AWM at MathFest 2015

The Contributions of Women to Mathematics: 100 Years and Counting Schedule and Abstracts

  • Organizers:
    • Alissa S. Crans, Loyola Marymount University
    • Jacqueline Jensen-Vallin, Lamar University
    • Maura Mast, University of Massachusetts Boston

Friday, August 7, 2015, 1:00 p.m. – 3:55 p.m., Marriott Wardman Park, Washington 2

1:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. One of the Most Significant Woman in Matrix Theory – Olga Taussky-Todd

Sandra Fital-Akelbek, Weber State University
Olga Taussky -Todd, the torch bearer for matrix theory, is one of the most significant woman in the field of matrices. She wrote numerous research papers in the areas of algebraic number theory, integral matrices, and matrices in algebra and analysis. She received several honors and, at that time, she was one of the few women holding a mathematics research and a faculty position at a higher institution. In this talk, we present her most significant contributions to mathematics and some highlights of her life.

1:20 p.m. – 1:35 p.m. Pie Charts, Pearson, and the Prussian Army: Celebrating Florence Nightingale and FN David

Samuel Luke Tunstall, Appalachian State University
Florence Nightingale is often hailed as the founder of modern nursing, and in light of her contributions to the medical field, few may know of her contributions to the realm of statistics. A significant aspect of Nightingale’s work involved persuading the British government that nurses were needed in fighting the Prussian Army; her arguments were quite quantitative in nature, some even including novel statistical techniques of her own invention. In this talk we celebrate the life and work of Nightingale, as well as consider its influence. We will also look at the life and work of FN David, a renowned statistician named after Nightingale. David began by working as a “calculator” for Karl Pearson and finished her career as Statistics Chair at UC Riverside.

1:40 p.m. – 1:55 p.m. American Women Mathematics PhDs of the 1940s and 1950s

Margaret Murray, University of Iowa
In this talk, I’ll present a comprehensive picture of the roughly 200 women who earned PhDs in mathematics from American institutions during the years 1940–1959. I’ll describe recent research—building significantly on my book Women Becoming Mathematicians (MIT Press 2000)—that reveals a complex picture of the women mathematicians of this generation. I’ll explain what makes this generation so pivotal to our understanding of the history of American women in mathematics.

2:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. African American Women Mathematicians

Darlene Butler, Arkansas State University-Beebe
The push to entice more African American females to enter the field of mathematics has garnered some returns, but more interest could be generated if students knew more about the contributions of female African American mathematicians in history. This presentation will discuss the first two African American women to obtain Ph.D.’s in mathematics and the contributions they made to the field and to their communities. An overview of the lives of Martha Euphemia Lofton Hayes and Evelyn Boyd Granville will be presented.

2:20 p.m. – 2:35 p.m. Making Her Mark on a Century of Turmoil and Triumph: A Tribute to Polish and Polish-American Women in Mathematics

Emelie Kenney, Siena College
New starts, frustration, doubt, excitement, overcoming difficulties, and positive outcomes are familiar to most mathematicians. To the women who are the focus of this talk, however, new beginningsmay include relocating to a different continent, difficulties may include having to learn and teach in secret, and positive outcomes include not only generating results, but changing the way mathematics is taught in her country, popularizing mathematics much more extensively than had ever before been seen, and being free to investigate mathematics to whatever extent she chooses. This talk introduces the particular experiences and accomplishments of Anna Zofia Krygowska, Zofia Szmydt, Edith Luchins, and Helena Rasiowa, and acknowledges the contributions of mathematicians whose work in the U.S. is ongoing and significant.

2:40 p.m. – 2:55 p.m. A Well-Kept Secret: Women in Mathematics Education

Jacqueline Dewar, Loyola Marymount University
Until recently, mathematicians rarely garnered anything approaching the public recognition that scientists commanded. Even asking calculus students to write the names of as many mathematicians as they can in one minute, results in short
lists (Newton, Leibniz, Galileo, Euclid, Pythagoras), often with misspellings and inappropriate entries (Einstein). Rarely does the name of a woman mathematician appear (unless it is the instructor’s name). Given the general lack of knowledge about people who did mathematics, it is not surprising that women who contributed to mathematics education during the second half of the 20th century are hardly recognized at all. This talk will celebrate the lives and accomplishments of three women in mathematics education: Ruth Afflack (California State University Long Beach), Natalie Ambrose (Immaculate Heart High School), and Teri Perl (The Learning Company). Each was an author of books or educational materials, an activist for significant causes both in and outside of mathematics, and a teacher of pre-college or college students. Each is a co-founder of one or more of the following: a company, a non-profit organization focused on encouraging women in mathematics, and a religious community. All were pioneers, leaders, and mentors to many, including the author of this paper. Many of their publications, materials, and products remain valuable and timely to this day. A bibliography will be provided.

3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. Interesting Women in the Missouri MAA Section

Leon Hall, Missouri S&T
In the history of the Missouri MAA Section, some of the more interesting people through the years were and are women. Some of the names will be familiar and others not so much, but all played a role in the growth and development of the Missouri Section and mathematics as a whole. Emily Kathryn Wyant, Margaret F. Willerding, Maria Castellani, Shirley Hill, Deborah T. Haimo, and T. Christine Stevens will be discussed.

3:20 p.m. – 3:35 p.m. Life and Research of Vasanti Bhat-Nayak

Pallavi Jayawant, Bates College
I will present a brief biographical sketch of Vasanti Bhat-Nayak (1938-2009) who was professor of combinatorics in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Mumbai in Mumbai, India. Starting with her doctoral thesis in 1970, Professor Bhat-Nayak researched different areas of combinatorics such as block designs, variegated graphs, and graceful graphs during a mathematical career of about thirty-five years. I will discuss her work in the context of current research in some of these areas.

3:40 p.m. – 3:55 p.m. Iran and Women in Mathematics

Sahar M. Kashan, DuPont Manual High School
Fariba Nowrouzi-Kashan, Kentucky State University
I am an Iranian-born-and-educated woman mathematician, living in the U.S.A. I would like to talk about how it could be that such a seemingly repressive country as Iran could produce one such as Fields Medalist Maryam Mirzakhani.

Saturday, August 8, 2015, 1:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m., Marriott Wardman Park, Washington 2

1:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. Teaching Students about Women and Mathematics: A Dialogue between Two Course Designers

Sarah J. Greenwald, Appalachian State University
Jacqueline Dewar, Loyola Marymount University
How can we help inspire and retain mathematics majors? Role models are cited as one important factor.We’ll highlight ways we teach students about women and mathematics.We’ve each taught entire interdisciplinary courses on this topic.
The classes combine mathematical content with both ancient and recent history, including gender and equity issues. We’ll also describe ways to teach about women and mathematics on a smaller scale, such as a portion of a mathematics course for liberal arts students, in seminar classes, and at AWM Student Chapter, Girl Scout, Sonia Kovalevsky Day, and Expanding Your Horizons Career Day events. For more information, see and

1:20 p.m. – 1:35 p.m. Gender and the Pursuit of Mathematics: An Examination of the Participation Gap in Math Careers

Kevin T. Maritato, Suffolk County Community College
Despite the fact that the performance gap between males and females in mathematics has been closing in recent decades, due in large part to efforts to improve the equality of educational opportunities for boys and girls in STEM fields at young ages, there remains a large participation gap between adult men and women in mathematical fields. This gap first becomes noticeable at the post-secondary level, with the difference in numbers between male and female mathematics majors, and grows at each level of the academic pyramid, spanning through math masters and PhD programs to non-tenured and finally tenured math research faculty. There are many possible explanations for the disparity in the numbers of male and female mathematicians, most of which are based in the stereotyping of mathematics as a male field. We will discuss several of these explanations, as well as potential steps that might be taken to mitigate the influence of stereotypes and help keep more female students interested in pursuing careers in math.

1:40 p.m. – 1:55 p.m. Positive Female Role Models in Mathematics: The Importance, Influence, and Impact of Their Contributions in Attracting Females to Mathematics

Joan E. DeBello, St. John’s University
This paper will discuss the many positive female role models in mathematics. It will discuss the importance, influence, and impact of introducing young girls to these positive role models to increase their interests in mathematics and their desire to pursue majors and careers related to mathematics. The paper will go through some of the most prominent women in mathematics and ways to introduce these women to the students from elementary school through college and beyond. It will discuss many of the programs created in honor of these prominent women to help inspire and attract young girls to mathematics, as well as the many scholarships and programs offered to help young women with their studies at the undergraduate level and beyond.

2:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. The Daughters of Hypatia: A Mathematical Dance Concert Celebrating Women Mathematicians

Karl Schaffer, De Anza College
The dance company MoveSpeakSpin based in California has been developing and performing a full-length concert performed by a cast of four female dancers and directed by the speaker that celebrates the lives, work and struggles of mathematical women throughout history. The concert employs dance, theater, multimedia, and audience interactions to bring alive the stories of mathematicians from the time of Hypatia to the present. It tells sobering yet inspiring stores beginning with Hypatia, a leading intellectual in ancient Alexandria, and later mathematicians who overcame
societal boundaries placed on women, such as Émilie du Châtelet, Sophie Germain, Emmy Noether, Marjorie Rice, and Vivian Malone-Mayes. The concert includes guest choreography by sarah-marie belcastro, incorporates text on microinequities
by Sue Geller, and utilizes musical compositions by Vi Hart. We will discuss the process of developing and performing the concert, audience response, plans for the future as the show begins touring, and show short video clips.

2:20 p.m. – 2:35 p.m. Application of Knot Theory: Using Knots to Unravel Biochemistry Mysteries

Candice Renee Price, United States Military Academy, West Point
In mathematics, a knot is defined as a closed, non-self-intersecting curve that is embedded in three dimensions and cannot be untangled to produce a simple loop. You can think of this as simply tying your shoelaces and the fusing together the ends to create a continuous loop. While the mathematical properties of knots have been studied for close to 100 years, fairly recently the mathematics of knots have been shown to have application in various sciences including physics, molecular biology and chemistry. In this discussion, we will view some of the mathematical properties of knots as well as their applications to molecular biology.

2:40 p.m. – 2:55 p.m. Dessin D’Enfants and Shabat Polynomials

Alejandra Alvarado, Eastern Illinois University
In 1984, Alexander Grothendieck, inspired by a result of Gennadii Belyi from 1979, constructed a finite, connected planar bipartite graph via rational functions ℙ1(ℂ) → ℙ1(ℂ) with critical values {0; 1; ∞} by looking at the inverse image of the triangle formed by these three points. He called such graphs Dessins d’Enfants. Conversely, Riemann’s Existence Theorem implies that every finite, connected planar graph arises in this way. We are interested in constructing Shabat Polynomials (generalized Chebyshev polynomials), the Belyi functions corresponding to trees. This construction comes down to finding the roots of a system of nonlinear equations.

3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. An Introduction to Interval Exchange Transformations

Kelly B. Yancey, University of Maryland
Interval exchange transformations are piecewise isometries of the unit interval. Although this family of maps is easy to explain, they possess a variety of fascinating, and diverse dynamical properties. In this talk we will introduce IETs, give some examples, explain how they are related to translation surfaces, and discuss some of their basic dynamical properties. This talk will be accessible to everyone and include many pictures.