C RC Publish

by Roland Minton on June 28, 2016

Aaron graph

Karin Saoub is finalizing a deal with CRC Press to publish A Tour Through Graph Theory. This will be the first textbook to present graph theory to a general audience, such as students in Karin’s INQ 241 course. Graph theory is the mathematics of network connections, which can be applied in an increasingly large number of modern settings in our digital world. The internet, cell phone connections, Twitter networks, and many more are ready-made graph theory structures. The rankings of web pages for Google, the rankings of sports teams, the spread of rumors, the spread of diseases, and others are less obviously graph theory problems. The above graphic is part of a study of Roanoke City food deserts by RC student Aaron Jackson. The ubiquity of these applications makes Karin’s book a timely one.

The network of Roanoke College mathematics faculty who have published with CRC Press continues to grow. Dave Taylor started it with his The Mathematics of Games: An Introduction to Probability and Roland Minton followed with his soon-to-released Sports Math: An Introduction to the Mathematics of Sports Science and Sports Analytics. Karin’s is the third this decade, representing impressive productivity and important contributions to education nationwide.

The three books illustrate the state of mathematics education at Roanoke: creative faculty who use culturally relevant applications to pull students into fascinating aspects of mathematics. Dave’s book uses board games like Monopoly, dice games like Farkle, and Vegas games like Blackjack to motivate the fundamental concepts of probability theory. Roland’s book applies some of the basics of physics and statistics to the world of sports. The statistical portions can serve as a tutorial for groups like the Stat Crew at Roanoke. Karin’s book has Facebook friendship graphs and road maps for the most efficient UPS-like delivery route.

There is more to mathematics than most people suspect, and we explore many aspects of it at Roanoke College!

{ 1 comment }

All Square with Math and Art

by Roland Minton on May 6, 2016


One of the definitions of square is “conventional” or “boring.” This spring’s art gallery presentation by Jan Minton’s Honors 301 class puts the lie to that. The phrase “mind blown” was used in at least one student’s description of her work.

Students in the Mathematics and Art class created visual representations of how you can think outside the box with the humble square. Above, Mackenzie Connolly discusses her Pythagorean tree, which is composed of numerous representations of the famous Pythagorean Theorem. One interesting product of this is that the total area of each color used is the same (red equals orange equals yellow …)!

Below, Sloane Fisher explains that the pink and orange fabric pieces in her work are squares. That is, they are squares in hyperbolic geometry, a type of geometry that is mathematically valid and useful, if a tad disorienting.


Jan Minton’s contributions were tasty. She designed and 3-D printed cookie cutters in the style of M.C. Escher.


The cats and birds below are each based on square tilings. Imagine a batch of square tiles laid out to cover a floor. Then curve the sides of each tile so that the top of the tile fits into the bottom, and the left side of the tile fits into the right side. A little more work and you’ve got the cats and birds shown below.

square4  square5

Creativity and beauty, starting with the mathematics of squares. The exhibit All Square in the Honors classroom in New Hall is decidedly unconventional and interesting.




RC Students + MAA Conference = Crazy Fun!

by rahmoeller on April 22, 2016

The weekend of April 15, five Roanoke College students and three faculty members traveled to Germantown, MD to attend the Spring MAA Sectional Meeting, which was held at Montgomery College. This conference attracts a wide variety of mathematicians from MD, DC, and VA. Some are more applied mathematicians, some are more pure mathematicians, most are researchers, most are educators- all are fun, interesting people!

Our students were highly involved in this conference! Three of the students- Justin Giguere, Anderson Lidz, and Taylor Ferebee- formed the Roanoke College Jeopardy Team!


They certainly brought a competitive edge to the game!! They also might have had the loudest fan section…

This was Anderson’s first time attending an MAA Sectional Meeting. He says,

“Generally, I am not someone who likes to work on teams. However, Math Jeopardy provides an opportunity to see where you and the school stand competing against other institutions. The questions were interesting and generally challenging. It is certainly a worthwhile experience that I would be glad to do again.”

Taylor, for which this was her second MAA Sectional Meeting, says,

“Jeopardy is always a favorite of mine. It is fun testing mathematical knowledge, especially when there is a surprise of a cubed root in the form of an infamous rapper.”

She’s referring to one surprising category in their Jeopardy game- Common Math Terms. For each level in this category, images would pop up on the screen and the students had to figure out which common math term was being described by these images. For example, imagine an image of the rapper Ice Cube and immediately after a picture of a root. Put them together and you get…cube root! Clever!!

Another big part of this conference was the Radical Dash- a mathematical, mini Amazing Race. At each station, each team is faced with a challenge- some are physical and most are mental.

Four of the students in attendance- Taylor Ferebee, Anderson Lidz, Beckie Muolo, and Jason Karaffa- formed the Roanoke College Radical Dash Team.MAAConf3MAAConf4

Taylor mentions the activities in the competition-

“Radical dash this year was quite the challenge. We completed tesslagrams, queens takeover, and played a round of 24! I really enjoyed the game of 24. Even though arithmetic is not my strong suit, it was fun being able to manipulate it in order to create 24.”

Anderson really enjoyed the Radical Dash because “the problems were more abstract and introspective, allowing you to work alone, together. We were introduced to the three queens problem, which I have still been unable to solve but is very interesting, probably for this very reason. We also had problems relating to counting and geometry.”

Scattered in-between these friendly competitions were math talks, given by both faculty and students. Saturday morning’s Invited Address speaker was our very own Dr. David Taylor, speaking about A Potpourri of Mathematics in Popular Games. 

The students enjoyed the talks, saying:

Taylor- “My favorite talk was from an applied mathematician, who was researching the movement of bacteria. Being a mathematics and physics major, it was great to be able to understand her talk on multiple levels.”

Anderson- “The talks provide an excellent measurement for where you are and where you would like to be. Most were given to be understood at the undergraduate level, with talks varying in complexity. Some professors were far more lucid than others in their exposition. Topics varied greatly, from algebraic methods of voter manipulations to linear recursion to modeling population biology. Overall, the talks were diverse and passionate, providing a gentle introduction into what some mathematicians researching. The community as a whole provides a positive atmosphere reminds you how much more interesting math there really is to know.

Beckie- “I gained a greater understanding of mathematics and the interesting topics that are not typically advertised in math, like rainbows.”

Justin- “I really enjoyed the automata in video games talk. Also…JEFF!!”

We had a great weekend- full of mathematics, humor, and good food!!



Roanoke College Represents at the MAA

April 22, 2016

Some people wear many hats; in Dave Taylor’s case, two of them are chairs. Dave, who chairs the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics, is now chair-elect of the Maryland-DC-Virginia section of the Mathematical Association of America. Dave was elected to this position at the section meeting at Montgomery College (Md) April 15-16. It […]

Read the full article →

Physics majors participate in Edgar Allen Poe theatre production

April 21, 2016

The members of the Physics Group often advertise that “physics goes with anything.”  More formally, we maintain that there is no academic endeavor where the creative problem-solving approaches introduced in physics are detrimental.  In ten years of physics majors at Roanoke, we can list the following double majors: biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, math, music, philosophy, psychology, […]

Read the full article →

Money: Students Present Sports Analytics Research

April 18, 2016

Taylor Ferebee and David Moreau presented research posters at the Carolina Sports Analytics Meeting, which included representatives from the Charlotte Bobcats and ESPN: The Magazine. Taylor’s work on graphical representations and metrics of soccer effectiveness focused on passing statistics. David’s work on the relationship between golf consistency and effectiveness in different aspects of the game […]

Read the full article →

Physics students present science experiments to local Girl Scout troop

April 17, 2016

  According to our students, a major (possibly, “the major”) goal of undergraduate studies is to discover one will be doing for ‘the rest of my life’.  This especially true in the sciences, where a high value is placed on finding the right answer within a problem-solving context, and then it is assumed that this […]

Read the full article →

Physics students write welcoming cards

April 16, 2016

April is probably the busiest month for both physics students and their professors.  On top of the culmination of classes, we are also in the midst of planning our honor society banquet and hiring a new visiting professor.  So, when the admissions department asked us to write personal letters to all accepted and deposited students, […]

Read the full article →

Beware the Pi’s of March!

March 23, 2016

Last week was a busy week for the MCSP department at Roanoke College. March 14 is known as Pi Day to many people, and it is a day celebrating the number Pi = π ≈ 3.14159… π cannot be written as a fraction, which is part of the reason why it is so intriguing. People spend […]

Read the full article →

Math Club- Getting Competitive

February 11, 2016

Tuesday, Feb 9 began as a normal day. It was cold, as a day in February should be. But things got a little heated in Trexler around noon, when the Math Club held its first annual Integration Bowl. What on Earth is an Integration Bowl? Well, the Math Club members were divided into three teams- […]

Read the full article →