Archive for September, 2009

msri_header_logoMSRI and the Akamai Foundation have built a web site to support all math circles.  The National Association of Math Circles provides links to programs across the country as well has suggestions for starting math circles where they do not yet exist.

The site continues to be updated and I recently noticed a page of videos that you may find interesting.


You may need to register in order to gain access to the videos.  In addition to videos hosted by NAMC they also pointed to this YouTube video featuring Paul Zeitz and Tatiana Shubin encouraging math teachers to develop circles of their own.


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discrete mathA good friend of the Metroplex Math Circle, Dr. Arthur Benjamin, has just released a new lecture course through the Teaching Company titled “Discrete Mathematics.” We have our pre-ordered copy and its seems to have the unique combination of humor and depth that we know from Dr. Benjamin’s excellent “mathemagic” presentations.

For any students just starting with Math Circles, they will benefit greatly from becoming familiar with the topics on these DVDs: number theory,  combinatorics and graph theory.

Here is the description of the course from the Teaching Company:

Welcome to Discrete Mathematics, a subject that is off the beaten track that most of us followed in school but that has vital applications in computer science, cryptography, engineering, and problem solving of all types.

Most of the mathematics taught after elementary school is aimed at preparing students for one subject—calculus, which is the mathematics of how things grow and change continuously, like waves in the water or clouds in the sky. Discrete mathematics, on the other hand, deals with quantities that can be broken into neat little pieces, like pixels on a computer screen, the letters or numbers in a password, or directions on how to drive from one place to another.

While continuous mathematics resembles an old-fashioned analog clock, whose second hand sweeps continuously across a dial, discrete mathematics is like a digital watch, whose numbers proceed one second at a time. As a result, discrete mathematics achieves fascinating mathematical results using relatively simple means, such as counting.

Explore this modern realm of digital math in Discrete Mathematics, 24 mind-expanding lectures by veteran Teaching Company Professor Arthur T. Benjamin, an award-winning educator and mathemagician who has designed a course that is mathematically rigorous and yet entertaining and accessible to anyone with a basic knowledge of high school algebra.

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Netflix just announced the winners of their $1 million prize to make at least a 10% improvement in the performance of their prediction engine.

NEW YORK, Sept. 21 /PRNewswire/ — After almost three years and submissions by more than 40,000 teams from 186 countries, Netflix, Inc., the world’s largest online movie rental service (NASDAQ: NFLX), today awarded the $1 million Netflix Prize to a team of engineers, statisticians and researchers who achieved the competition’s goal of a 10 percent improvement over the accuracy of the Netflix movie recommendation system when the competition was launched in Oct. 2006. Netflix members already are benefiting from improvements Netflix Prize contestants have contributed to the recommendations system.

Moments after bestowing the $1 million prize, Netflix announced a second $1 million challenge, asking the world’s computer science and machine learning communities to keep the improvements coming…

The winning team is comprised of software and electrical engineers, statisticians and machine learning researchers from Austria, Canada, Israel and the United States. All seven team members – Bob Bell, Martin Chabbert, Michael Jahrer, Yehuda Koren, Martin Piotte, Andreas Toscher and Chris Volinsky – attended the awards ceremony. It was the first time all seven had met one another in person. How the $1 million is split is to be determined by the team.

Its not surprising that the winners have careers that depend heavily on mastery of discrete math topics and have cultivated the same competitive spirit found in math circles.

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Next Saturday we are pleased to have Brian Basham join us to give a lecture that will touch on conditional probability and graph theory.  Brian is well known to many of the country’s top problem solvers as a teaching assistant at both AwesomeMath and IdeaMath.  Brian is currently a mathematics major at MIT and like many of our speakers may share his experiences of getting into and studying at a top tier university.  Brian’s other accomplishments include:

  • Two time USAMO qualifier
  • MOSP qualifier 2007
  • 1st Place HMMT Combinatorics Subject Test 2008
  • AMC 10 Perfect Score 2005

Brian describes the content of his lecture in this way:

A quest to defeat the cannibals that inhabit my favorite math problem. Our journey will start with conditional probability and what it has to with medical diagnoses. We will travel into graph theory and learn how turning people into points can make problems much easier to solve. Finally we discover a concept in computer science which will help us claim victory over the cannibals and keep us from becoming dinner.

Like many of our lectures, Brian’s talk should be accessible to novice problem solvers but challenging to even the most experienced.

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Metroplex Math Circle will begin its 2009-2010 season with a lecture by its director, Dr. Titu Andreescu.  For those who are new to MMC this is a good opportunity to recall the world class qualifications that Dr. Andreescu brings to our math circle community.

titu-andreescuTitu Andreescu received his Ph.D. from the West University of Timisoara, Romania. The topic of his dissertation was “Research on Diophantine Analysis and Applications.” Professor Andreescu currently teaches at The University of Texas at Dallas. He is past chairman of the USA Mathematical Olympiad, served as director of the MAA American Mathematics Competitions (1998–2003), coach of the USA International Mathematical Olympiad Team (IMO) for 10 years (1993–2002), director of the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program (1995–2002), and leader of the USA IMO Team (1995–2002). In 2002 Titu was elected member of the IMO Advisory Board, the governing body of the world’s most prestigious mathematics competition. Titu co-founded in 2006 and continues as director of the AwesomeMath Summer Program (AMSP). He received the Edyth May Sliffe Award for Distinguished High School Mathematics Teaching from the MAA in 1994 and a “Certificate of Appreciation” from the president of the MAA in 1995 for his outstanding service as coach of the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program in preparing the US team for its perfect performance in Hong Kong at the 1994 IMO. Titu’s contributions to numerous textbooks and problem books are recognized worldwide. Related articles on this site.

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starbirdMetroplex Math Circle will start again at UTD on September 19th, but our friends in Austin begin this week with a lecture by Dr. Starbird on Topology.  Some of you may be familiar with Dr. Starbird from his excellent lectures published by the Teaching Company.

Here is the information from the Saturday Morning Math Group:

Our first meeting of the semester will take place on September 12th.  Our speaker will be Dr. Mike Starbird, a professor of mathematics here at the University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Starbird has been the recipient of numerous teaching awards, both locally and nationally.  He will be talking about “Doughnuts, Dogbones, and Topology”.  Come join the fun!

This semester, our meetings will be in FAC 21. FAC is the Flawn Academic Center, which is where our undergraduate library is situated. This building is immediately to the east of the Texas Union, near 24th and Guadalupe.

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