The Art of Mathematics Carol Jacoby

 Science

Conversations, explorations, conjectures solved and unsolved, mathematicians and beautiful mathematics. No math background required.

Stop Overselling Mathematics
Alon Amit, prolific Quora math answerer, argues that an honest representation of mathematical ideas is enough to spark interest in math. It's not necessary to exaggerate the role of math; the golden ratio does not drive the stock market, the solution of the Riemann hypothesis will not kill cryptography, and Grothendieck did not advance robotics. History and seeing the thought process and the struggle behind the tight finished proof are ways to make math compelling.

Math for Kids: It's not a Spectator Sport
Dave Cole, the author of the Math Kids series of books, talks about introducing kids to math as a fun challenge and puzzle beyond the rote memorization they've come to expect. Kids who like to read are enticed by puzzles and mysteries. Möbius strips, Pascal's triangle, and other concepts that are new to them, make them marvel, "Is this math?" They see patterns and learn to make and even prove conjectures.

Egyptian Fractions
Neil Epstein, Associate Professor of Mathematics at George Mason University, introduces us to the fractions used by the ancient Egyptians, well before the Greeks and Romans. The Egyptian fractions all had a unit numerator. They could represent any fraction as a sum of unique unit fractions, a fact that was not proved until centuries later. These sums inspired conjectures, one of which was proved only recently, while others remain unsolved to this day. Recent work extends these concepts beyond fractions of integers. Human heritage goes way back, but is still inspiring modern research.

Da Vinci's Math Teacher: Merging the Practical and Theoretical
Jeanne Lazzarini joins us again to introduce us to the mathematician Luca Pacioli, whose views of numbers and shapes influenced Leonardo da Vinci, leading to a period of art and invention. His book, De Divina Proportione, is the only book ever illustrated by da Vinci. The Renaissance was a period when mathematicians studied art and artists studied mathematics. As da Vinci said, "Everything connects."

Alon Amit, sharing the mathematical journey in Quora and Math Circles
Alon Amit, probably the most prolific answerer of math questions on Quora, shares his reasons for his deep involvement. He seeks to share the journey, the exploration and stumbles of solving a problem. He's especially drawn to questions that will teach him things, even if he never completes the answer. He also shares his joy of problem solving with kids through Math Circles. One example problem, involving only 4 dots, can be worked on by a young child, yet affords deep exploration.

Too Much Math in the Schools? These Books Counter That Narrow View
Lee Kraftchick continues his tour of books about math written for the nonmathematician like himself. We also can't let go of Gödel Escher Bach. Lee cites an opinion piece in the Washington Post, titled, "The Problem with Schools Today is Too Much Math," which gives a very narrow view of what math is. He counters it with a response (see theartofmathematicspodcast.com) and more books that demonstrate that math provides "pleasures which all the arts afford." He also discusses books about math and the real world and compilations of the broad range of mathematics.