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.

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.