Off on a Tangent
A Fortnightly Electronic Newsletter from the Hope College Department of Mathematics
 October 23, 2015 Vol. 14, No. 4

Hope graduates returns to present at next colloquium 

Title: Actuarially Speaking: Life in a Top-Ranked, Little-Understood Math Profession
Speakers: Cheryl Gabriel and Kylie Young, Watkins Ross
Time:  Tuesday, November 3 at 4:00 pm
Place:  Vanderwerf 102

Two former Hope College math majors discuss life in the professional world after Hope and how their math background prepared them for actuarial careers. They will discuss topics such as:
Cheryl Gabriel has been a consultant at Watkins Ross since 1987 and provides analytical and consulting services for qualified defined benefit plans and non-qualified deferred compensation plans. Kylie Young joined Watkins Ross in 2015 and provides actuarial services to traditional pension plans, cash balance plans and other post-employment benefit plans.

Upcoming Colloquia

The following colloquia are currently on the schedule for the rest of the semester:
  • 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

The Math Club had a successful game night last Saturday and will be hosting another movie night soon. (Look for an announcement in the next edition of Off on a Tangent.)

For more info on the Hope Math Club's latest and greatest activities, visit their brand new FaceBook page (and request to join the group).

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. 

Math in the News: Alphabet authorizes stock buy back

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, authorized a stock buyback yesterday which will make its shareholders happy since they will be receiving some of the cash that the company has amassed in the past few years. So why is this a math-in-the-news article and not an economics-in-the-news article? This is because Alphabet, a name based on 26 letters, authorized a buyback of $5,099,019,513.59.

I'll leave it up to you to figure out the connection, or I suppose, you can Google it!

Problem Solvers of the Fortnight

Our last problem of the fortnight proved to be a little difficult. We told you about eleven Pullers (who refused to divulge whether they were Odd or Even Year) that were developing a secret sticky substance to put on their hands for next year's Pull that would both give them better grip on the rope and prevent rope burn.  To keep their invention secure, they put it in a safe with a number of different locks.  Each Puller is given the same number of keys, although not necessarily the same keys.  The eleven Pullers want to be able to open the safe if and only if a majority of them are present.  What is the minimum number of locks they need to put on the safe, and how many keys does each Puller have?

Congratulations to the following who were the only ones to submit a correct solution: Marti Pants, Jean Yus, and I.M. Smart.

Problem of the Fortnight

Let P(x) be a monic polynomial of degree 2015 (that is, a polynomial whose leading term is x^(2015)).  Suppose you know that P(n) = n for n = 1, 2, 3, 4, ..., 2015.  Is it possible to determine P(2016)?  If so, what is it?  If not, why not?

Write your solution on the back of a Halloween candy wrapper, and drop it in the Problem of the Fortnight slot outside Professor Mark Pearson's office (VWF 212) by 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4.  As always, be sure to include your name, as well as the name(s) of your math professor(s), on your solution.

I feel there's an existential angst among young people. I didn't have that. They see enormous mountains, where I only saw one little hill to climb.

Sergey Brin

Off on a Tangent