Off on a Tangent
A Fortnightly Electronic Newsletter from the Hope College Department of Mathematics
 September 25, 2015 Vol. 14, No. 2

Upcoming Colloquia

We don't have any colloquia scheduled during the next fortnight. Here are ones that are currently on the schedule for the rest of the semester:
  • Thursday, October 15, 4:00pm: Darin Stephenson, Hope College
  • Tuesday, October 20, 4:00pm: Brad Westgate, Alma College
  • Tuesday , November 3, 4:00pm: Kylie Young and Cheryl Gabriel, Watkins Ross in Grand Rapids  
  • Tuesday, November 10, 11:00am: Paul Pearson, Hope College     
  • Tuesday, November 17, 4:00pm: Anil Venkatesh, Ferris State    
  • Tuesday, December 1, 4:00pm, Hope students 
  • Thursday, December 10, 11:00am, Tim Pennings, Davenport University  

Math Club

Do you like apples?  Do you like buttered popcorn and salty language?  Then come join Math Club on Friday, September 25 at 9 pm in Winants Auditorium to eat buttered popcorn and watch the Academy Award Winning movie Good Will Hunting, which launched the careers of native Bostonians Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.  Please bring your own apples.

U of M Biostatistics Prospective Student Day


The Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan will hold a Prospective Student Information Day on Saturday, October 3, 2015. The purpose of this event is to provide information to students who may be interested in graduate study in biostatistics. They expect attendees to be undergraduate and masters students who have identified biostatistics as their interest area, as well as students who are completing an undergraduate degree in math, statistics, biology, or some related discipline, and have not yet decided on their future plans.
At the event, presentations by students and faculty will focus on what biostatistics is and what biostatisticians do, on the job opportunities in biostatistics, and on the admissions and financial support opportunities at the University.

For more information, please visit their website (where you can also register). 

Putnam and MATH Challenge


Two mathematics competitions that take place each fall are the MATH Challenge and the Putnam Exam.  Students can compete in either of these competitions without leaving Hope's campus.  Information about each of these follows.

The MATH Challenge

The 2015 Michigan Autumn Take Home Challenge (or MATH Challenge) will take place on the morning (9:30am - 12:30pm) of Saturday, November 7 this year. Teams of two or three students take a three-hour exam consisting of ten interesting problems dealing with topics and concepts found in the undergraduate mathematics curriculum.  Each team takes the exam at their home campus under the supervision of a faculty advisor. 

The department pays the registration fee for each team and will provide lunch to participants afterwards. The sign-up deadline is Friday, October 23 at 4:00 p.m.  Interested students can sign up by sending Prof. Cinzori an email at

A group of students may sign up as a team.  Individual students are also encourage to sign up; they will be assigned to a team on the day of the competition.  For more information, please talk with any member of the Mathematics Department or visit the MATH Challenge website
where you can also view old copies of the exam. 

The Putnam Exam

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, administered by the Mathematical Association of America, is the most prestigious mathematical competition for undergraduates in the nation.  If you are interested in taking the Putnam Exam, you must email Professor Cinzori at by Friday, October 2 (right before Fall Break).  The date of the exam is Saturday, December 5. There is both a morning (10am-1pm) and an afternoon (3-6pm) session of this exam.  Participants need to be there for both sessions.
 Lunch will be provided by the mathematics department during the break.  For more information about the Putnam Exam visit the website.

Math in the News: Hope Math Grad on Today Show

Julie Clark a 2007 Hope graduate and mathematics major was featured on the Today Show recently when they were highlighting cool teachers around the country. We know how cool our graduates are and now so does the rest of the country. You can see Julie and her student on the show here.

More "Math" in the News: Socks and Sandals

Guess what is showing up on the fashion runways this fall, socks with sandals. Apparently it is not just fashionable for athletes and mathematics department chairpersons to cover their feet with socks and sandals, but this trend is also showing up in the fashion industry. A Wall Street Journal article about this phenomenon was also reported in many other news outlets.

Apparently the high fashion industry started catching onto socks with sandals a couple of years ago. Last spring, the famous twin actors and designers, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, were photographed wearing their sandals with socks around the same time it started showing up on female models on the catwalk.

Take note fashion world, we are predicting that it will soon become fashionable to also carry a 20-sided die with you just in case you need some help making decisions!

John Conway

In the 1990s, John Conway visited Hope College to give a colloquium presentation. In the time that I have been here, he was probably the most interesting guest to come on campus. Not only was his mathematical presentation fascinating (I recall that it was on Penrose Tiles) he was also the life of the party when we went out to dinner. He wore sandals (without socks) in February and was like a magician with his mathematical tricks and games. As an example, he could quickly tell you what day of the week any date in history (or in the future) occurred.

To learn a little bit about Conway, take a look at a recent article in The Guardian titled, "John Horton Conway: the world's most charismatic mathematician." It is written by Siobhan Roberts who recently published a biography of Conway titled Genius At Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway.

John Venn's Pie

Like pie wasn't already the most perfect mathematical food, a friend of Prof. Edwards baked this delicious Apple, Apple/Blueberry, Blueberry pie! That's right, its a Venn  Diagram  Pie.

Visit Mental Floss for some other pictures of mathematics inspired foods.

Problem Solvers of the Fortnight

In our last problem of the fortnight we gave you the triangle shown on the left in which, BD/DA = 1/2, CE/EB = 1/4, and DG is parallel to BC.  You had to find CF/FD.

Congratulations to the following students that submitted correct answers: Colton Bates, Dalton Blood, Josiah Brouwer, Sarah Caballero, Brian Chau, Daniel Clark, Kimberly DeGlopper, Richard Edwards, Zach Geschwendt, Aaron Green, Caroline Gregerson, Russel H, Sherah Head, Cassidy Kessel, Alex Klunder, Adam Krahn, Eric Krzak, Paul Nelson, Anne O'Donnell, Tiffany Oken, Elizabeth Orians, Anna Snyder, Daria Solomon, Kathryn Trentadue, Jake Verschueren, Hoang Vu, Laura Walker, Cole Watson, Grace Wiesner, and Xiaodongh Wu.

Problem of the Fortnight

Three students, Ann, Bob, and Cal, compete in a series of tests.  For coming in first on any given test, one is awarded x points; for placing second, y points; and for third place, z points.  Here x, y, and z are natural numbers with x > y > z.  There were no ties on any of the tests.  Altogether, Ann accumulated 20 points; Bob scored 10 points, and Cal received 9 points.  Ann came in second on the Algebra test.  Who finished second on the Geometry test?

Drop your solution (not just the answer) in the Problem of the Fortnight slot outside Professor Mark Pearson's office (VWF 212) by 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 2.  As always, be sure to include your name and the name(s) of your math professor(s) -- e.g. Ben Wunderring, Professor Mi Thu -- on your solution. 

One person’s constant is another person’s variable. 

Susan Gerhart

Off on a Tangent