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The Wrong Door: How to Inspire Mathematical Thinking in the General Public

How many times can you fold a piece of paper to get to the moon? Mathematician and 2014 Leelavati Prize winner Adrián Paenza enjoys asking this and other questions to inspire public conversations about mathematics.

An Argentine science journalist and former mathematics professor, Paenza is presenting his lecture about mathematics education called “The Wrong Door” on Tuesday, July 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Embassy of Argentina, 1600 New Hampshire Avenue, Washington, D.C. The lecture is hosted by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the Embassy of Argentina.

“Mathematics has always been the most hated subject. Feared, because we grow up hearing that we will definitely need it for everything we will want to do, but we never understand when that time will come,” said Paenza in his lecture abstract.

The lecture represents a first-time collaboration between the MAA, the Embassy of Argentina, and the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University. Paenza will explore stories about inspiring mathematical thinking and curiosity in the general public, and how schools could make mathematics more enticing.

“The problem is that we are misled; we are taken to the most beautiful place through the wrong door. Like entering a palace through the bathroom,” said Paenza. “I think the time has come to use a different door.”

Paenza received his PhD in mathematics from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, where he remained as a professor until 2002. Among his accomplishments, Paenza has published eight books on the popularization of mathematics and publishes a weekly column in a national Argentinian newspaper.

Currently, Paenza is the host of the weekly TV program “Científicos Industria Argentina” (“Scientists Made in Argentina”), a program that interviews mathematicians and scientists in different disciplines, and is the host of “Alterados por Pi” (“Altered by Pi”), a mathematics show shot in front of a public school audience. Paenza received the prestigious Leelavati Prize in August 2014 from the International Mathematical Union for his contributions to changing perceptions about mathematics in daily life.

About MAA

The Mathematical Association of America is the largest professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level. Formed in 1915, the association members include university, college, and high school teachers; graduate and undergraduate students; pure and applied mathematicians; computer scientists; statisticians; and many others in academia, government, business, and industry who are interested in the mathematical sciences.

For more information and to RSVP for the lecture, see: http://www.embassyofargentina.us/embassyofargentina.us/email/150707paenza01.html

Photo credit: Prensa TV Pública

News Date: 
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
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