Monthly Archives: January 2019

How to Talk about Math so People Want to Listen

Paul Zorn at St. Olaf College of the MAA Science Committee introduced Rachel Levy, the MAA Deputy Executive Director, and she then introduced Flora Lichtman, the host of Every Little Thing on Gimlet Media (she used to work for Science Friday). Flora, a non-math person and a professional nerdy journalist, told us:

The overarching picture is that telling stories is really hard.

Flora told us that there were three keys to talking about math so people want to listen.  It turned out that a lot of people want to talk about math so people want to listen!  It was a very crowded room.

I ended up on the floor in the very front, hence the angles for the photos…

  1. Who’s your audience?
  2. What’s your hook?
  3. What are your visuals?

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A conversation with mathematician and poet, JoAnne Growney

Learn more about JoAnne Growney.

AMS Colloquium Lectures: Benedict Gross and “Complex Multiplication: Past, Present, Future”

Benedict Gross, this year's AMS Colloquium series lecturer.

Benedict Gross, this year’s AMS Colloquium series lecturer.

Benedict Gross kicked off his series of talks in the AMS Colloquium Lectures on Tuesday by speaking about the past, with a plan to reach the future of Number Theory by Friday.  Gross, former MacArthur Fellow and winner of the Cole Prize in Number Theory is the George Vasmer Leverett Professor of Mathematics, Department of Mathematics, Harvard University. The series, entitled “Complex Multiplication: Past, Present, Future,” considers the interplay between imaginary quadratic fields and the theory of elliptic curves. The area “has a long and twisted history,” according to Gross. The first talk covered the two hundred years from 1751 to 1951, beginning with Euler reviewing Fagnano’s work on the lemniscate, and beginning his investigations of “elliptic integrals”  of the form


which lead to elliptic curves. Legendre and Gauss studied positive definite binary forms up to equivalence under the special linear group SL_2(Z).  The number of equivalence classes of forms with a given discriminant is called the class number of the discriminant.  The connection between these class numbers (and their modern variants) and elliptic curves becomes the story of complex multiplication.

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LATHISMS: MAA Invited Paper Session on Inspiring Diversity in Mathematics: Culture, Community, and Collaboration, talk #7

Hi folks. I’m tired. This is the last talk in the series. Gabriel E Sosa of Amherst College is talking about:

LATHISMS: showcasing the contributions of Latinx and Hispanics to the mathematical sciences

Gabriel talked about his experience in graduate school and awakening to the fact that there weren’t that many well-known women in mathematics. He talked about Noether, and enjoying this poster by the AMS of women in mathematics:

Gabriel kept the audience cracking up with his relatable story of how he ended up creating the LATHISMS program, which involved a TurboTax commercial and hanging out with new friends. LATHISMS stands for something like LATinxs and HISpanics in the Mathematical Sciences.

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Math Mamas: MAA Invited Paper Session on Inspiring Diversity in Mathematics: Culture, Community, and Collaboration, talk #6

Reporting from the floor for #4 in this live-blogging series. Carrie Diaz Eaton of Bates College introduced the series. Speakers are Becky E. Hall of Western Connecticut State University, Eaton, Piper Harron, and Eaton read an excerpt from Elizabeth Gross.

Two Math Mamas Tell Their Stories

The name of this talk isn’t quite right, since they have several other math mamas tell their stories. But it’s great! If you didn’t know, I (Yen) identify strongly with this session since I had two kids while getting my Ph.D.

This grass roots group of math mamas grew from a Facebook group and now includes an AMS Blog series, the website and a special July 2018 issue of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, which I personally highly recommend.

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Undergraduate Research as an Equalizer: MAA Invited Paper Session on Inspiring Diversity in Mathematics: Culture, Community, and Collaboration, talk #5

Alicia Prieto Langarica of Youngstown State University, who also co-organized this session, started her talk by telling us that she wouldn’t use the words “diversity” or “equity” or “Latinx” etc. and challenged us audience members to think about why she wouldn’t be using these words.

I’m a little frazzled right now because I live-blogged the last two talks and I ran off to see a friend talk in the HBCU session, but his flight was delayed so then I ran back to go to this session.  Alicia is trying to push the audience into talking and interacting and it is delightful.

Here are posts #1 and #2 in this series:

MAA Invited Paper Session on Inspiring Diversity in Mathematics: Culture, Community, and Collaboration, talk #3

MAA Invited Paper Session on Inspiring Diversity in Mathematics: Culture, Community, and Collaboration, talk #4

Undergraduate Research as the Greatest Equalizer

She opened with a series of statistics: about half of the people who intend to be math majors end up dropping out, and about 10% of math B.A.s end up going on to get a math Ph.D. (but not really, because the number of math Ph.D.s also includes international students. So the actual ratio is much lower.)

If the math major is preparing students to be academic mathematicians, then of course students won’t major in math. But people in industry do want mathematicians and students who can think logically and mathematically competently and who can translate real life problems into math problems, who have communication skills who can work with others.  So how can we mathematicians help students prepare for careers in industry, by using our tools of mathematics research?

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Facing the Mirror: Acknowledgment in our Practice: MAA Invited Paper Session on Inspiring Diversity in Mathematics: Culture, Community, and Collaboration, talk #4

I had some technical difficulties and we’ve unfortunately lost the first few minutes of Aris Benjamin Winger of Georgia Gwinnett College, who co-facilitated the program in the last post. I remember that he discussed creating a safe space to talk about race and equity and mathematics on campus as well.

Facing the Mirror: Acknowledgement in our Practices

In his talk, Aris called out the audience (in a good way) to acknowledge our own biases and our own fraught histories with racism, sexism, and treating students in a disparate manner.

We don’t get to pick how people show up in front of us. We don’t get to pick our initial reaction to them.

Aris showed us a slide of three different people, a black man, a white man, and a black woman in six different outfits and styling.

“We treat people differently based on how they look,” he said. “We treat people who are white differently from people of color.”

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Equity in the Mathematics Classroom: MAA Invited Paper Session on Inspiring Diversity in Mathematics: Culture, Community, and Collaboration, talk #3

Good morning JMM!  I’m blogging this morning from this great diversity session, moderated by Pamela Harris of Williams College, Alicia Prieto Langarcia of Youngstown State University, and Chat Topaz of Williams College. I missed talks #1 and #2 this morning, but I’ll be here for the rest of the session.

Equity in the Mathematics Classroom

Michael Young of Iowa State University talked about equity in the K-12 classroom. With his Designing for Equity by Thinking program, they worked in Pittsburgh Public Schools, which are over 70% black students and over 70% white teachers.

We narrowed in on race, we narrowed in on mathematics throughout the entire project.

The purpose of the project was to decrease the opportunity gap: they wanted to educate the teachers about groups of students who didn’t have the same opportunities as their peers. Michael talked about how this project helped him as a parent, a community member, and a teacher personally as well.

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AWM Capitol Hill Visit at JMM 2019

Group in front of statue on visit.

The AWM group in front of the Alexander Calder statue in the Hays Building in Washington DC.

Tuesday morning, when many folks were finishing up last minute packing and checking flights, I was getting on a bus to Washington DC with around fifty other members of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM). The mission: meet with legislators about important issues for women in mathematics. More generally, we were there to talk about supporting STEM research, education, and careers, promoting equity and inclusion in the field, and some legislation that we believe would work toward these goals. The AWM has been organizing advocacy trips to Capitol Hill in Washington DC for several years now. Of course, as I write, the Joint Mathematics Meetings has brought over 5000 mathematicians to Baltimore to talk some serious (and not so serious) math. The AWM planned a visit for Tuesday to take advantage of this confluence, so close to the nation’s capital. This was the largest Hill visit of the program, with 50 participants visiting 47 congressional offices, speaking with legislators and their staff members spanning 18 different states. AWM groups met with 33 Democrats, 13 Republicans, and 1 Independent. The participants were fairly evenly drawn from undergraduate students, graduate students, academic faculty, and business/industry/government mathematicians.

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Association for Women in Mathematics Panel Discussion, “Promoting Inclusion in Stem”

Talia Fernós started off this great panel with lively introductions of Autumn Kent, subject of a Q&A by Evelyn Lamb, Piper Harron, provocateur postdoc (I hope she allows me to call her that) and author of a straight fire thesis who also writes for inclusion/exclusion, another AMS blog, Pamela Barnett, an English professor at Lasalle University, and Harrison Bray, a postdoc at University of Michigan.  She started us off with axioms from Federico d’Ardila-Mantilla’s  fantastic Notices article about mathematics and a description of underrepresented groups, along with another that she added that I missed: something like inequality exists and is a result of structural things we’ve done?

I went with first names for this live-blogging because I know three of the people on the stage. Sorry for the forced camaraderie, Pamela and Harrison! I hope to meet you two sometime! Also apologies for all the stuff that you said that I missed. I didn’t record, I’m just typing while y’all talk.

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