CultureLearn

Today is National Pi Day, and we want to celebrate by highlighting some of history’s most amazing mathematicians (in addition to eating a big slice of pie!).

Some cool facts about Pi:

  • It has been represented using the Greek letter “π” for the past 250 years.
  • It is a mathematical constant that’s special, unique, and significant in its own way.
  • It is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.
  • It never ends or settles into a repeating pattern.
  • It is the most recognized mathematical constant.
  • Computing the value of Pi is a stress test for computers.

Five of history’s most interesting mathematicians:

DN-SC-84-05971Grace Hopper (aka “Amazing Grace”) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. As a child Hopper would dismantle household gadgets, specifically alarm clocks, to figure out how they worked. During WWII Hopper decided to take a leave of absence from Vassar where she was working as an associate professor of math and was sown into the U.S. Navy Reserve as a volunteer. A pioneer in her field, she worked at Harvard University for the navy and was one of the first programmers to work on a computer called Harvard Mark I that was used in the war effort. On top of it all, she invented the first compiler for a computer programming language.

 

williamplayfairWilliam Playfair was the founder of graphical methods of statistics, in other words charts and diagrams. He was a Sottish engineer and political economist who invented four types of diagrams: the line graph, the car chart, the pie chart, and the circle graph. Born during the Enlightenment – a Golden Age when the arts, sciences, industry, and commerce were all thriving – Playfair was involved in many different careers. He was an engineer, accountant, inventor, silversmith, merchant, investment broker, economist, publicist, land speculator, editor, journalist, the list goes on.

adalovelace

Ada Lovelace is considered to be the world’s first computer programmer. She earned this title after working on one of the earliest mechanical general-purpose computers called the Analytical Engine. The notes she took on this project are recognized as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. This has earned her the title of “first computer programmer.” As a young child Lovelace showed signs of being highly influence by math and science, and her parents pushed her to pursue this talent.

 

 

 

isaacnewton

Isaac Newton is best known for having developed the theory of gravity and physics, but he also invented calculus (as did Gottfried Leibniz, who he had many disputes with over this topic during his life). This Englishman formulated laws of motion and universal gravitation using mathematical processes. Born on Christmas Day, Newton was known to be an independent person who never married. His work in science and math are some of the core foundations on which many other developments were made.

 

 

 

sofiamath

Sofia Kovalevskaya was the first major Russian female mathematician. She contributed major original advances to analysis, differential equations, and mechanics. She was the first woman to ever be appointed to full professorship in Northern Europe and was one of the first women to work for a scientific journal as an editor. Born in Moscow, Kovalevskaya studied in Germany by auditing courses at a German university. For a long time she tried to build up her career but because she was a woman she was unable to. Finally she was accepted as a professor in Stockholm, Sweden.

 

 

Which leaders in math and science inspire you?

Image: Flickr, Grace Hopper, William Playfair, Ada LovelaceIsaac Newton, Sofia Kovalevskaya

EducationLearnSkills

If there was one subject I struggled with, it was math. Just remembering the numbers, the graphs, the…well, numbers. It gives me shivers. Everyone has a topic that they aren’t good at. Some people aren’t very fond of writing papers. Other people would like to do nothing but write papers for classes. Every once and a while, we run into those subjects and we get discouraged.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

It happens to everyone.

Yes. Everyone. Try and think of one person who is great in calculus, history, biology, chemistry, soccer, art, psychology, philosophy, language, and Shakespearean literature. You couldn’t think of anyone, could you? That’s because nobody’s perfect! Everybody has something they’re not good at, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. School and life is all about the learning process, and everyone is going through it just like you.

It takes practice. You’ll get better at it.

Imagine jogging at the local park. The first time is really hard and you’re all sore the day after. But after a month, jogging around doesn’t seem all that hard. Now, think of the subject that you’re bad at as that first time jog. It’s a hard topic, and you’re trying your best. You feel frustrated and you want to give up. You feel sore about not getting a good grade on your midterm. That’s okay. Just keep going at it. You might not be able to run across the country, but getting a mile or two down feels pretty good. Getting a few more points on the next exam is going to feel good too!

“You have to find a lot of things you don’t like before you find the things you love.”

This is advice a professor told me once. Sometimes the future may feel overwhelming or scary. By accepting that you may not be good at something, you know where to focus your energy and attention. For example, my math grades were bad but my art grades were pretty good. I knew I should apply for a liberal arts or arts school. Now I know I’m in love with classical literature and conceptual photography (completely different!). Sometimes you have to love yourself and make choices that are mentally healthy for you. That doesn’t mean give up (you can’t just fail your class), but you know to steer away from it when you’re picking your college electives. And maybe you’ll find something better along the way!

For those of you who are suffering from “I don’t understand anything in this class” syndrome, don’t worry. It happens to everyone. Think of it as a way to get to know yourself better. Do your best and don’t give up!

Image: Iryna Yeroshko

CultureEducation

Happy summer! Now that the school year is over for several months, it’s time to kick back and read the books you’ve had to put off for essays and exams. Whether you’re on an airplane, on the beach, or in a cozy chair next to the window, pick up one of these summer reads and enjoy! P.S. Did you have a chance to read any books off of the spring reading list?

1. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

We can’t get enough of memoirs, and this one looks juicy and captivating. Rakoff recalls her experiences in New York City working for J.D. Salinger. We bet this story will be captivating from the first page to the last.

2. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

We’ve seen this book around for a while but have yet to read it. This story about six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts and how they grow into middle age looks like a great slice-of-life novel. We’re excited to see how these six friendships change as life progresses, especially through the complexities of each character.

3. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Talk about an inspiring read. The Boys in the Boat tells the story of nine Americans and their quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. We love stories about beating the odds, hard work, perseverance, and true grit.

4. How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

It doesn’t matter if you love math or hate math. How Not to Be Wrong shows us how math is intertwined with everything we do with a fascinating perspective. With chapters like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Win the Lottery” and “Dead Fish Don’t Read Minds,” color us intrigued. Math may not have been our strongest subject in high school, but we have a feeling we might start to like it now.

5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars is the story about a wealthy family who meets on their private island every summer. A book appropriate for summer, this book has suspense, true love, and a gripping plot. Sounds good to us!

We’d love to know, what are you reading this summer?