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MAA Distinguished Lecture Series

The MAA sponsors a variety of public lectures, many of them held at the MAA Carriage House. Whether a Gathering 4 Gardner event or one of the federally funded Distinguished Lecture Series, the lectures feature some of the foremost experts within the field of mathematics, known for their ability to make current mathematical ideas accessible to non-specialists. The presentations provide a fabulous and fun learning opportunity for both professionals and students, as well as anyone interested in learning more about current trends in mathematics and the relationship between mathematics and broader scientific, engineering and technological endeavors.

Abstracts and speaker biographies will appear on this page as lectures are added to the events calendar.

Slidecasts and video clips of MAA public lectures are available here.

Support for this MAA program is provided by the National Security Agency (grant H98230-16-1-0060).

Upcoming Lectures


Moon Duchin
6:30 PM - October 24, 2016

MAA Carriage House
1781 Church St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20036


Note: This lecture is now full. Click here to join the waiting list. You can also watch the lecture on Facebook Live during the event at

Abstract: With the election just over two weeks away, maybe it's a good time to step back from the horse-race coverage and think about the mathematical fundamentals!  Voting is actually a really hard math problem:  how do you fairly aggregate the preferences of millions of people into a single authoritative outcome?  In this talk, I'll try to weave together math, politics, and civil rights to tell a collection of different stories clustered around the idea of "one person, one vote."

Biography: Moon Duchin is an associate professor of Mathematics at Tufts University and is the founding director of Tufts' new interdisciplinary Program in Science, Technology, and Society, which spans scholarly approaches to putting science in social context.  She has degrees in math and women's studies and a long-standing interest in the history, philosophy, and anthropology of science.  In math, her work is in low-dimensional geometric topology, geometric group theory, and dynamics.  She lectures widely on her research and engages in educational outreach to all ages of students, with a particular focus on broadening participation in mathematics.  She has a PhD from the University of Chicago, a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation, and recently served as a plenary speaker for the American Mathematical Society.

Tuesday, November 1
6:00 - 7:30pm

MAA Carriage House
1781 Church St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Click here to RSVP for this lecture!

About Celebration of Mind

The Celebration of Mind uses puzzles, games, and magic to delight, instruct, and bring people together in a spirit of fun, both at annual gatherings and as a year-round repository of resources. As Martin Gardner said, you can learn more when you’re in a state of entrancement, and that’s our guiding principle. On and around October 21 every year, Celebration of Mind events all over the world share the legacy and many interests of this prolific, accessible American writer, who introduced general audiences to many fascinating topics in mathematics and science over a 50-year period . In the process we continue to create and collect resources that inspire new generations to explore a wide range of intellectual pursuits, and their intersections.

Algorithmic Puzzles and Martin Gardner

Dana Richards
George Mason University

The vast majority of mathematical puzzles ask for the existence of a solution. It is merely an exercise when the method is known and it is more of a puzzle when the method is not clear. An algorithmic puzzle takes this further by only asking for the method itself or a property of the method. It is in this sense that much of computer science is puzzle solving. We discuss the theory behind this in the context of material taken from Martin Gardner’s Scientific American column. The answer to the following puzzle will be given:

There are five pirates dividing up 100 gold coins. Pirates are strictly ordered by seniority, are very logical, and wish to live. The rule pirates use to divide gold is: (1) the most senior pirate suggests a division, (2) all pirates vote on it, (3) if at least half vote for it then it is done, otherwise the senior pirate is killed and the process starts over. What happens?

About Dana Richards
Dana Richards is an associate professor of Computer Science at George Mason University. His research is on theoretical and algorithmic topics. He has been a friend of Martin Gardner for nearly four decades and has edited Gardner’s book, The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems.

Hands on Puzzles!

After the lecture by Dana Richards, guests will be invited to break into smaller groups in order to engage in some hands-on puzzles provided by Bill Ritchie of ThinkFun.

About Bill Ritchie
Bill Ritchie is president and co-founder of ThinkFun, for over 30 years the world’s leading maker of logic puzzles and mind challenging games. He is responsible for the company’s strategic direction and new product development. A lifelong entrepreneur, Bill was the founding president of the World Entrepreneurs’ Organization and is the first recipient of the Sam Loyd Award, presented by the American Game and Puzzle Collectors for outstanding entrepreneurial promotion of mechanical puzzles. His personal passion is using games to teach thinking skills and improve reasoning abilities.