Vote for Mathematics

by minton on October 21, 2020

I voted yesterday. That is only noteworthy because it is still October. Early voting is one of the nicer firsts in 2020. One of the amendments on the Virginia ballot would establish a commission to try to reduce gerrymandering. This is on the heels of an excellent MCSP Conversation Series on gerrymandering by Ellen Veomett of Saint Mary’s College.

The commission to draw district lines would be split equally between Democrats and Republicans, but the legislation does not mention how many mathematicians would be involved. You may think that I’m trying to be funny with that comment. However, there is a long established and active area of mathematics devoted to quantifying the reasonableness of the shape of a district. Such objective measures of gerrymandering should be essential tools used by any districting commission.

More generally, there is a long history of mathematical contributions to political concerns such as districting, apportionment, and voting methods. In fact, the Mathematical Association of America just released a collection of articles on mathematical approaches to voting. (See One quick brag: the first article referenced has one co-author “G. Minton” who is my son, Greg.

Did you know that the first Presidential veto was over how to round numbers? In deciding the number of Representatives a state gets (i.e., apportionment), the general principle is that a state with 8.4% of the country’s population should get 8.4% of the Representatives. But what if the House of Representatives has 435 seats, and 8.4% of 435 is 36.5? Should this state get 36 or 37 Representatives? It turns out that it is very difficult to find a rounding method that can be applied to every state’s quota and has the total number of Representatives add up to 435.

The method to use for the country’s first apportionment was hotly contested between proposals from Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. This could have been a showstopper in the musical! Congress approved Hamilton’s method, but George Washington vetoed it. The history of Congressional apportionment is fascinating because of the surprising ways that rounding methods can behave. Check it out in the book The History of Congressional Apportionment by Charles Biles.

And vote!


Conor Kinkema has been named as a 2020 CSCAA (The College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America) -All American Scholar

Click here to read the press release



Talk Physics to Me !

by Bala on April 21, 2020

Sigma Pi Sigma celebrations. 

These unusual times call for unsual ways to do things. One this is certain; fun and physics dont change, even in these uncertain times. This year, the physics group found a way to carry on the tradition of celebrating our students’ induction to the Sigma Pi Sigma honor society. It retained  all elements of an oncampus event such as welcome address (by Dr. Dan Robb, and yes he wore a tie for the event!), initiation (by Dr. Rama Bala) , induction and charge (Mr. Duncan Maclean), Sigma Pi Sigma address (Dr. Matt Fleenor) and a toast (by Dr. Bala).  Instead of a served dinner, the inductees were served, a quirky and unusal ‘feast’ in the form of a physics themed slide show. 

Here is a link to the slide show posted on YouTube 


This year’s the Sigma-Pi-Sigma address was a motivational speech, titled ‘What’s in A P-H-Y-S-I-C-I-S-T?’. In his address, Dr. Fleenor talked about the qualities that characterizes a physicist. Here is a snap shot of his address. 

I am so proud of all our students, an excellent group of women and men. As they pursue their aspirations and dreams, we, the physics group faculty, are honored to teach and guide them to discover and reach for their own stars.

-Rama Bala


PS: Here is a link to the post on RC webpage on connecting with students during COVID.




On Heroes

April 3, 2020

A conjunction of events provoked me to think about the role of heroes in our lives. Spoiler alert: in what follows there are no Marvel* heroes or even a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. To me, an interesting article is a great gift. RC History professor John Selby came across two items in quick succession that he […]

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Physics Students Attend Conferences

April 3, 2020

(submitted by Rama Bala) Fall 2019 was a busy and exciting semester for physics students. Three of our Maroons, Morgan Hale (’22), Sophie Martin (’21), Rosie Hamed (’21), attended a 3-day long national conference for physics students. According to the conference organizers ‘PhysCon 2019 brought together over a thousand students of physics and astronomy with […]

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Stat Crew Records Double-Double

February 25, 2020

Chicago Cubs baseball legend Ernie Banks was known for enthusiastically saying, “Let’s Play Two!” On a date such as Saturday’s 2-22-2020 you almost have to do exactly that. The Roanoke College baseball team opened its home schedule with a doubleheader against Elizabethtown. Stat Crew members Luke Elder and Warren Payne were there to operate Track […]

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Passing Remarks

February 4, 2020

Eric Lee, a junior Actuarial Science major at Roanoke College, has passed both Exam P (Probability) and Exam FM (Financial Mathematics) offered by the Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society. These two exams along with the courses Eric is taking for the Actuarial Science major put him in excellent position to gain a […]

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Things to Do in Denver

January 24, 2020

Adam Childers and Dave Taylor received a national award at the Joint Mathematics Meeting in Denver on January 17, 2020. They were honored with the Outstanding Contributed Paper in Statistics Education award for 2019. In their award-winning talk, Adam and Dave presented their Classroom Stats app and several of its potential uses in a statistics […]

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Concentrate! On Sports Analytics

November 8, 2019

Roanoke College has a sports analytics program! The recently approved concentration in sports analytics is a six-course program giving students a broad background in important skills as well as practical experience in the field. Details can be found at Analytics.html. The concentration builds on the success of Stat Crew. With over twenty students (and […]

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Getting to Know: Dave Taylor

August 30, 2019

Mathematics major and Honors student Olivia Long wondered about the profession of mathematics professor at a small college like Roanoke. She asked us several questions about the present and the future of our job. Here are the edited results, so that you can get to know us and our job. Dave Taylor has published a […]

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