Welcome to Somerville Mathematics

Welcome to Somerville Mathematics, a blog devoted to exciting mathematical things happening in Somerville MA. I am the founder of The Somerville Mathematics Fund, www.Somervillemathematicsfund.org
The Math Fund was chartered to celebrate and encourage mathematics achievement in Somerville. I hope you will check out my TEDxSomerville talk on the Somerville Math Fund,
I find that there are many other interesting things happening mathematically in Somerville and I hope on this blog to have others share what they are doing. So please contact me at mathfund@gmail.com if you would like to contribute an article.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Scrapheap Showdown 2010 -- Moving on up!

On October 24th, twelve teams of 3 students each competed in the 6th annual Scrapheap Showdown.  Tufts University generously hosted us in the Cousens Gym.

This year's problem was probably our biggest challenge because the students needed 4 hours to complete it.  The challenge was to move up to 15 each of cocoons, marbles and/or bottle caps from a table top on the floor to a standing table.  Their machines couldn't come within 12 inches of the upper table.  There were three small targets on table -- students got point for landing on the table and many more points if they could land within the targets.  There were bonus points for moving multiple types of objects into the targets and for landing in multiple targets.

The winning team had three elevators (see right) leading up to ramps with openings directly over the desired targets.  Each elevator was operated by a counterweight on the far left end of the machine.  Students would load the items to move into the cup elevator close to the floor (on right), and then the student on the left would release the weight.

The pictures of all of the other teams, along with their projects are on this link:

Scrapheap photos

The Somerville Mathematics Fund was charted in 2000 to celebrate and encourage mathematics achievement in Somerville MA.  We run the annual Scrapheap challenge and family math nights along with awarding scholarships and teacher grants.

For more information or to make a donation, check out the math fund's website.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Scrapheap Showdown is Coming!!

This year’s Scrapheap Showdown is on October 24th at Cousens Gym in “the Cage.”’

To enter a team of three, go to www.somervillemathematicsfund.org and download the  application.
It is due on October 14th, so it is time to get started on putting together your team.

To be eligible to compete:
You need to live in Somerville.
You can not have graduated from high school.
You need to “fundraise” $75/team ($25 each) by the day of the competition.

We are working on a new problem -- exciting and as challenging as before.  So come ready to have fun and meet our challenge!

For information, contact voolich@gmail.com

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Somerville Mathematics Fund Scholarship Winners

Press Release
9 June 2010
The Somerville Mathematics Fund, an Affiliate of Dollars for Scholars
contact: Erica Voolich, voolich@gmail.com 

The Somerville Mathematics Fund Recognizes Outstanding Mathematics Students from Three High Schools

The Somerville Mathematics Fund is pleased to announce the winners of their renewable college mathematics scholarships.  The selection committee was impressed with the quality of this year’s applicants and pleased with the generosity of our donors who made it possible to give a record six scholarships.  At the Somerville High School’s award night Erica Voolich, president of The Somerville Mathematics Fund, commented on the outstanding achievements of Deepika Bhargo, Paulo Filipe Dourado, Nelson Moreira and Theodor Rich.  Then at Buckingham, Brown and Nichols, Voolich recognized the outstanding work of Kathleen Oshima, followed a couple days later she went to Chapel Hill - Chauncy Hall to recognize the outstanding work of Robert Merrell.  All are planning on pursuing mathematics or a mathematics-related major in college.  Each scholarship is renewable for up to four years based on performance.

The Somerville Mathematics Fund, an affiliate of the national scholarship organization Dollars for Scholars, was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage achievement in mathematics in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts. Since it's founding, it has awarded $138,000 in mathematics scholarships to outstanding Somerville students.  Next fall, The Somerville Mathematics Fund will be seeking applications from teachers who teach in the city of Somerville who would like funding for classroom mathematics activities.  In October, the Math Fund will also be seeking high school students to compete in the sixth Scrapheap Showdown and will be celebrating their 10th anniversary.  For more  information, to volunteer, or to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact Erica Voolich (voolich@gmail.com) or go to www.somervillemathematicsfund.org.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SPROUTS, a wonderful place for exploring math and science in Somerville -- check it out!

by Alec Resnick 
Sprout is an educational nonprofit which is starting up 
its first big season of programs in the next few weeks.
You can find a full listing at the programs;theprograms 
as well as more information about their open studios in 
Davis Square ourstudios.  What follows are some short 
descriptions of their math- and science-focused programs 
appropriate for both youth and adults in the area.  
Significant financial support is available, so if you'd 
like to make arrangements (or if you have any other 
questions), feel free to email Alec Resnick at

turtlegeometry is a thirteen-week, hands-on seminar 
exploring how we can actively and personally explore 
questions of computer science, topology, and 
differential geometry using the programming languages 
Ruby, Processing, and Scratch.  In particular, this 
course will focus on exploring and unifying the 
aesthetic and computational aspects of these fields. 
No formal background in computer science or math beyond 
basic comfort with algebra is required.  There will be 
three tracks: one for educators and parents, one for youth, 
and one for a general audience.  Email Alec at
alec@thesprouts.org; if you have any questions or check 
out the seminar site turtlegeometry; for more details.

- ECOMODDING YOUR HOME eventbrite is a two month
seminar focused on identifying and implementing simple 
strategies to reduce electricity consumption. In this 
seminar, we'll use a special power strip developed at 
sprout. This power strip enables you to see how and 
when your appliances use electricity and ensure they 
only use electricity when you want them to--whether 
that means turning off your TV's standby mode 
while you're at work or dimming your lamp when its 
sunny outside.  This is accomplished by programming 
the microcontrollers which control the power strip--
a skill participants will be introduced to through 
this seminar.  No background in electronics or 
programming is required.

- FLUTES AND WAVES flutesandwaves is a weekend 
workshop in which participants will build their own 
flutes and begin to explore the acoustical qualities 
of those instruments.  Interested participants will 
have the chance to exlpore how their flute design 
affects their instrument's acoustics using a spectrum 
analyzer and working to understand the underlying 
physics of what's going on inside the flute. 
Instrument design is an amazing mix of craft and 
science--despite how much we know, we don't know 
much about how the finer points of instruments' 
sound work. This is a two-day workshop and studio 
(10AM-4PM on two, consecutive Saturdays) exploring 
how flutes are made, and how their design controls 
what sorts of sounds they can make.  This workshop 
is appropriate for people coming at it from the 
musical, acoustical, or simply interested perspectives. 
Email shaunalynn@thesprouts.org if you have any 

- DIGITAL GARDENING dg.eventbrite is a one day 
workshop coordinated by Keith Simmons, co-designer 
of the Wireplant microcontroller kit. Hosted at the 
MIT Museum, this workshop leads participants through 
the basic electronics and practical skills needed 
to understand and assemble an Arduino-controlled 
moisture sensor which lets you explore sensing 
and measurement in gardening.

is a thirteen-week, project-driven seminar exploring 
how computation and simulation can be used to take 
inspiration from the processes and phenomena of the 
natural world to produce physical and virtual
objects. Facilitated by Jesse Louis-Rosenberg 
(co-founder of the Nervous System n-e-r-v-o-u-s.com 
design studio), this seminar will explore how we can 
understand natural forms—from leaf venation 
to the growth of coral—with computational tools.  
Email jesse@n-e-r-v-o-u-s.com if you have any 
questions or check out the seminar site 
n-e-r-v-o-u-s.com/education for more details.

Monday, April 19, 2010

East Somerville Community School's Math Night

On March 26th, I had the pleasure of attending this year's East Somerville Community School Math event. While teacher and organizer, Linda Wiegenfeld, was teaching the parents and answering their questions, their children were playing mathematical games led by other teacher volunteers.

The parents were interested in learning other ways to approach topics such as division and in having their questions answered about math topics they never learned while in school, such as "outliers." It was interesting to see parents who had grown-up in other countries approached division with different algorithms than those of us who grew up in the US schools. Meanwhile, Linda Wiegenfeld was teaching yet another way to approach division, one that was more intuitive and representative of what is actually happening when you divide.

After joining the parents group for a while, I also visited the rooms where the students were playing mathematical games and enjoyed a game of Mancala with a couple of girls after watching students energetically playing a game of "baseball" using dice.

The event ended with everyone eating pizza, generously donated by the Bickoff family. Linda Wiegenfeld was a Somerville Mathematics Fund teacher grant winner who used her grant money to support this event and to buy the games that she also uses in her classroom at ESCS.

Be sure to read Delia Marshall's article on this event in the Somerville Journal.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Common Core Standards

There is a push by the governors from 48 of the states to have a coordinated curriculum k-12 in mathematics and English-Language Arts. To do this they have commissioned the writing of the Common Core which were released for public review in March.

The "Common Core" is worth your reading and considering what might be the expectations for our students and children in the not too distant future.
The NCTM is one of the organizations who has taken the time to review and write comments about the contents, sequencing, expectations, etc of the mathematics Common Core. You might want to read the NCTM comments.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Somerville’s Kennedy School celebrate Pi - Somerville, Massachusetts 02144 - Somerville Journal

Somerville’s Kennedy School celebrate Pi - Somerville, Massachusetts 02144 - Somerville Journal

Photos article and photos by Delia Marshall for Pi Night 2010 at the Kennedy School.


Kennedy School sixth grader John Kalageropoulos and volunteer Alanna Connors record data on the circumference and the diameter of an object at one of more than a dozen stations set up in the school’s gym on Pi Night. Sponsored by the Somerville Mathematics Fund, these mathematical festivities occurred on March 12 in anticipation of the date that matches the first three digits of “pi.”

Pi Night participants and volunteers listen as winners are announced at the end of an evening of games and activities celebrating the concept of “pi.” Thirty full-sized Table Talk pies were given as prizes at this event, which took place on March 12, the last weeknight before the date “3-14.

Somerville High School juniors Samantha Dudley and Kathryn Long help out at Pi Night at the Kennedy School on March 12. Students who visited the “Mystery Box” table tried to guess the circumference of various jar lids without being able to see them. Nearly 40 SHS students volunteered for this middle-school math event, sponsored by the Somerville Math Fund.

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Somerville Mathematics Fund Announces Winning Teacher Grants

The Somerville Mathematics Fund, an affiliate of Dollars for Scholars, is pleased to announce the winners of its 2010 Teacher Grants to encourage mathematics achievement in the classrooms in Somerville. Again, the members of the board were pleased with the quality of the applications this year and with the exciting things that are happening in the Somerville classrooms. With out the generosity of ESYL, The Somerville Mathematics Fund would not be able to support so many wonderful projects.

The Math Fund wants to thank ESYL for generously underwriting the following teacher grants:

o Annette Bassett at West Somerville Neighborhood School for “Math Resource Center for Teaching and Learning Mathematics” (1-6)

o Kelly Cronin and Joan McGivney at West Somerville Neighborhood School for “Math Take Home Book Bag Program” (K)

o Sandra Dumas at Brown School for “Mathematics and Literature” (5)

o David Farnsworth, Elizabeth Ticcioni, Audrey Song, Latasha Harris,

Brooke McCaffrey, Laura Berger, Gina Desir and Diane Hurvita at Prospect Hill Academy for “Manipulatives for Developing Number Sense” (K)

o Patrice Hobbs at East Somerville Community School at Edgerly, Unidos for “Classroom Math Library” (3)

o Kathryn Jenks at Prospect Hill Academy, Upper School for “TI-SmartView Computer licenses” (11-12)

o Kelly Miller at Brown School for “Computer Projector” (6)

o Tracy Selig at St. Catherine of Genoa School for “Measuring in Math” (2)

o Celia Taylor at the Healey School for the “9th Annual Kindergarten through Second Grade Family Mathematics Night” (K-2)

o Linda Wiegenfeld at the East Somerville Community School at Edgerly for “Family Math Night” (3-4)

The Somerville Mathematics Fund, an affiliate of the national scholarship organization Dollars for Scholars, was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage achievement in mathematics in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts. In early April, the fund will be seeking applications from students who reside in Somerville for college mathematics scholarships. Copies of the scholarship application form is available at www.somervillemathematicsfund.org For more information, to volunteer or to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact Erica Voolich (666-0666, evenings, or voolich@aol.com).