Dr. Sarah's What is a Mathematician?

  • On the WebCT bulletin board, under the forum what is a mathematician, post a message with the subject as the name of the mathematician (which we will choose from a hat), and the message you and your partner's name and e-mail addresses. You may wish to get in touch (by e-mail) with the group from the other class working on the same mathematician.
  • You and your partner will prepare a 15 minute presentation for November 14, 16 or 21 (see below). This will be the major grade for this topic, and will occcur instead of an exam on this topic, so be sure to follow the directions, the presentation checklist and to prepare great presentations! In the past, to supplement their presentations, groups have created posters, brought in manipulatives, and one group even created a claymation video about the mathematics!
  • Also prepare one paper per group. This will count as two labs and will be due Nov 21st at 6pm. Keep a copy of your paper since I will keep the one that you give me. Be sure to follow the directions and the paper checklist.
    I am handing this out early to give you plenty of time to search for material and references (and order them through inter-library loan if necessary), examine the material and let it sink in and gell. This process is important for success on this topic, so do not leave this until the last minute! There will be no revisions on the paper or presenation, so I strongly encourage you to bring rough drafts into office hours to discuss with me. You will also have some class and lab time to work on this assignment. I'll give you some material to help you start. You are expected to find additional web and book resources (we will start on this today so that you have time to order and receive interlibrary loan materials).

    Be sure to include the following in your presentation and paper

    Prepare a brief summary of their personal life, professional life and their work.
    Be sure to explain the mathematics in your own words. See the checklists for more pointers.
    Be sure to find and include a detailed list of references with the paper. After each reference you should comment on how you used the reference. In addition, attach a copy of the first page of any web pages you reference at the end of your paper.

    What Kind of Mathematician Is Your Mathematician?
    Answer as many as possible (you probably won't be able to answer everything, but do the best that you can and be creative - you can infer the answers to certain questions by looking in unexpected places):
    What influences led them to becoming a mathematician? Did they have support from family and society? Why did they become a mathematician? What kind of barriers did they face while becoming a mathematician? How do they describe the process of doing mathematics and/or mathematical research? How do they get the flashes of insight that they need to do research? How do their mathematical minds work? Do they have a photograhic 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 are they regarded by other mathematicians? What kind of awards or honors have they received? How many mathematical papers/books has the mathematician written? (We will partially answer this question in lab on the 13th.) How many students have they had? Other creative explorations to indicate what kind of mathematician they are?

    Presentations on November 14:
    Euclid (~325 BC-265 BC) Euclid's Postulates for Euclidean Geometry
    Maria Agnesi (1718-1799) The witch of Agnesi
    Sophie Germain (1776-1831) Her work on Fermat's Last Theorem and Sophie Germain primes
    Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) Non-Euclidean Geometry
    Presentations on November 16:
    Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) Estimating the number of primes less than a given number.
    Paul Erdos (1913-1996) The party problem
    David Blackwell (1919-) Game Theory
    Mary Ellen Rudin (1924-) Topology: Why a basketball is the same as a football
    Presentations on November 21 (the day before Thanksgiving break):
    Carolyn Gordon (1950-) Can you hear the shape of a drum?
    Ingrid Daubechies (1954-) Wavelets
    Frank Morgan (195?-) The double bubble problem
    Katherine Okikiolu (1965-) Hearing the shape of a drum

    Dr. Sarah's Presentation Checklist

    This will be the major grade for this topic. The presentation will occur instead of a topic exam. You are responsible for the material from other people's presentations for WebCT quizzes and the final exam.

    Is the presentation:


    1. one that flows smoothly?
    2. one that includes enough eye contact with the audience?
    3. professional?

      Brief Life and Work Summary

    4. a clear summary of the mathematician's life and work?

      What Kind of Mathematician is My Mathematician?

    5. one that answers this question by using the guidelines in the assignment?
    6. one that deeply explores this issue?


    7. one that clearly states the mathematics?
    8. one that contains correct mathematics?
    9. presented slowly and clearly enough so that Dr. Sarah can follow?
    10. presented slowly enough so that others who haven't seen it before can follow?
    11. one that discusses the mathematics as directed in the assignment?
    12. one which defines all variables, terminology, and notation used?
    13. one with enough writing on the board?
    14. one that flows smoothly?
    15. one where everything that is written is also orally communicated?
    16. one that includes eye contact?
    17. one which gives simple examples?
    18. one which discusses the mathematics in the speaker's own words?
    19. one that discusses the importance of the work in the context of mathematics, the real world, and applications?
    20. one that explores the mathematics deeply?
    21. one that explains any graphs, equations or statements mentioned?