsurprisingly, the roaring 20’s of math was a whole bunch of white guys.

Shoot, I accidentally sat right next to Anna Haensch, who was also planning on blogging and who co-writes the great AMS Blog on Math Blogs. Well, I’m taking it. Also, it was nice to meet Anna! We’ve talked on the internet but haven’t met before. And Adriana Salerno, the editor of this blog, live-tweeted the talk.

“It’s not false, it’s just an alternative fact.” Kellyanne Conway (sort of).

Who remembers this quote? OK, I admit I don’t remember it perfectly myself, but it’s close enough. You can watch this video on YouTube if you want to see the birth of this now ubiquitous term.

So what is the responsibility of a math educator in this new world of alternative facts? That is what Kira Hamman and Dave Kung addressed in their joint guest lecture for the Quantitative Literacy SIGMAA, “The power of quantitative literacy in the era of alternative facts”.

Diana Davis at the Math is Beautiful booth in aisle 200 of the exhibit hall.

There is so much beautiful math in the exhibits hall–seriously, there is no way I could give a survey of everything down here! So instead I’ll just share a snapshot (or a few) of one of the great exhibitors. Diana Davis is a mathematician studying periodic billiard paths (primarily on pentagons!), a Visiting Assistant Professor at Swarthmore, and Artist/Creative Chief/CEO of Math is Beautiful (“But it’s just me,” Diana says when I run this title by her–yes, she is the sole employee of her small company). She makes and sells earrings, coasters, T-shirts, and other items featuring her mathematical creations/discoveries and social justice. I stopped by to see Diana’s Math is Beautiful booth in aisle 200 of the exhibits hall (100 level of the Baltimore Convention Center). She also has two beautiful pieces in the Mathematical Art Exhibit (right next to her booth in the Exhibits Hall).

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