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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Problem of the Week: 2-28-17

Check out this week's PotW, and let us know how you did in the comments or on social media!

Solution below the break.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Advanced Knowledge Problem of the Week: 2-24-17

Check out this week's AKPotW, and try to prove if a sequence converges! Let us know how you did in the comments!

Solution below the break.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

African American Mathematicians: Katherine Johnson

            With the 2017 Oscars just around the corner, it seems fitting to dedicate this week’s African American History Month post to Katherine Johnson, one of the central characters in Hidden Figures. The Hollywood hit focuses on Katherine’s career at NASA, and her struggle to be recognized for her brilliant work in the field and not for her race, but as a child and thorough her life she always had the problem of racism over her head.
The 2017 story of Katherine's work on the Apollo Missions

Growing up in White Sulfur Springs, WV, Katherine was influenced by her mother, who was a teacher, and took to mathematics at a young age. She breezed through elementary and middle school, but didn’t have a local high school option in her county due to her race. Understanding her gift, Katherine’s parents enrolled her in a high school across the state and split time between Institute and White Sulfur Springs. Katherine would end up graduating high school at the age of fourteen, and would go on to West Virginia State College to continue her study of math.
            While in college, Katherine took every single math class that was offered, and grew close to several faculty members, who pushed to add more classes in order to fulfill Katherine’s desire to learn. At the age of eighteen, Katherine graduated at the top of her class and was accepted as one of the first African American students at West Virginia Universities’ graduate program.
Katherine Johnson when she was at NASA

At this point it seems fitting to talk about Katherine’s fantastic career at NASA and the NACA, but I will leave that story to be told by the movie Hidden Figures. Regardless, Katherine’s achievements are inspiring to many people across the world, and she continues to inspire aspiring mathematicians to this day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

African American Mathematicians: Elbert Frank Cox

Elbert Frank Cox, born in 1895, Broke down one of the most important barriers for African Americans living in America before the Civil Rights Movement when he became the first African American person to earn a PhD. Elbert overcame great challenges due to racism, and strived to reduce the education gap between minorities and white men that was curated by a brutal system of inequality. Second to his passion for mathematics was his desire to learn about the world around him, and to teach others about that beautiful world. 
Elbert Cox in his graduation gown.
As a young boy, Elbert was no stranger to segregation. He grew up going to an all black school that was located in a racially mixed neighborhood, a combination that bread more turmoil than peace, but his father, a principal at a local school, was keen on teaching the growing kid the importance of education. In high school, Elbert showed a keen understanding of math and physics, and was directed to further his math career at the University of Indiana.
While in college, Elbert was a great student, and showed interest in physics, chemistry, biology, Philosophy, Latin, German, and English. With this intense course load, he kept himself bust until he graduated with a degree in mathematics along with three other African American students.  In 1917, Elbert put his career on hold when he was shipped to France to fight in World War 1.  When he returned, Elbert taught math at a high school in Kentucky until 1921, when he decided to apply for the graduate program at Cornell.
While studying difference equations for his thesis, Elbert met William Lloyd Garrison, who would become his thesis advisor.  As a graduate student, Elbert began teaching classes at Shaw University, and showed an immense capacity to teach well. Elbert grew closer to William, who also was a journalist with a drive to bring equality to the United States. As Elbert was finishing up his dissertation, William urged him to publish his PhD thesis in another country so that his claim as the first black person in the world to gain a PhD would be recognized. 
Elbert then went on to continue teaching, and served as a professor at West Virginia State University for four years, then moved to Howard University where his legacy began to take shape. At Howard, Elbert was the head chairman of the board of mathematics, and did what he could to put a PhD program into place.

Elbert Frank Cox died in 1969, and was unable to see the inauguration of Howard University’s PhD program, but was honored with the beginning of the Elbert F Cox Scholarship Fund that would help many under-privileged people get a college education.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Problem of the Week: 2-14-17

Check out this week's problem, and of course, let us know how you did in the comments below or on social media!

Solution below the break.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Career Mathematician, Vol. 1 — Dr. Walter Sun

So you love mathematics. What next? The Career Mathematician highlights interesting and relevant work and insights offered by professional mathematicians, statisticians, logicians and more.

The Career Mathematician, Vol. 1 -- Dr. Walter Sun

Ever wonder how predictive technology works? Click here to learn how the Principal Applied Science Manager and Bing Predicts Team Lead, Dr. Walter Sun, leverages technology and some careful calculations to improve Microsoft's "Bing Predicts" feature.

Not sure this is the career for you? Click the image below for some inspiration.

African American in Mathematics: Gloria Ford Gilmer

               Last week’s article covered Benjamin Banneker, an African American mathematician who lived in the 18th century and worked with Thomas Jefferson on scientific and social issues. Much has happened in America since then, but African Americans are still greatly under represented in the field of mathematics. Gloria Ford Gilmer’s passion for math surpasses the disadvantages of being a woman of color in the field, and has contributed a whole lot to mathematics as a student and as a teacher.
Gloria Ford Gilmer in 1999.
           Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Gloria attended Morgan State University in the 1950’s, where she studied under Clarence Stephens, a prolific African American Mathematician. Her love for math was deeper than simply attaining a PhD, and she published two papers alongside Clarence as an undergraduate on the subject of Eigen function series. Her achievement drove her to become the first African American woman without a PhD to publish a math paper. Gloria went on to earn a BS from Morgan University and an MA from the University of Pennsylvania; she would go on to earn a PhD in curriculum and instruction, but first took a break from her studies to teach and care for her family.
            Before she gained a PhD, Gloria taught at six different historically black universities and became an inspiration to many minorities and women through teaching, all while her personal life bloomed with a marriage and children.  For two years in the beginning of the 1980’s Gloria represented African American Women on the board of the Mathematical Association of America, and was the first woman of color to do so.
            In 1985, Gloria co-founded and became the president of the International Study Group of Ethnomathematics, and was leading the field of ethno mathematics, the study of mathematical structures in certain cultures. Gloria has worked in the field to bring the rich complexity of mathematics and African American culture together, and provided a platform that reaches a wide variety of people due to its interesting mathematical nature.

Photo from Gilmer's 1998 paper, Mathematical Patterns in African American Hairstyles.
            Gloria died in 1999,  but continues to be an inspiration to many people thanks to her drive and love for mathematics, not to mention her great accomplishments in and for the world of under represented groups in mathematics.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Problem of the Week 2-14-17

Here is this week's Problem of the Week! Let us know how you did in the comments below or on social media!

Solution below the break.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Advanced Knowledge Problem of the Week

Check out this week's Advanced Knowledge Problem of the Week! Let us know how you did in the comments!

Solution below the break.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

African Americans In Mathematics: Benjamin Banneker

                 Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) of Baltimore County, Maryland was born a free man, but with plenty of familiarity to the brutality of slavery that was present at the time. Benjamin’s father, Robert, was a freed slave, and his mother, Mary, had parents who were both freed slaves. Mary’s mother, Benjamin’s grandmother, taught Benjamin to read at a young age and even pushed for Benjamin to be enrolled in a Quaker school. Benjamin’s school career did not last long, but his curiosity about mathematics was carried with him his whole life, a curiosity that would cause a great flow of scientific accomplishments.
Benjamin Banneker
          When Benjamin entered his twenties his passion for the sciences (ranging from mechanical engineering to astronomy) was bubbling. At this time, he had built a full sized grandfather clock modeled after a pocket watch, and was studying the cycles of eclipses. Benjamin continued to use his mathematical mind to create great things until his 40’s; by then, he built irrigation systems for his family farm, grain mills, and began to research bees and locusts. In 1772, the Ellicotts moved to a farm very close to the Banneker’s. The Ellicotts were Quakers; a faith that held that all races were equal and should be treated as such, and quickly noticed the brilliance of Benjamin Banneker.
            The Banneker family loaned many books to Benjamin, and encouraged him to begin calculating the exact times of eclipses to take place in the future. They also exchanged scientific research on surveying and much more. In 1791, Major Andrew Ellicott was asked to survey the land of Western New York by then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Andrew suggested Benjamin as a more capable candidate for the position, and so began Benjamin’s rich correspondence with Thomas Jefferson.
            Benjamin became fairly close to Thomas, and wrote frequently about national issues and personal happenings. Benjamin quietly suggested that Thomas should do what he could to promote racial equality from his position in government. Some of these letters, along with scientific research, plans for cities, and personal commentaries were published in Benjamin’s Almanacs. The series of six annual almanacs were printed in the consecutive years leading up to the end of his life, and was the pinnacle of his scientific career.
The cover of Benjamin's 1795 Almanac