M.A.T.H. Tips: Vol. 18

March MATH-ness is Here!

Everyone knows March is the month when Pi Day happens, but March 14th isn’t the only math-y thing that goes on in March. On your spring break enjoy some March related recreational mathematics.

THE OSCARS Here’s how the winners get selected, an interesting application of a hybrid version of plurality with elimination. Also, here’s how a particularly good prognosticator predicted over 20 categories correctly.

PI DAY (of course) We all have our favorite ways to celebrate Pi Day.

25 Best Ways to Celebrate

My favorite is the creation of Pi-ku poems.

Our comprehensive Pi Day Post for planning for next year!


Here is the actual letter Ben Franklin wrote explaining the “saving” part of daylight. It’s not what you think. He did not advocate changing clocks, simply not sleeping til noon!


A cool shirt with the equation to generate a graph of a four-leaf clover. (In case you don’t have enough math shirts).

In case you need a refresher on graphing using polar coordinates:


Ever wonder why the date of Easter floats around? It’s tied to the lunar cycle. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (unless that full moon occurs on a Sunday, then it’s pushed back a week). That means, it can fall any time between March 22 and April 25. Learn more here.


A little refresher on the women who made a mark in mathematics!


Does it drive you nuts that so many games come down to free throws and they just can’t make the shot? Well, a little math might help!



If you want to get your geek on getting ready for baseball season and love analytics, check out the site for SABR (Society for American Baseball Research).

Don’t forget, April is Math and Science Awareness Month!


Math Career Spotlight: Maria H. Andersen, CEO

  1. What is your current job/career?

I’m the cofounder of a software company (Coursetune) in the ed-tech sector. I am the CEO, but spend a lot of my time working on product development. On the side, I teach a math course for a local college and do some speaking at conferences and colleges.

  1. How do you use math or mathematical problem solving in your work? How does your math background help you in your job?

Developing software can seem deceptively easy. However, I’ve seen cases where something that sounds simple like “just adding a button” can take up to a year and hundreds of tickets of planning. Again, studying math has been a valuable precursor to developing software – learning how to find and deal with the “edge cases” in math (like division by zero) make it easy to keep an eye out for the edge cases and bugs in software as well.

  1. What motivated you to study math?

I always found math to be a nice complement to other things I was studying. Questions in math have definitive answers. Problems can be solved with mathematical models. Math was a good complement to the other majors I had in school – Biology and Chemistry. My skills in other subjects were strengthened by a strong math background.

  1. What would you say to a student who is thinking about studying math but doesn’t want a typical teaching career.

Studying math helped me to develop a very good sense of logic, which has helped tremendously in the software industry, whether it be writing specs for features, listening carefully to customers in focus groups, or doing QA for tickets. The logic skills you develop in learning mathematics can help in a variety of careers. The future that will be increasingly centered around the use of technology, and technology runs on logic. I can’t see how a study of math would do anything other than help your career.

  1. Other advice or comments?

Because job requirements are now changing so fast, education is going to be an ongoing endeavor. We can’t all go back to college for a couple years every time there is a shift in a job. Technology-enabled learning will provide flexible options for updating skills on an ongoing basis. It’s important to get a solid and well-rounded educational base – you need to learn how to learn, you need to get a good grounding in logic skills, communication, information literacy, collaboration, and creative thinking. After your base education, don’t stop learning. Use technological solutions to make sure you stay up-to-date in your field and continue to stretch to learn new things. This will be vital to staying relevant in an economy that is increasingly technology driven.



Rainbows Myths and Maths

Remember being amazed by rainbows?  Wondering how they formed? Wanting to find the end of the rainbow and the elusive pot of gold? From cereal boxes, to YouTube Viral videos, to bagels, rainbows continue to delight us.  But how are rainbows formed and how did it they become associated with Leprechauns?

The Answer to how lies in the physics of refraction and Snell’s Law.   Snell’s law relates the angles of incidence and refraction of a light ray to the density of two different materials.  As light passes from a medium of low density to a medium of higher density, or vice versa, the light ray bends. How far it bends depends on wavelength.  Different wavelengths bend at different angles, physicists call this dispersion.  Visual light consists of wavelengths from 400-700 nm, red to violet.   When the air is filled with water droplets light hits the drops and is refracted, bent, within the droplet.  The droplet separates the white light into a spectrum of colors.  Since water droplets are spherical the light emerges in a circle.  Rainbows can only be seen when the sun is to our backs and when we are at a viewing angle of 40-42 degrees.  When the conditions are right and we are lucky enough to be standing in the right position we see a rainbow.

How the rainbow became associated with leprechauns is not so simple.  Leprechauns as we know them today evolved from stories of trickster faeries in Ireland.  Well known in popular culture and mythology as small men the terms Leprechaun comes from the words “small body”.  According to mythology the connection between leprechauns and rainbows grew from Viking invaders wanting to find the burial gold of the local people, who they called the little people for their small stature. Unable to find the mounds with gold legend slowly grew up linking the elusive rainbow with the elusive gold treasure.  As time passed the small people became leprechauns and the burial mounds turned into the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


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Top Ten Teaching Tips

We appreciate the faculty who shared their favorite teaching tips with us at our booth at AMATYC November 2017.  Take a look at these classic tips.

  1. Strive for excellence but remember that you grow from failures. – Rockward
  2. Don’t just reach out to struggling students. Explicitly praise the hard work done by the successful students too. -Sara VanAsten
  3. Remember what it’s like to not know something. -Anne Vance
  4. Make your student aware that the language of mathematics is within them. – Gus A. Seminario
  5. Share how hard your path has been to get where you are today so students can relate to you better, and see a light at the end of their path. – Kim Martells
  6. Absolutely connect the math to their lives- stories, visualizations –something they can hang on to…. Especially for developmental math. -Anonymous
  7. Always prep before class even if you’ve taught that lesson one-hundred times. Find something new to do! – D. Vu
  8. Start the day with an application problem and a math joke. -Rose Shepard
  9. Give group-work a try! -Brian Mercel
  10. Have your students do the math, not you. – Rinav Mehta

We’d love to hear your tips and content ideas for future issues!  Submit yours online for a future issue!