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Monday, February 29, 2016

Problem of the Week

See if you can do this bi-no-means impossible Problem of the Week. Let us know your other solutions in the comments!

Solution below the break.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Everyday Math: Your Favorite Hit Series

“When will I even use this stuff?” This question can be heard echoing off the walls of math classrooms everywhere. Okay sure, no one is going to approach you on the street and ask you to calculate the value of x. However, it is impossible to deny that mathematics is everywhere. Here at the Center of Math, we want to make math accessible to mathematicians, but also to people who may not appreciate the roll math plays in their everyday lives. This blog series will highlight unexpected areas where math may be hiding.

Math in your Favorite Hit Series 

Whether its channel surfing in your living room or heading to your local theater, the entertainment industry is a guilty pleasure for almost everyone. With your hands full of popcorn and thoughts submersed in the show, you may not realize how large of a roll math plays in some of your favorite movies and television shows. Here are some television series and movies that include story lines centered on mathematics. 

The Simpsons

Believe it or not, this long-time beloved American cartoon regularly includes a heavy dose of mathematics. In fact, the team of writers includes some paramount mathematicians. Executive producer Al Jean studied mathematics at Harvard, and Jeff Westbrook found himself on the Simpsons team after serving as a senior researcher at Yale. Their love for academia can be found in a wide array of mathematical references throughout the series. Some are very blatant, as full episodes are based on a mathematical storyline. This is the case in "MoneyBart", where Lisa manages Bart's baseball team using her keen sense of math. Other references are well concealed within the comedy and may only be obvious to those well-versed in the area. In "Marge and Homer Turn a Couple Play", three numbers appear on a jumbotron. These numbers seem random to the viewers, but the mathematicians-turned-writers deliberately chose 8128, 8208, and 9181– a perfect number, a narcissistic number, and a Mersenne prime. The most famous Simpsons math moment is when Homer jots an equation on board, in an effort to create an annoying noise, and as a result disproves Fermat's last theorem.

Click here to watch: Simon Singh discusses The Simpsons and Fermat's Last Theorem 

The Big Bang Theory 

The math references in this television show may be more obvious than those in The Simpsons, but the importance of math in the show's dynamic can not be denied. The Big Bang Theory documents the life of a group of 5 'nerdy' physicist friends. The humor that drives the show comes from the witty comedic interactions that occur and the interesting way that the show plays on 'academic' stereotypes. The show has a science and math consultant, Dr. David Saltzberg, who checks the accuracy and relevancy of the jokes on the show. Each episode includes a whiteboard that is crawling with real equations. One of the actresses, Mayim Bialik, even has a Ph. D in neuroscience that backs up her character's role on the show.


Many of the same comedic, mathematical masterminds that are credited with The Simpsons, also write for Futurama. The creator, David Cohen squeezes comedy into every inch of the screen. He makes use of background space, which is where many of the mathematical references can be found. Only a certain niche of people will take note of these jokes, and it makes the show seem custom-tailored to their interests. The writers of Futurama even created a theory specifically for the show. Ken Keeler created the "Futurama Theorem", which was the first mathematical proof designed specifically for entertainment purposes. He was also interested in portraying mathematics as fun and exciting, in order to attract young viewers to the field. 

Click here to watch: Futurama Theorem 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Advanced Knowledge Problem of the Week

This week's Advanced Knowledge Problem of the Week asks you to use some clever tricks from linear algebra to simplify a product of two matrices. Let us know how you did in the comments!

Solution below the break!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sum of All Thrills

For all you Disney and math fanatics out there, good news! Raytheon, a company specializing in technology and innovation has decided to merge with Disney. Their mission was founded under the premise that: "tomorrow's engineers and technologists need to be excited by and interested in math today."

Raytheon's partnership with Disney has brought Walt Disney World a new ride - Sum of all Thrills. This ride lets kids experience math and science in an innovative and exhilarating way by designing, and then riding, their own thrill ride. For more information visit MathMovesU, and check out The Innoventions Experience - Sum of All Thrill .

Problem of the Week

See if you can figure out the integral steps in this week's Problem of the Week!

Solution below the break.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Black History Month

The Center of Math celebrates Black History Month by emphasizing African American scientists and mathematicians that excelled in their respective fields. In commemoration, we created an infographic that highlights important mathematical achievements and also features several individuals highly regarded in STEM. More information is located below the infographic, where we elaborated on biographies of selected mathematicians.

Click here for a closer look at the infographic!

Jesse Ernest Wilkins (1923-2011)          

Jesse Ernest Wilkins Jr, a mathematics prodigy, was named the ‘negro genius’ by the media and quickly made huge advancements in the fields of math, mechanical engineering, nuclear science, and optics. He became the youngest student to enter the University of Chicago, at only 13. During World War II, Wilkins worked on the Manhattan Project and later authored several journals.

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)
Banneker had close to no formal education and was largely self taught. He is most famously known for his contributions to a group led by Major Andrew Ellicott that surveyed the borders of the original District of Columbia. He referenced Thomas Jefferson on the topics of slavery and racial equality. Banneker’s understanding of astronomy inspired several contributions to series of almanacs.

David Blackwell (1919-2010)
Blackwell was the first African American to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences and to secure a permanent position at the University of California at Berkeley in 1954. He is known as perhaps the greatest African American mathematician of his time.

Charles L. Reason (1818-1893)
Charles L. Reason greatest achievements were centered on improving the education system for African Americans. He founded the Society for the Promotion of Education among Colored Children. He then worked as a professor of mathematics, Greek, and Latin at New York Central College – becoming the first African American to teach at a predominately white university. Later, he went on to found the Quaker Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia, and successfully led efforts to desegregate New York Schools.

Gloria Ford Gilmer (1956-Present)
Gilmer earned a B.S. in mathematics from both Morgan State University, and the University of Pennsylvania. In her lifetime she taught at six different HBCUs - historically black colleges and universities. Soon after receiving a Ph.D, she became the first Black female on the board of governors of the Mathematical Association of America (1980-82). She later served as a Research associate with the U.S. Department of Education and was the first women to give the National Association of Mathematician’s Cox-Talbot Address.

William Schieffelin Claytor (1908-1967)
Claytor earned his A.B. and M.A. from Howard university and later his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania - the third African American to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics. He was also the third African American to publish mathematics research. Soon after in 1937, he received a Rosenwald Fellowship and preceded to post-doctoral studies, working specifically with an experienced group of topologists.

Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes (1890-1980)
Commemorated as the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D in mathematics, Haynes played a critical role in establishing an educational community for African Americans. After receiving a master’s degree from the University of Chicago, she went on to receive her doctorate. She spent over 47 years teaching mathematics in public schools, and was the first woman to chair the Washington D.C School Board.

Advanced Knowledge Problem of the Week

Don't miss this week's Advanced Knowledge Problem of the Week, which asks you to take a different angle on some trigonometric functions.

You can see my solution below the break.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Problem of the Week

This Problem of the Week asks you to prove a fundamental property of a set of functions. There are a few different ways to approach this proof, and if you have a different one let us know in the comments!

Solution below.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day

Write your love letters, pick out your flowers, and go buy some chocolates! The international day of love is around the corner and the Center of Math wants to help you celebrate Valentine’s Day-- with a math twist, of course.
Dinner and a movie? Walk on the beach? Kick these cliche date ideas to the curb and spice up date night with these math-themed dates!


National Museum of Mathematics

If you live in the NYC area, head straight to the National Museum of Mathematics. With over 30 high tech exhibits, this museum is like a playground for math lovers. The MoMath founder wanted to highlight the excitement and achievement that is often over-looked in mathematics. Exhibits are engaging for people of all ages, and are sure to impress your date!


What is more romantic than grabbing a blanket and laying under the stars? This simple date only requires a great view of the night sky and your date. Channel your inner Galileo and impress your date with your knowledge of the constellations. Remember to make a wish if you’re lucky enough to see a shooting star!


Pool may just seem like a classic game at your local pub, but it is actually oozing with math. Use your knowledge of angles and geometry to beat your date. Play competitively or just for fun! Either way, this is a unique date that is great for an amateur billiards player or a seasoned expert.

Check out the local architecture

For this math and art date, you can explore a new place or get to know your own area better! Looking at architecture is not only beautiful, but also involves geometry and ratios. Enjoy the dazzling sights of local buildings--and your date!

Math movies

Who wants to be stuck in a crowded theater when you can be sitting in your own home watching movies about mathematics! Make some popcorn, grab a comfy seat on the couch and turn on some of our favorite math related flicks:
-Rain Man
-Good Will Hunting
-A Beautiful Mind


After gazing at the stars or watching a classic math movie, it’s time to show your math-loving valentine how much she/he means to you with a gift! Here are some presents that are brimming with mathematics!

Math Gifts
Math themed artwork to show how you feel!
Math tie!
Geometric Phone Case                                Math-numbered watch

Infinity necklace

Protractor Cuff Links


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Secret Admirer- A WCoM Valentine's Day Special!

In the Valentine's Day mood? We've got just the thing. Try your hand at this special Valentine's Day math problem!

See the solution below the break!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Advanced Knowledge Problem of the Week

See if you can complete the proof from this week's Advanced Knowledge Problem of the Week, which tests some kernels of knowledge from an array of linear algebra concepts. Let us know how you do in the comments!

See my solution below the break.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Problem of the Week

Celebrate our #sigma with this week's summation Problem of the Week. Let us know how you did in the comments!

Find the solution below.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Super Bowl 50 Stats and Facts

Super Bowl 50

The outcome of the January 24th Conference championships left Patriot and Cardinal fans shocked and disappointed. Watching the game from a local pub in Boston, it felt as though the city came to a complete standstill when the final whistle blew with a 20-18 Bronco victory. If you are like any of the hard-core Patriot fans I know, you will most likely be boycotting the team until they deem themselves worthy again.
Of course, fans are always bitter after their team looses. However, it may have taken some of the edge off if the predictions were not so misleading. Statistics reported by Sportsbook, ODDS Shark, The Denver Post, Vegas Insider and FootballLocks all reported a Bronco-Cardinal face off.

Despite the fact that reports predicted a Bronco victory, a close game by the Patriots was not anticipated, straying fans toward false expectations. This being said, don't loose hope in the power of statistics! On February 7, the Carolina Panthers will face the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. In an interview with CNN, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said: "I keep saying it: We're not finished" while Peyton Manning, Broncos quarterback emphasis his gratitude, "It's a great honor to be going back to the Super Bowl." As both teams and fans are confident in a Super Bowl 50 victory, listed below are February 7th's predictions: 

According to ESPN's Football Power Index:
The Bleacher Report also predicts a Panther victory: 31 to 17.

Shifting gears to website mediated polls, fans we're asked "Who's going to win Super Bowl 50?"

Result gathered by officials predict: 


As the Panthers are favored to win, lets hope Carolina fans aren't disappointed! 

If these statistics don't cut it for you, lets take a look at some celebrity predictions.

1. Pierre McGuire - Panthers 
"I think the (Cam) Newton factor is going to be huge. I know Denver's defense is obviously All-World. But I think the combination of (Greg) Olson and Newton make a big different for Carolina, so I give them the edge" 

2. Luc Robitaille - Broncos
"You know, I really like New England, so once Denver won, and I'm a fan of John Elway and how he built that team, and Peyton Manning is such a great story. I'll just say I'm probably going to be rooting for the old guy."

3. Timothy Bradley - Panthers 
"It's very clear to me - Carolina Panthers 31-27" 

4. John Scott - Panthers 
"Geez, I don't know. I don't know. That's a good question. I kind of want the Broncos to win just so Manning can go out (with a win) but I think the Panthers are going to win. They have a good team." 

With this information in mind, it is clear that a team is favored to win. However, odds can always go askew, and until February 7th's Super Bowl, fans will be on their toes. So go ahead and have a Super Bowl party, put on your favorite team's jersey and impress your friends with Super Bowl math facts!

1) Why is the phrase Super Bowl accompanied by a Roman numeral?

For starters, the NFL season spans two calendar years. Purely for aesthetic reasons, marketers decided that it would look better for Super Bowl to be accompanied with roman numerals rather than the years. For example, "Super Bowl XLVIII" - aka, Super Bowl 48 looks far better than "Super Bowl 2013-2014." This year, however, roman numerals were discontinued leaving "Super Bowl L" as "Super Bowl 50." "Some would ask, 'The letter L, what does that associate with?' NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says; The answer, of course, is "Losing." Along with this, the creative team decided that L would not be aesthetically pleasing and the realm of creative design is much greater with the number "50." 

2) Does the coin toss that takes place before the Super Bowl actually matter?

In other words, if a team wins the coin toss does it increase the odds that they will win the game? In a few words, no, according to Jason Marshall, PhD, "the coin toss has no statically significant impact on the outcome of the game." No need to hold of bets till after the coin toss!

3) What scores are possible in football?

This is more of a puzzle than a fact, but we encourage you to try it out! In other words, are there any scores that are impossible?

You will need to know the difference number of points that can be awarded:
  • 2 points for the relatively rare safety 
  • 3 points for a field goal
  • 6 points for a touchdown
  • 7 points for a touchdown and a successful extra-point kick
  • 8 point for a touchdown and a successful two-point conversation 
Is it possible for a team to score 13 points? How about 37? Try your best to prove why some scores are possible.. or impossible! 

Comment on our social media links or send us a message with your answer! 

Good luck Panthers and Broncos, may the odds be in your favor! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Advanced Knowledge Problem of the Week

Try your hand at this analysis proof involving continuity and differentiability! It may help to draw a graph so you can visualize what is going on with the function near the origin.

See my solution below, and let us know how you did in the comments!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Problem of the Week

Check out this week's Problem of the Week, which involves a topic from differential equations, the Laplace transform. See if you can figure it out!

The solution can be found below the break.