Project 3: What is a Mathematician?
In this segment we will examine the way that mathematicians do research
and the kind of problems that they work on.
You should try and relate this to the way that you
do mathematics, and you should also continue to think about what
mathematics is, and the useful problem solving techniques
and applications that arise from its study.
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.
4-7 minute Digital Presentation
This project is a mandatory group
project (groups of 2-4 people). Have your
mathematician approved as an ASULearn message -
each group must work on a different person. Choose a person
who has significant mathematics
in their background, at least one published technical
mathematics work to their name, and for who you can answer most of the
Prepare a digital presentation by using the attached checklist
and bring it on a pen drive, DVD, CD, or attach the file to Youtube or
to the ASULearn personal file storage space.
Be sure that it can play on a Mac.
Group work on projects will be
self-evaluated and 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
Grading Checklist: Does the Digital Presentation:
- look and sound professional?
- start on time?
- flow smoothly?
- include enough eye contact with the audience?
- offer creative and engaging material?
- last between 4-7 minutes total?
- make effective use of PowerPoint
or other digital software?
- contain only correct historical facts that relate to the themes below?
(Do NOT create a biography).
- contain at least one picture of the mathematician?
- include quotes by the mathematician about some of the themes below, that
are put into
context by the presenter?
Influences, Support, Barriers and Diversity
(Broadly Defined) Issues
- address the issue of influences that led them to becoming
a mathematician, by answering some of the following:
What influences led them to becoming a mathematician?
Did they have support from family and society?
What are their outside interests and hobbies?
Why did they become a mathematician?
What kind of barriers did they face while becoming a mathematician?
Where there any gender, racial,
multicultural/ethnic, diversity (broadly defined)
issues in this mathematician's experiences?
Do they have a spouse or partner, and any children? Are any
family members also a mathematician or scientist.
- address this issue by answering some of these?
How do they describe the process of doing mathematics and/or mathematical
How do they get the flashes of insight that they need to do research?
How do their
mathematical minds work? Do they have a photographic memory? Are they really good with numbers? Are they good at visualization?
Does the mathematician often collaborate (ie write papers with
other mathematicians) or instead mostly work by themselves?
How do they describe what mathematics is and/or where it comes from?
Your project grade will be based on the clarity
your responses and explanations, the flow of your
which must be mostly in your own words, and the quality of your
references, so you must choose a mathematician who has answered many of the
questions in interviews [or will respond to an interview request from you].
Inferences to answer some of the questions are fine as long as your method of
deduction for the inference is explained. It is fine if you cannot answer all
of the questions, but you should answer most of them.
In addition, turn in a typed reference list.
Often award winners have answered many of the above questions in
interviews. You can try searching for
Clay Research Award
winners or Fields
Medal winners. I encourage you to find someone you are interested in
and to look in creative places. For example, numerous google executives
have significant mathematics in their background, as do people in Hollywood,
like actress Danica McKellar from The Wonder Years
and writer David X Cohen from Futurama (both have
conducted detailed interviews which would work well for the project, which
I can point you to).
I am happy to share what information I have for anyone you obtain
approval for. I also have some references from
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Thomas Fuller (1710-1790)
Maria Agnesi (1718-1799)
Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855)
Sophie Germain (1776-1831)
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Georg Cantor (1845-1918)
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920)
Paul Erdos (1913-1996)
David Blackwell (1919-)
Evelyn Boyd Granville (1924-)
Mary Ellen Rudin (1924-)
Fern Hunt (194?-)
Stephen Hawking (1942-)
Karen Uhlenbeck (1942- )
Frank Morgan (195?-)
Ingrid Daubechies (1954-)
Bill Gates (1955-)
David X Cohen (1966-)
Danica McKeller (1975-)
Terence Tao (1975-)
You are free to choose someone not on this list. Approval will be given
on ASULearn on a first-come-first-served basis.