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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.

Upcoming Lectures


Restricted Patterns of the Past, Present and Future

Zvezdelina Stankova
6:30 PM - May 31, 2016

MAA Carriage House

1781 Church St.
Washington, D.C. 20036


Space is limited. Please register here.

Abstract: Whether designing the new tile pattern in your kitchen backsplash, trying to avoid bad investment sequences, or simply counting all possible paths from your home to work that do not cross over the local river, inescapably you are venturing into the realm of restricted patterns.

In this talk, we shall discuss several paths of pattern-exploration, and think about whether or not there is a "true" way of approaching pattern-avoidance equivalence and ordering among the array of generated ideas and methods. No matter what your math background is, you will find your own path between realistic visualization and abstract thinking, and perhaps, you will fall in love with one of our open problems.

Biography: Professor Zvezdelina Stankova (Zvezda) was drawn into the world of mathematics when, as a 5th grader, she joined the math circle at her school in Bulgaria. Three months later she won the Regional Math Olympiad. Zvezda represented her home country at two International Mathematical Olympiads (IMOs), earning silver medals.

As a freshman at Sofia University, Zvezda won a competition to study in the U.S. where she completed her undergraduate degree at Bryn Mawr College in 1993. Zvezda completed her first math research in enumerative combinatorics at two summer programs in Duluth, Minnesota. The resulting papers contributed to her Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Woman, awarded by the Association for Women in Mathematics. In 1997, Zvezda received a Ph.D. from Harvard University, with a thesis on moduli spaces of curves, in the field of algebraic geometry. She also earned a high school teaching certificate in Massachusetts, and later, in California. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and UC Berkeley in 1997-1999, Zvezda co-founded the Bay Area Mathematical Olympiad and created the Berkeley Math Circle (BMC). She trained the U.S. national team for the IMOs for six years, including the memorable year of 2001 when three of the six team members were BMCers, and the U.S. tied with Russia for second overall in the world. Since 1999, Zvezda has worked at Mills College in Oakland, CA. Starting in the fall of 2016, she will be joining the Math Department at UC Berkeley.

Zvezda’s inspiring style and passion to teach were recognized by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA): in 2004 she received the first Henry L. Alder Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Beginning College or University Mathematics Faculty Member. In 2011 MAA honored her with the highest math teaching award in the U.S., the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. Individuals who receive this award are widely recognized as extraordinarily successful and whose teaching effectiveness has shown to have influence beyond their own institutions. Zvezda was featured in the Salutes Program of the ABC 7 News in spring 2011. In 2012, she was listed in Princeton’s Review of "300 Best Professors."

In 2015-2016, Zvezda introduced a new middle school math program based on a new textbook series, which she translated, adapted, and co-authored. Zvezda’s most enduring passion remains working at the BMC with young students motivated to discover new mathematical wonders. She spends a lot of time with her daughter and son, studying with them foreign languages and playing the piano, and teaching them mathematics the “Bulgarian’’ way.


A Mathematical Mindset: Mitigating America's Achievement Gap

Talithia Williams
6:30 PM - June 8, 2016

MAA Carriage House

1781 Church St.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Abstract:Carol Dweck’s research on having a “growth mindset” posits the idea that by tackling a problem that is mildly difficult to solve, we can increase our brain’s problem solving ability and our overall capacity to learn. Likewise, Clifford Adelman, author of the U.S. Department of Education's Answers in the Tool Box and The Toolbox Revisited, says that the highest level of high school mathematics is the strongest indicator for college degree completion. A student’s mathematical ability continues to make a difference in their likelihood of completing college no matter what their eventual major might be. In this talk, we’ll begin a discussion about how all of us, whether math educators, grandparents, or volunteers, can begin to cultivate a mathematical mindset in the young people around us. Mathematics is a great equalizer and while the causes of America’s achievement gap are out of our hands, a potential solution is well within our reach.

Biography: Dr. Talithia Williams takes sophisticated numerical concepts and makes them understandable and relatable to everyone. As illustrated in her popular TED Talk, Own Your Body's Data, she demystifies the mathematical process in amusing and insightful ways, using statistics as a way of seeing the world in a new light and transforming our future through the bold new possibilities inherent in the STEM fields. As an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, she has made it her life's work to get people—students, parents, educators and community members—more excited about the possibilities inherent in a STEM education.

In her present capacity as a faculty member, she exemplifies the role of teacher and scholar through outstanding research, with a passion for integrating and motivating the educational process with real-world statistical applications. Her educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Spelman College, Masters' degrees in both Mathematics from Howard University and Statistics from Rice University, and a Ph.D. in Statistics from Rice University. Her professional experiences include research appointments at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the National Security Agency (NSA), and NASA.

Dr. Williams develops statistical models which emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data and has partnered with the World Health Organization in developing a cataract model used to predict the cataract surgical rate for countries in Africa. Through her research and work in the community at large, she is helping change the collective mindset regarding STEM in general and math in particular— rebranding the field of mathematics as anything but dry, technical or male-dominated, but instead a logical, productive career path that is crucial to the future of the country. She is active in her faith community and serves with her husband as a Christian marriage mentor couple, all while being the mom of three amazing boys.


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

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