Abstracts and Bio

Sarah J. Greenwald is Professor of Mathematics and a Women's Studies affiliate faculty member at Appalachian State University. She received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Her scholarship areas include Riemannian geometry, popular culture as it pertains to mathematics, and women and minorities in mathematics, and she is a 2005 Mathematical Association of America Alder Award winner for distinguished teaching and the winner of the 2010 Appalachian State University Wayne D. Duncan Award for Excellence in Teaching in General Education. In 2010 she was also inducted into the Appalachian State University College of Arts and Sciences Academy of Outstanding Teachers and in 2011 she was named the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teacher of the Year. She is the associate editor of the Association for Women in Mathematics Newsletter and a member of the editorial board of PRIMUS. She co-created the educational website SimpsonsMath.com with Andrew Nestler. While it is not affiliated with the show, the site was mentioned in the audio commentary of the 7th season of The Simpsons. Her interactive mathematics lecture has been distributed on approximately one million DVDs worldwide as a 25-minute DVD extra for the 20th Century Fox Futurama movie Bender's Big Score and it is listed as "Mind-bending." She co-edited the 3-volume Encyclopedia of Mathematics & Society with Jill Thomley, which was named a "Best Reference 2011" by Library Journal. Dr. Greenwald has spoken about the impacts of scientific popular culture representations on NPR's Science Friday and all over the country.

Also see my academic cv.

Bender's Big Score: Greenwaldian Theorem

Good News Everyone! Mathematical Morsels from The Simpsons and Futurama

Did you know that The Simpsons and Futurama contain hundreds of humorous mathematical and scientific references? What curious mathematical object is used as a bottle for beer in the 31st century? What happens when Homer tries to emulate Thomas Edison? What is the significance of the number 1729? The only prerequisite for this talk is an open mind, so come find out!

We'll explore the mathematical content and educational value of some favorite moments along with the motivations and backgrounds of the writers during an interactive talk. Popular culture can reveal, reflect, and even shape how society views mathematics, and with careful consideration of the benefits and challenges, these programs can be an ideal source of fun ways to introduce important concepts and to reduce math anxiety. In the process we'll look at related, recent work in geometry and computational number theory so a calculator and writing utensil will be useful. For more information, check out SimpsonsMath.com.

1ACV11 (Mars University)

How and Why AWM was Founded, and Why It's Still Needed in the 21st Century

The Fields Medal, Girl Scouts, GoldieBlox, Wikipedia and more? We'll explore how these relate to the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and why AWM is needed today. AWM is a non-profit organization that supports and promotes female students, teachers and researchers. With more than 3000 members (women and men), AWM represents a broad spectrum of the mathematical community - from the United States and around the world. While AWM was celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2011, I was beginning to research the history of the organization. We'll look back at how and why AWM was formed as we learn about the active role it continues to play in the lives and work of girls and women.

Rubik's Cube Games on Spheres: Geometry of Spherical Orbifolds

We'll slice up basketballs in order to form new spaces like footballs and triangular pillows, and then look at the geometry of the resulting spaces, called orbifolds. Orbifolds furnish a natural starting point for the study of singular spaces and they are especially of interest to mathematicians and physicists. Diverse applications of orbifolds include connections to crystallography, string theory and music theory. Many results, such as those requiring local analysis, generalize easily to the orbifold setting, but most global results do not. Imagine a spherical Rubik's game where you can rotate spherical triangles on the surface of the sphere. This game exists and is called the Impossiball and we'll use it to help understand orbifolds, as we look at lots of examples and results related to the diameter, Euler characteristic, and spectrum. This talk is aimed at students interested in mathematics or physics who have taken linear algebra or multivariable calculus.


Popular Culture and Mathematics: Gender, Race, and more

Mathematics is pervasive in modern society, and on some level we all use mathematics in our daily lives. Have you ever known anyone who asserted that they do not have the "math gene"? Where do those messages come from? Popular culture can reveal, reflect, and even shape how society views mathematics, and we'll give some favorite examples from a variety of shows, including the Simpsons and Futurama, which contain hundreds of humorous mathematical and scientific references. At the same time we'll reflect more broadly upon what mathematics is, what it has to offer, and the diverse ways that people can succeed in and impact it, including you!

What is a Mathematician? Math is Not Only a Young (White) Man's Game

Have you ever known anyone who asserted that they do not have the "math gene" or cannot do math because they are not a genius? Studies have shown that students perceive mathematics as a discipline that is done by others rather than people like themselves. Jocelyn Steinke, a professor of communication with specialties in science communication and the images of women scientists in the mass media, asserts that in the absence of real-life role models, children will construct mental models of scientists from the images they see in the popular media. Other media studies support this view.

In this talk we will look at an overview of related research studies on perceptions and success in mathematics. Then we will discuss ways to balance stereotypical representations with role models whose style of doing mathematics is identifiable as being similar to the way students do mathematics and to diverse mathematicians who have well rounded lives. There are no prerequisites for this talk.

Geometry of the Earth and Universe Labs: From the Classroom to Current Research

The quest to understand the precise geometry and shape of our universe began thousands of years ago, when mathematicians and astronomers used mathematical models to try and explain their observations. We'll explore historical and current theories related to the geometry of the earth and universe during an interactive talk. A globe or child's ball will be useful.

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