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Jim Stein is an emeritus professor of mathematics at California State University, Long Beach. As has been noted, the word ’emeritus’ comes from the Latin ‘ex’ — meaning ‘out’ — and ‘meritus’ — meaning ‘ought to be’. Despite that, Jim still teaches a course a semester, either at CSULB or El Camino Community College. He is the author of L.A. Math: Romance, Crime and Mathematics in the City of Angels, Cosmic Numbers: The Numbers That Define the Universe, The Paranormal Equation, How Math Can Save Your Life, The Right Decision, and How Math Can Save the World. He responds to any and all emails addressed to jim.stein@csulb.edu

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[Re-published with permission from Inspired by Math] Sue VanHattum is a math professor, blogger, mother, author/editor, and fundraiser. She’s a real powerhouse of motivation for making math fun and accessible to more of our young folks. Sue has teamed up with a number of writers to compile a book, Playing With Math, which she is producing in partnership withMaria Droujkova in a community sponsored publication model.

Sue and I shared a delightful chat about what math is, what the book is about, and how we can all get more inspired to engage in math with our kids. And, Sue sprinkles the conversation with some interesting open-ended math problems. Think part coffee table conversation part math circle.

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1. What is your background and your experience teaching high school math to students and to teachers?

2. I attended the Ross program and you have a key role in a program that has its roots in the Ross program. Tell me about this program and your involvement with it.

3. There’s something special about number theory and algebra that makes it accessible to bright students without a deep background in math. What do you think of that thought?

4. What is “Learning Modern Algebra” about and who is the audience?

5. How does Fermat’s Last Theorem unite the book’s chapters?

6. What are the challenges with how Modern Algebra is taught?

7. Why is exploration so important and how do you promote it?

8. Rigorous thinking about open-ended problems runs through the book. PODASIP (prove or disprove and salvage if possible) problems contribute to this. Can you speak to that?

9. Why is historical setting important in learning math and how do you weave history into the book?

10. Tell us about the importance of the “Connections” sections in the book.

11. Is there a next book or project?

12. The question I ask everyone: “What advice would you give to a parent whose child was struggling with math?”

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Count Like an Egyptian is a delightful book, full of color illustrations, fun stories, lots of hands-on exercises, and an appreciation for the power of simple but deep ideas.

David Reimer was a pleasure to interview. He is a brilliant mathematician who hasn’t lost sight of the power and beauty of mathematics. He taught me and modeled that, despite the stereotype, the more advanced mathematicians are the ones who are more likely to communicate ideas well.

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Tim is a mathematician and a professional mime. He’s got a neat relationship with the Mathematical Association of America, and with the Museum of Mathematics in New York City. He’s got a DVD course coming out, and a second book. Tim is quite the math celebrity and a really great guy. I think you’ll all enjoy the many topics we manage to touch on in just over an hour. Oh, and if you didn’t win a billion dollars in Warren Buffett’s March Madness challenge then you might want to listen to the podcast and read the book.

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I’ve admitted before that Physics and I have never gotten along. But, science fiction is something I enjoy. So, when Princeton University Press sent me a copy of Physics Professor Chuck Adler‘s new book Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction I was intrigued enough that I wanted to interview the author. This interview rambled, but in a good way. Chuck is a great guest, he’s passionate about physics and math as well as fantasy and science fiction. We flowed through a number of subjects and had a grand time.

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We spent a delightful hour discussing his book, his love of math and magic, and the inspiration behind writing the book. Plus, Dr. Mulcahy shares a few challenges listeners might enjoy chewing on, sprinkled throughout the interview. And, we discuss Martin Gardner, who Colm Mulcahy knew for the last decade of his life and met with several times.

You may also enjoy Shecky’s text interview with Colm Mulcahy at Math Tango.

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The Emperor’s New Mathematics: Western Learning and Imperial Authority During the Kangxi Reign (1662-1722) (Oxford University Press, 2012) takes us from the beginning of Western learning in China in the late Ming dynasty through the commissioning by Kangxi of a massive compendium that was the largest mathematical work ever printed in imperial China. Along the way, Jami’s work surveys the changing pedagogy of imperial mathematics in late imperial China, the crucial role that materiality and instruments played in the mathematics of this period, the many languages of sciences at the court, and the ways that Kangxi alternately used Jesuit mathematics to undergird his authority over Chinese scholar-officials, and sidelined them in the service of championing the mathematical knowledge of Chinese scholars and Bannermen. It is a rich and powerful account that rewards a wide range of readers. Enjoy!

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