Blackjack and Zombies: Student Math Research

by Roland Minton on February 7, 2014


The Wall of Fame on the second floor of Trexler celebrates student research. The independent thinking that goes into such work benefits students tremendously, and research is a great line item on a resume! Senior math majors Jon Marino and Heather Cook talked about their research last night (2-6-14) as part of the MCSP Conversation Series. A crowd of about 100 heard Jon present an interesting mathematical property arising in calculations of blackjack odds, followed by Heather’s analysis of optimal strategies in the game of Zombie Dice. Both projects involve detailed combinatorics, the mathematics of counting, which is central to many calculations of odds and probabilities. Precise thinking is needed to keep the details straight, but so is creativity in connecting the problems to seemingly unrelated mathematics that provides easier routes to solutions. Jon and Heather are not new to research, as both presented previous results at MathFest, a national mathematics meeting in August 2013. Heather will talk at the National Council on Undergraduate Research conference in Lexington, Kentucky, in April and both Heather and Jon will present at MathFest 2014 in Portland, Oregon. It’s great seeing Roanoke College students on the national stage.

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