Expanding mathematics beyond the classroom

Photo by Hafsa Farah

Hafsa Farah
Staff Writer

At 3 p.m. on Jan. 27 in Burch Hall, Dr. Dragan Jankovic continued the Math Seminar Lecture Series with a discussion about the Erdös-Mordell Theorem.

At the seminar, Jankovic said he hoped the topic of choice would make the talk more enjoyable for his audience.

“I chose the Erdös-Mordell Theorem because it is not a highly technical topic,” he said. “It is a beautiful piece of elementary geometry, which I think my audience will feel comfortable listening to without feeling they have to know upper level mathematics.”

The mathematics department has hosted the Math Seminar Lecture Series since Fall 2013, and Jankovic is a frequent contributor to the event, which takes places the last Tuesday of each month.

In 2013, Associate Mathematics Professor Jean-Jacques Kengwoung-Keumo, along with the math department faculty, founded and coordinated the math lecture series. Kengwoung-Keumo’s vision for the event is for faculty to use it as a platform to share their research and teaching endeavors.

“The goal of this math seminar series is for the faculty, as a group, to share with one another what each of us is doing in terms of teaching and research,” he said. “It is a great way for all of us to be aware of what research projects and teaching methods our colleagues are thinking about and implementing.”

Another of Kengwoung-Keumo’s major goals of the lecture series is to include students so that they have a place where they see the concepts they’re learning about in class actually applied to the real world.

Kengwoung-Keumo noted the seminar has recently gained popularity on among students.

“Today we had the highest turnout of students in attendance at the lecture,” he said. “I see this as progress that the word is getting spread across campus.”

One of the students in attendance was freshman biology major Josie Cebollaro. She attended the lecture to deepen her appreciation and knowledge for mathematics.

“I wanted to know more about geometry,” Cebollaro said, “so I can prepare myself for my future classes that I’m going to have to take, so now I have an idea of it, and I know what to expect.”

Math education major Michele Wornock attended the seminar for the first time. She felt the lecture complemented her coursework and enhanced her perspective of mathematics.

“This lecture fits in with what I’ve learned in classes, like Foundations of Math, and how you go through steps to prove theorems and how you build from one axiom or theorem to the next,” Wornock said. “Like Dr. Jankovic was saying, you have to have this person’s theorem to prove this person’s theorem – kind of like a step-by-step process.”

Wornock felt attending the lecture helped her to better understand how mathematics applies to the world beyond a school desk.

“I know more about what math is,” Wornock said, “about not just learning what math is in the classroom but being able to explain it outside the classroom and using it to do research.”

Math Instructor Irene Corriette said she really loved Dr. Jankovic’s attention to the historical background of his topic.

“I enjoyed the way he tied in the contributions from past mathematicians into the work he was currently doing,” Corriette said. “He has a real passion for the history of math. That was nice to hear because people talk about theorems and the way they’re used right now, but usually you don’t see the background and where it came from.”

Students who are interested in attending a math seminar can catch the next one on Tuesday, Feb. 24.

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