Dr. Sarah's What is a Mathematician?
A Teaching Assignment (Presentation and Worksheet)
In this segment we will examine the way that mathematicians do research
and the kind of problems that they work on.
While we will mainly focus on the mathematics,
you should try and identify with the mathematicians and their
struggles with mathematics and relate this to the way that you
We will highlight the validity of diverse styles and diverse mathematical
strengths and weaknesses.
We will see that there are lots of different ways that people are
successful in mathematics.
We will also examine the changing roles of women
and minority mathematicians over time.
In class on Thursday, groups will
choose a mathematician (see below). Then, on your assigned day, you will
present a PowerPoint presentation, and will create a classroom activity sheet
to further engage the class.
I have worked hard to accumulate
good references for you
so that you won't have much research to do.
I will give you both web and paper references.
Your job is to learn the
material and figure out how to teach it to the rest of the class.
I am handing the assignment out early to give you plenty of time to
examine the material and let it sink in and jell, and to allow you
time to make it into office hours.
This process is important for success on this topic,
so do not leave this until the last minute!
Instead, you should work on the mathematics a little bit at a time,
reading and engaging it for about an hour or two, then putting it aside for
a day or two, and then coming back to it and trying again and again and
Answer the Following Questions on the
Mathematics that is Related to your Mathematician
Be sure that you include answers to the following questions about
mathematics that is related to your mathematician in your presentation.
Some answers may be brief so ask me if you are not sure of the
Be sure that you engage the class with the material in your
worksheets, and that
you explain the mathematics in your own words.
I also recommend that you bring drafts into office hours
and class to discuss them with me.
You are responsible for the material from other people's
presentations, worksheets and the material that Dr. Sarah highlights
for WebCT quizzes and for the exam.
Checklists for more pointers on the presentation and
classroom worksheet that you will prepare will be handed out later.
Thomas Fuller (1710-1790)
Speed of Mental Calculations, Calculator and Computer Time
How would we do Fuller's calculation of the number of seconds
a man who is seventy years, seventeen days and twelve hours old has lived
What affects calculator and computer calculation time?
Compare Fuller's times to various calculator and computer times
(the first calculator, the first computer, eniac, and modern calculators
Is there a limit to how fast a computer can calculate?
Maria Agnesi (1718-1799) Witch of Agnesi and Calculus
What is the witch of Agnesi? How did it receive that
How do you construct it geometrically?
If the generating point
is dragged far enough to the right,
why won't the point generated on the curve be located at y=0?
How does it relate to Agnesi's mathematics?
How is it used
in real life?
What are some of the applications of calculus to real-life?
Sophie Germain (1776-1831)
Sophie Germain Primes and RSA Coding
What is a Sophie Germain prime?
Why did she come up with Sophie Germain primes?
What is the largest Sophie Germain prime that has been found?
How many digits does this have?
What is the definition of a mod b?
How do modular arithmetic and Sophie Germain primes relate to
Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) Non-Euclidean Geometry
What is Euclid's 5th postulate?
What is the equivalent form of the
5th postulate that we learn in
What is the negation of the 5th postulate?
What two geometry possibilities does this negation give rise to?
How does this relate to Gauss?
Georg Cantor (1845-1918) The Size of Infinity
What are the natural numbers?
What are the real numbers?
Using ideas related to Dodgeball,
why are there more real numbers than natural numbers?
(1887-1920) Chebyshev's Theorem and
Estimating the Number of Primes Less than a Given Number.
What is a prime number? Why are they of interest?
What is the statement of Chebyshev's Theorem? How does this
relate to Ramanujan?
What were Gauss' estimates of the number of primes less than or
equal to a given number? How does this relate to Ramanujan?
(1913-1996) The Party Problem
What is the statement of the party problem? How does this relate
Why does a 6 sided polygon colored red with a 6 sided embedded
star with edges colored blue prove that 5 people at a dinner party is not
enough to ensure that there are at least 3 people who are either complete
strangers or acquaintances?
To show that if there are 6 people at a
dinner party then there are at least 3 people who are either
complete strangers or acquaintances, why can we reduce to looking
at 4 of those people? How do you complete the argument from here?
David Blackwell (1919-) What is Game Theory?
What is the prisoner's dilemma? How does this relate to what
David Blackwell worked on?
What matrix of payoffs represents the prisoner's dilemma?
If a person is deciding what to do, why does it make sense
(when looking at the possible cases) for him
What are the applications of game theory to real life?
Mary Ellen Rudin (1924-) What is Topology?
What is topology? How is it different from geometry and projective
Why are a basketball and a football the same in topology?
Why are an iron and a mug with one handle the same in topology?
Why is a vest and a mug with two handles the same in topology?
Why are the above lines different from each other in topology?
Frank Morgan (195?-) The Double Bubble Problem
Why is the sphere the least area way to enclose a given volume for
If a sphere and a box have the same surface area, then which
will have the largest volume?
What is the Double Bubble Problem?
What did Frank Morgan prove about it?
Did he have to check every possible double bubble?
Ingrid Daubechies (1954-) Wavelets
How can images be stored on a computer?
What is image compression? Why do we need it?
How are wavelets related to image compression?
Why are wavelets better then JPEG?
What are other applications of wavelets to real life?
What do wavelets have to do with Ingrid Daubechies?
Group work on major
assignments will be
self evaluated and that these evaluations will be
taken into account in the determination of the final
grade. So, your job is to make sure that you do your
part to make sure you are working in a
Inequalities in group work WILL