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Math in the News: The Gender Gap is Closed for Business

Math made the headlines last Thursday, with an article about a recent study in the journal Science, which discredits the perceived Gender Gap in mathematics. The AP article can be found here – if you can’t bring yourself to read the article, you can also watch the following clip from NBC Nightly News on the same topic.

The AP article offers a more thorough discussion of the study, which examined standardized test scores for more than 7 million American students. Given the breadth of the study, one hopes it will help dispel any lingering notion girls may have that they are some how innately unable to measure up to boys in math. We do, however, have a ways to go before math professor Barbie starts flying off the shelves.

Any news that can help persuade women to enter mathematically demanding fields is good news. Not only because America needs to . . . → Read More: Math in the News: The Gender Gap is Closed for Business

Math on TV: Numb3rs

You knew it had to be coming. Any self-respecting individual interested in the intersection of math with popular culture must, at some point, discuss the canonical element of said intersection: CBS’s own crime solving math show, Numb3rs. The use of the 3 is to eliminate any ambiguity surrounding the subject matter of a show called “Numbers.”

Since premiering in January of 2005, Numb3rs has been a consistent performer for CBS, in spite of (or because of, depending on your assumptions about the makeup of the show’s audience) its Friday night time slot. For those of you who may have never seen the show, the following synopsis should help give you some perspective: Body counts, multiple criminal masterminds, and perpetrators who are likely to act again … this is the world of NUMB3RS. FBI agent Don Eppes (Rob Morrow) couldn’t be more different from his younger brother, Charlie (David Krumholtz), a . . . → Read More: Math on TV: Numb3rs

Designer Math

A well designed t-shirt has the power to delight and inspire; it can break the ice at the start of the evening, and seal the deal at the end. It can be a powerful tool for social interaction, and can help forge the bonds that will last a lifetime.

It is with this in mind that I bemoan the present state of mathematically themed t-shirts, many of which are asinine to the point of nausea. I also feel the need to speak out and warn those who would consider buying such t-shirts for friends or loved ones, under the misguided impression that anyone who studies math will appreciate (much less wear) a t-shirt just because it is related to math.

Let’s analyze some examples, to see just what’s gone wrong with the current state of mathematically inspired fashion. The following five designs can be found here, along with a multitude . . . → Read More: Designer Math

Math Gets Around: Politics

Many students often ask their teachers, “Why do I have to learn this boring mathematics? Nobody uses mathematics anyhow.” This new feature, entitled Math Gets Around, will attempt to show you that in fact, mathematics will pop up even in the least likely of places. So learn those multiplication tables, chief.

Today, we see how mathematics has weaseled its way into an unlikely place: the realm of politics. This is particularly relevant given the fact that, as some of you may have heard, there is a presidential election in just a few short months.

Among the general population, there will always be dissidents who complain of the failings of our democratic process. Among these dissidents, you may even find those who question the existence of our two party system, and claim that a system with a larger number of parties would be better for everyone involved. But I am here . . . → Read More: Math Gets Around: Politics

Three and a Half Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Mathematician

Mathematicians are a rare specimen to behold. While not quite endangered, they tend to congregate in areas less prone to large population densities, such as libraries, or the basements of math buildings, thus making their numbers seem lower than they actually are. This type of behavior is fortunate, for it is because of these tendencies to cluster together that breeding mathematicians in captivity has proven extremely successful – much more so than attempting to breed mathematicians in the wild with the general population (although there are successful cases of the latter phenomenon as well). The point here is that, unless you are of a certain persuasion, you could find yourself going years, possibly your whole life, without ever meeting a mathematician.

Should you be so fortunate to spot one, make sure not to approach too quickly, or you may scare the mathematician away. If you are vigilant, you may be . . . → Read More: Three and a Half Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Mathematician

Math in the News: All for Algebra, and Algebra for All?

With the blessing of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it looks like the great state of Kah-lee-foh-nya is set to require all 8th graders to take Algebra I. The Sacramento Bee has an article regarding this development, see the link here:

A valiant effort, to be sure. But what good does this do, aside from making for good press? Let’s examine.

Recalling, first of all, that the California public education system is typically ranked somewhere in the lower forties (and recalling also that, given there are but 50 states in the union, this makes California’s ranking fairly dismal), it is natural to ask what the short term impact of this new requirement will be. If we’re looking for a sustainable solution to the education crisis in this state (forgetting for a moment what’s going on at a national level), this hardly seems to fit the bill. There’s no mention in the . . . → Read More: Math in the News: All for Algebra, and Algebra for All?