87 episodes

Interviews with Mathematicians about their New Books
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New Books in Mathematics New Books Network

    • Science
    • 4.8 • 22 Ratings

Interviews with Mathematicians about their New Books
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    Dave Auckly, et al., "Inspiring Mathematics: Lessons from the Navajo Nation Math Circles" (AMS, 2019)

    Dave Auckly, et al., "Inspiring Mathematics: Lessons from the Navajo Nation Math Circles" (AMS, 2019)

    Math circles defy simple narratives. The model was introduced a century ago, and is taking off in the present day thanks in part to its congruence with cutting-edge research in mathematics education. It is a modern approach to teaching—or facilitation—that resonates and finds mutual reinforcement with traditional practices and cultural preservation efforts. A wide range of math circle resources have become available for interested instructors, including the MSRI Math Circles Library, now in its 14th year of publication by the AMS.
    I was excited to talk with three editors and contributors to a recent volume in the series, Inspiring Mathematics: Lessons from the Navajo Nation Math Circles (American Mathematical, 2019). Drs. Dave Auckly, Amanda Serenevy, and Henry Fowler have been instrumental to the Navajo Nation Math Circles Project, along with co-editors Tatiana Shubin and Bob Klein and a broader contact and support network. Their book showcases scripts developed and facilitated in Navajo Nation, including an introduction to modular arithmetic through bean bag tossing, prefix sorting in the guise of pancake flipping, and a tactile use of limiting behavior to folding a necktie. We discussed the origin and expansion of math circles, their potential to indigenous mathematics educators and students, and the content of and stories behind a selection of the scripts.
    Dr. Fowler's foreword and the editors' introduction situate the math circles movement and the Navajo Nation Math Circles Project in history, geography, and culture. Each script begins with a (minimal!) list of the necessary materials and a student handout that invites explorations with them. A short survey of connections to deeper mathematics precedes each handout, and each is followed by an extensive teacher's guide with (illustrative) solutions and presentation suggestions. The scripts vary in complexity and are suitable for student- and teacher-focused math circles. I hope the text becomes widely adopted for science-based and culturally conscious mathematics education and helps introduce others like myself to the greater math circles project.
    Suggested companion works:
    -James Tanton
    -The Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival
    -Gordon Hamilton and Lora Saarnio, MathPickle
    -Robert Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan, Out of the Labyrinth: Setting Mathematics Free
    -Rachel and Rodi Steinig, Math Renaissance
    Dave Auckly is a research mathematician at Kansas State University and Co-founder and Director of the Navajo Nation Math Circles Project. Amanda Serenevy is Co-founder and Director of the Riverbend Community Math Center. Henry Fowler is Associate Professor of Mathematics at Navajo Technical University and Co-director of the Navajo Nation Math Circles Project.
    Cory Brunson is a Research Assistant Professor at the Laboratory for Systems Medicine at the University of Florida.
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    • 1 hr 13 min
    Jonas Peters and Nicolai Meinshausen, "The Raven's Hat: Fallen Pictures, Rising Sequences, and Other Mathematical Games" (MIT Press, 2021)

    Jonas Peters and Nicolai Meinshausen, "The Raven's Hat: Fallen Pictures, Rising Sequences, and Other Mathematical Games" (MIT Press, 2021)

    Games have been of interest to mathematicians almost since mathematics became a subject. In fact, entire branches of mathematics have arisen simply to analyze certain games. The Raven's Hat: Fallen Pictures, Rising Sequences, and Other Mathematical Games (MIT Press, 2021) does something very different, and something that I think listeners will find intriguing – it uses games in order to explain mathematical concepts.
    The Raven's Hat presents a series of engaging games that seem unsolvable--but can be solved when they are translated into mathematical terms. How can players find their ID cards when the cards are distributed randomly among twenty boxes? By applying the theory of permutations. How can a player guess the color of her own hat when she can only see other players' hats? Hamming codes, which are used in communication technologies. Like magic, mathematics solves the apparently unsolvable. The games allow readers, including university students or anyone with high school-level math, to experience the joy of mathematical discovery.
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    • 57 min
    Eugenia Cheng, "x + y: A Mathematician's Manifesto for Rethinking Gender" (Basic Book, 2020)

    Eugenia Cheng, "x + y: A Mathematician's Manifesto for Rethinking Gender" (Basic Book, 2020)

    From its more mainstream, business-focused and business-friendly “Lean In” variants, to more radical, critical and intersectional understandings of feminism, the past decade has seen a flourishing of discussion from those proposing and critiquing different schools of thought for the way we think about gender in society.
    Dr. Eugenia Cheng’s addition to this conversation is x+y: A Mathematician's Manifesto for Rethinking Gender (Basic Books, 2020). She applies insights gained from her mathematical background to propose a new way to talk about gender and to propose an alternative: the terms “ingressive” and “congressive” behavior.
    In this interview, Dr. Cheng and I talk about what we gain from bringing a mathematical understanding to questions of social relations and structures. We talk about how she rethinks “gender”, and the new terms she proposes in her book. We end with a short discussion of whether these insights are applicable to conversations about other demographic and social identifiers.
    Dr. Eugenia Cheng is a mathematician and concert pianist. She is Scientist In Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and holds a PhD in pure mathematics from the University of Cambridge. Alongside her research in Category Theory and undergraduate teaching her aim is to rid the world of “math-phobia”. She was an early pioneer of math on YouTube and her videos have been viewed over 15 million times to date. Her other books are How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics (Basic Books: 2016), which was featured on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics (Basic Books: 2017) which was shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize in 2017 and The Art of Logic in an Illogical World (Basic Books: 2018)
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of x+y. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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    • 42 min
    Milo Beckman, "Math Without Numbers" (Dutton, 2020)

    Milo Beckman, "Math Without Numbers" (Dutton, 2020)

    One of the questions I am often asked is exactly what do mathematicians do. The short answer is that they look at different mathematical structures, try to deduce their properties, and think about how they might apply to the real world. Math Without Numbers (Dutton, 2020) does a wonderful job of explaining what mathematical structures are, and does so in a fashion that even readers who are uncomfortable with the process of doing mathematics can appreciate and enjoy. There are courses in music and art appreciation, and if there ever are courses in math appreciation, this book would certainly be at or near the top of the reading list.
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    • 55 min
    J. Rosenhouse, "Games for Your Mind: The History and Future of Logic Puzzles" (Princeton UP, 2020)

    J. Rosenhouse, "Games for Your Mind: The History and Future of Logic Puzzles" (Princeton UP, 2020)

    Jason Rosenhouse's Games for Your Mind: The History and Future of Logic Puzzles (Princeton UP, 2020) is about a panoply of logic puzzles. You’ll find Mastermind and sudoku discussed early on, and then you’ll be hit with an incredible array of some of the most intriguing logic puzzles that have ever been devised. Some will be familiar to you, but some will almost certainly be brain-teasers you have never heard of. It’s absolutely amazing what a truly deep field grew from recreational pastimes – and this book is an absolute treasure trove of stuff you can’t help thinking about. If you like logic, you’re certain to be sucked in – but you’ll enjoy the ride.
    Logic puzzles were first introduced to the public by Lewis Carroll in the late nineteenth century and have been popular ever since. Games like Sudoku and Mastermind are fun and engrossing recreational activities, but they also share deep foundations in mathematical logic and are worthy of serious intellectual inquiry. Games for Your Mind explores the history and future of logic puzzles while enabling you to test your skill against a variety of puzzles yourself.
    In this informative and entertaining book, Jason Rosenhouse begins by introducing readers to logic and logic puzzles and goes on to reveal the rich history of these puzzles. He shows how Carroll's puzzles presented Aristotelian logic as a game for children, yet also informed his scholarly work on logic. He reveals how another pioneer of logic puzzles, Raymond Smullyan, drew on classic puzzles about liars and truthtellers to illustrate Kurt Gödel's theorems and illuminate profound questions in mathematical logic. Rosenhouse then presents a new vision for the future of logic puzzles based on nonclassical logic, which is used today in computer science and automated reasoning to manipulate large and sometimes contradictory sets of data.
    Featuring a wealth of sample puzzles ranging from simple to extremely challenging, this lively and engaging book brings together many of the most ingenious puzzles ever devised, including the Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever, metapuzzles, paradoxes, and the logic puzzles in detective stories.
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    • 56 min
    Snezana Lawrence, "A New Year's Present from a Mathematician" (CRC Press, 2019)

    Snezana Lawrence, "A New Year's Present from a Mathematician" (CRC Press, 2019)

    It would be simple enough to say that mathematics is being done, and that those who do it are mathematicians. Yet, the history and culture of the mathematical community immediately complicate these statements. In her book A New Year's Present from a Mathematician (CRC Press, 2020), Snezana Lawrence guides a tour of European mathematical history that broadens conventional ideas of who mathematicians are and what we do. Framed as journey across the desert out from Alexandria, the book recounts a vignette from European mathematical history anchored to each month of the year, as drops of creativity and wisdom to sustain the trek.
    It is not unusual for books on the history of mathematics to tell very human stories about their often famous subjects. What is remarkable about Lawrence's collection is the breadth of these stories: Her subjects were idealists, pragmatists, mystics, skeptics, radicals, ascetics, and collectives. (Contrast, for example, the self-aware spite of Isaac Newton with the defiant good humor of Jean-Baptiste d'Alembert.) They contributed a mix each of original study, stewardship, and education. (Witness the precocious and persistent advocacy of Maria Agnesi and the devoted reciprocity of Johannes Kepler.) And they may or may not have been considered in their time, or even considered themselves, mathematicians.
    This book also showcases the diversity of mechanisms through which mathematics is transmitted and expanded. The projects undertaken by Lawrence's subjects are inspired by surviving ancient texts, popular treatments, and personal correspondence, and they yielded instructional texts, organizational schema, reference works, and popular fiction still in circulation today. The book drove home for me that the history of mathematics is ultimately a history of dialogue, and one that any person has the potential to contribute to—and thereby to be a mathematician.
    Suggested companion work: "Interstellar" (dir. Christopher Nolan)
    Snezana Lawrence is a mathematical historian, with a particular interest in the links between mathematics, architecture, and the belief systems related to mathematics. Her work on the creativity, identity, and engagement in the learning of mathematics has taken her to be involved in national and international initiatives to promote the use of the history of mathematics in mathematics education. She maintains the website Maths Is Good For You! and tweets @snezanalawrence.
    Cory Brunson is a Research Assistant Professor at the Laboratory for Systems Medicine at the University of Florida.
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    • 55 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
22 Ratings

22 Ratings

mr2048 ,

Great interviews with mathematicians

These are fascinating. Just finished listening to an interview with Ian Stewart. My only quibble/ suggestion would be for the interviewer to get a headset or microphone. Interviewees' audio is fine, interviewer's could be better.

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