Inspired by Math!

Sol Lederman

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In this podcast series I find people who are inspired by math and are inspiring others. I interview these folks with the goal of sharing their enthusiasm with you!

Inspired by Math!

Available episodes

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Oldest first

Jul 3, 2014

Richard Rusczyk - Inspired by Math #39

Richard Rusczyk is the founder of the Art of Problem Solving, the premier community for high-performing middle and high school math students in the English-speaking world. I've always been intrigued with the world of math competitions and with what it takes to excel in them. I picked Richard's brain for an hour about competitions and about his company.

Jun 23, 2014

Sue VanHattum - Inspired by Math #38

Sue VanHattum is very excited about creative ways to look at math. She has compiled and written a number of the chapters in a new book, Playing With Math, which is being produced in a community supported publishing (i.e. crowd funding) model. Listen to Sue's enthusiasm, learn about the book, then reserve your copy at https://www.incited.org/en/projects/4992-Playing-With-Math---the-Book

Jun 20, 2014

Lou DiGioia - Inspired by Math #37

Lou DiGioia is the executive director of MATHCOUNTS, the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to extracurricular middle school mathematics. Lou and I discuss a number of MATHCOUNTS programs, including the recent National Competition, the National Math Club, and the Math Video Challenge. We discuss who the programs serve, and so much more. And, we do this all with a ton of infectious enthusiasm.

Jun 14, 2014

Al Cuoco - Inspired by Math #36

Al Cuoco has taught high school students, trained teachers, and developed curriculum that is really making a difference in math education. He and Joseph Rotman have published a book with the MAA, "Learning Modern Algebra From Early Attempts to Prove Fermat's Last Theorem." Al and I discuss a number of the principles and habits of mathematical thinking that are developed in the book.

Jun 7, 2014

David Reimer - Inspired by Math #35

David Reimer, author of "Count Like an Egyptian" and I discuss Egyptian computation methods, how kids can learn to do multiplication and division without shedding a tear or memorizing tables, how computers and Egyptians both use the same approach to multiplication, why brilliant mathematicians make better teachers and professors, and much more.

Apr 6, 2014

Tim Chartier - Inspired by Math #34

Tim Chartier is a math professor, a mime, and the author of the Princeton University Press book "Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing." Tim and I talk about his performing career, how he became a mathematician, why the book, his role as Math Ambassador for the MAA, his involvement with the Museum of Mathematics, his next book project, and more.

Feb 12, 2014

Chuck Adler - Inspired by Math #33

Chuck Adler is a physics professor and the author of "Wizards, Aliens and Starships," published by Princeton University Press. Chuck and I have a great time talking about lots of implausible science, some plausible science, physics education, Star Trek, my squeamishness with physics, and more.

Sep 21, 2013

Colm Mulcahy - Inspired by Math #32

Colm Mulcahy is a mathematician and mathemagician. He recently published a book: Mathematical Card Magic: Fifty-Two New Effects. Colm was, like many of us, greatly inspired by Martin Gardner and he knew Martin for the last decade of his life and visited with him several times.

Jul 13, 2013

Kiki Prottsman - Inspired by Math #31

Kiki Prottsman is on a mission to get girls (and everyone) interested in computer science. Kiki and I talk about responsible computing, her non-profit Thinkersmith, her background in studying and teaching computer science, various of her other initiatives, and more.

Apr 24, 2013

Michelle Montgomery & Katie Fowler - Inspired by Math #30

Michelle and Katie are both intimately involved in creating the yearly Moody's Mega Math Challenge together with SIAM, the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics. The three of us chat about the contest, the inspiration behind it, what's involved in its production, what the students go through, and more.

Apr 22, 2013

Ken Fan - Inspired by Math #29

Ken Fan is a PhD mathematician who became very interested in improving math education. He founded an organization, Girls' Angle, to improve the relationship of girls to mathematics. Ken and I discuss a number of topics of interest to both of us in a bit of a looser format than usual for these podcasts. But, ultimately, we both share our love of mathematics and our deep desire to make a difference in the lives of young people.

Apr 12, 2013

Lance Fortnow - Inspired by Math #28

Lance Fortnow wrote a great book about the P/NP problem for a general audience. We discuss the problem, its importance, its interest to Lance, how difficult it is to solve, what some of the difficult problems are, and a bunch more.

Mar 29, 2013

Gili Rusak & Mary O'Keeffe - Inspired by Math #27

Gili is a 10th grader who is an inspired math community-builder in the Albany Area Math Circle together with Mary, who founded the circle in 2001. The two of them are making a big difference in how kids learn, love, and share math. We talk about math circles, about the importance of community and collaboration, and more.

Mar 24, 2013

Leila Schneps & Coralie Colmez - Inspired by Math #26

I interview the mother-daughter team who authored "Math on Trial: How Numbers Get Used and Abused in the Courtroom." We talk about inspiration for writing the book, flaws in mathematical thinking, how justice is derailed by bad math in the courtroom, a number of examples of cases from the book, and more.

Mar 10, 2013

Matthew Watkins - Inspired by Math #25

Matthew Watkins authored the "Secrets of Creation" trilogy, with illustrator Matt Tweed. The trilogy is amazing. It goes very deep into some very fundamental areas of mathematics. Matthew and I talk about his background, about the trilogy, about his inspiration for creating it, about his concerns of how much of the world relates to math, and much more. A big interest for both of us is the wonder and awe that is math, not the "quantified" experience that most think is all there is to the subject.

Mar 1, 2013

Maria Droujkova - Inspired by Math #24

Through the math education world Maria has become a wonderful friend. Maria is working tirelessly to start a mass math movement. We discuss her kickstarter project that has authored a book, Moebius Noodles, of advanced math ideas for toddlers and their parents, what math is, what math literacy is, the connection between math and computer programming, her Math Future project, and more.

Feb 23, 2013

Jason Ermer - Inspired by Math #23

Jason Ermer has spearheaded the Collaborative Mathematics project at collaborativemathematics.org. I interview Jason about what the project is, what inspired him, what the response so far has been and what he is hoping to accomplish.

Feb 22, 2013

Erica Klarreich - Inspired by Math #22

Erica Klarreich has been writing about mathematics and science for a popular audience for more than ten years. We talk about her relationship with math, how she defines the subject, her relationship to it, problems with how math is taught in school, one of her favorite articles, her perception of the outlook for math writers, and more.

Feb 16, 2013

Julie Rehmeyer - Inspired by Math #21

Julie Rehmeyer writes about mathematics and science for Science News, Wired, Discover and other magazines. Julie and I discuss a bunch of things. Do you have a story of when you first realized that you really liked math? How did you get into writing about math and science? Have you always been a writer? Tell us about your math education and how that's served your writing career. You've written quite a number of articles for Science News and for Wired Magazine. Where do your ideas for articles come from? And, what's your secret for weaving mathematical ideas into interesting stories? Would you share your process of going from an idea to a completed article? What's the interaction like with the publisher? How long does it take to write an article? What's your writing process like? What's a typical day like? Is there a favorite article or two among the many you've written? I notice that there are very few women math communicators. Why is that? And, which other women should I try to interâ€¦

Feb 8, 2013

Dave Richeson - Inspired by Math #20

Dave Richeson is a mathematician, math professor, and math blogger. He loves topology and geometry among other things. He's taught inquiry-based math which engages students to the n-th degree, he wrote a book for Princeton University Press "Euler's Gem," about Euler's polyhedron formula, he's working on a new book about four classic construction problems, and he's finishing up an article "Who first proved that C/d is a constant?" We discuss all these things on this podcast.

Feb 3, 2013

Shecky Riemann - Inspired by Math #19

Shecky Riemann is the blogger at Math-Frolic and now also at MathTango! He and I frolic through a number of subjects, getting to know who Shecky is, about his love of math, where he gets so many ideas for articles, how he and I are alike and different, what books and authors he likes the most, and more ...

Jan 27, 2013

Glen Van Brummelen - Inspired by Math #18

Why is spherical trigonometry a lost art? What is "Heavenly Mathematics" about and what background is needed to learn the material? To you spherical trigonometry is an exquisite branch of mathematics. How so? What calculations could be performed accurately a few hundred years ago, or earlier? What techniques are used to determine the size of the earth, or the distance to the moon? What is the most elegant theorem of spherical trigonometry? How is spherical trigonometry important today in the context of modern technology? Is there a next book? What advice would you give to a parent whose child was struggling with math?

Jan 22, 2013

Keith Devlin (Part I) - Inspired by Math #17

Dr. Devlin and I discuss his "Introduction to Mathematical Thinking" MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in great detail. 64,000 students registered for the very challenging course, although most didn't finish. What made the course challenging? How did grading work? How was support provided? What role did community play in the course? Why was this MOOC more like Facebook than Youtube? How might universities use MOOCs in the future to find the brightest students they might not find otherwise? How can MOOCs level the playing field in education? What's the next big thing for Dr. Devlin?

Jan 22, 2013

Keith Devlin (Part II) - Inspired by Math #17

Jan 14, 2013

Steven Strogatz (Part I) - Inspired by Math #16

How did you become a NYT columnist? How did "The Joy of x" get such a clever title? How did you get inspired by math? What makes you such a great math communicator? Who has influenced you? Tell us about one of your other books, "The Calculus of Friendship." Is there a next project? What advice would you give to a parent whose child was struggling with math?

Jan 14, 2013

Steven Strogatz (Part II) - Inspired by Math #16

Jan 13, 2013

Mircea Pitici - Inspired by Math #15

[ Note: Audio quality choppy in places. We did the best we could. ] What motivated you to edit "Best Writing on Mathematics?" How did you pick 24 articles to include from thousands? Who is your audience? What makes a piece of writing beautiful the way a painting or a proof is beautiful? Tell us a bit about your life and how you first became interested in math. What advice would you give to a parent whose child struggled with math?

Jan 11, 2013

Ian Stewart - Inspired by Math #14

I ask Dr. Stewart to share his inspiration and enthusiasm about mathematics. Where do the ideas and the inspiration for writing your books come from? Where does your love of math and passion for sharing it come from? Is there an early childhood experience that served as a catalyst? What is mathematics to you? What is your favorite branch of mathematics and why? Can you share a story or two about someone who read one of your books and had their attitude towards math change? What do you think it is that readers are hungry for that you're feeding? What is your next book? What advice would you give to a parent whose child was struggling with math?

Dec 13, 2012

Alfred Posamentier - Inspired by Math #13

Dr. Posamentier and I explore triangles: what is so special about them? Why a book about them? We discuss secondary school geometry education. Why didn't I and many others get a good geometry education? How is geometry a different beast from other branches of math? What advice would Dr. Posamentier give to parents whose kids are struggling with math? And more!

Nov 30, 2012

Ed Burger - Inspired by Math #12

Ed Burger is co-author, with Michael Starbird, of a delightfully thoughtful Princeton University Press book about thinking, The Five Elements of Effective Thinking. While the book is not specific to Math, there's plenty of thinking in all things mathematical plus my interviewee is a Math professor and a remarkably engaging one at that!I had a list of questions to ask Dr. Burger but I found myself straying from my plan because Ed's answers inspired other lines of inquiry. I experienced a number of aha's during our chat. If you're a parent or student you might gain some valuable insights about how you can improve your relationship with Math, and ultimately your grades.As a voracious thinker I thought I knew a lot about the subject of this book. I'm humbled and grateful to have much to think about after this interview. Enjoy!

Sep 21, 2012

James Tanton - Inspired by Math #11

James Tanton is one of my personal heroes. James has a PhD in math from Princeton and he worked as a high school math teacher for a bunch of years. He's authored a number of textbooks, puzzle books, and videos. James' love of math is quite infectious. He lives for inspiring teachers and students with the love of math.James and I talked for 46 minutes about his story of becoming a mathematician, his love of abstract algebra, his mission, his role as visiting scholar with the MAA, how he comes up with the most clever and original puzzles, and more.

Aug 17, 2012

Dora Musielak - Inspired by Math #10

Dora Musielak is literally a rocket scientist who wrote a historical novel, Sophie's Diary, with a good dose of mathematics in it. Sophie's Diary is the story of the coming of age of a teenager during the French Revolution. Dora and I discuss why she wrote the novel, about her earliest memories of loving math, how parents can inspire their kids to love math, and more.

Aug 3, 2012

Seth Caplan and Dano Johnson - Inspired by Math #9

Seth Caplan is the producer of the Flatland movies. Dano Johnson is writer/director. They've just made their second movie, Flatland 2: Sphereland. I interview the two of them about the movies, the book they're based on, the making of Flatland, and more.

Jun 1, 2012

Vickie Kearn - Inspired by Math #8

Vickie Kearn is the executive editor at Princeton University Press (PUP). She is also responsible for the math books PUP publishes. More than that, Vickie is an enthusiastic voice for the popularization of math, and she has a special place in her heart for young women in mathematics. Vickie and I had a delightful conversation about how she finds interesting topics and writers, who the audience for PUP books is, PUP's greatest successes, the changing attitude of the public to popular math, Vickie's personal mission, and suggestions for summer reading.

Apr 22, 2012

Scott Laidlaw and Jen Harris - Inspired by Math #7 (Part 2 of 2)

Scott and Jen co-founded Imagine Education, a company that is changing the paradigm for how computers can be used to give students a meaningful experience of math. Scott and Jen created Ko's Journey, an online experience in how math can be fun and relevant. Join me in this interview where we dive into what makes math meaningful, the magic of storytelling, how Scott motivates students in the classroom, and more.

Apr 8, 2012

Scott Laidlaw and Jen Harris - Inspired by Math #7 (Part 1 of 2)

Scott and Jen co-founded Imagine Education, a company that is changing the paradigm for how computers can be used to give students a meaningful experience of math. Scott and Jen created Ko's Journey, an online experience in how math can be fun and relevant. Join me in this interview where we dive into what makes math meaningful, the magic of storytelling, how Scott motivates students in the classroom, and more.

Mar 29, 2012

Michael Schrenk - Webbots, Spiders, and Screen Scrapers

In this podcast, Michael Schrenk and I discuss webbots, spiders, and screen scrapers. These are the tools that allow developers to crawl the web, to mash up contents from multiple web-sites, to monitor sites for activity and to create intelligent agents to make purchases on their behalf. Of particular interest are the stories Mr. Schrenk shares of the intelligent webbots he has built.

Mar 16, 2012

Steven Krantz - Inspired by Math #6

Dr. Krantz is a mathematician at Washington University in St. Louis. He has published more than 65 books. His latest book, "A mathematician comes of age," explores the process of become mathematically mature. Dr. Krantz and I explore various aspects of that process, including why mathematics is one of the only intellectual disciplines in which one talks about maturing. We also explore mathematical beauty and maturity and how teachers and parents can create an environment that supports maturation.

Mar 9, 2012

John MacCormick - Inspired by Math #5

I interview John MacCormick about his popular new book, "9 Algorithms that changed the future." Have you ever wondered how computers can detect and correct errors in noisy transmission lines? How computers mine data for patterns? Read the book but first listen to this interview and get inspired about how computer algorithms, driven by deep and frequently subtle mathematics, permeate the world.

Mar 2, 2012

Tony Gonzalez - Inspired by Math #4

Tony Gonzales translated Hiroshi Yuki's Japanese math novel "Math Girl" into English. Tony and I discuss the elements of Math Girl as a story that make the book magic and other subjects related to the book and to Japanese attitudes about math vs. American attitudes. I believe that storytelling is a very powerful way of connecting with people and I see a huge potential in math novels so I was particularly delighted for this interview.

Feb 24, 2012

Jason Rosenhouse and Laura Taalman - Inspired by Math #3

Jason Rosenhouse and Laura Taalman have written a fun book: Taking Sudoku Seriously. I interview the authors about how Sudoku is a great springboard for mathematical exploration, what Sudoku has to do with mathematical thinking, a practical application of Sudoku, ties to various branches of math, and more.

Feb 17, 2012

William Cook - Inspired by Math #2

I interview William Cook, math professor and author of "In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman Problem: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation" about his new book, and about how he got sucked into tackling a famous unsolved problem. We discuss why the problem is so intriguing, how young people can explore it, interesting applications, connections to other famous problems, the iPhone app that solves large instances, why the military cares about the problem, and more.

Feb 14, 2012

Keith Devlin - Inspired by Math #1

I interview Keith Devlin on a number of subjects: mathematics as a way of thinking, the role of video games, the importance of learning math in a historical context, the value of story-telling in teaching math, and more .... Plus, the most important thing that parents can do to help their kids who are struggling with math.

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