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.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Grant Opportunity for Teachers who Have a Great Idea for their Classrooms

Every year the Somerville Mathematics Fund offers teacher grants for K-12 teachers in Somerville who have interesting and exciting ideas to support math learning and enrichment for their students.  The grant is open to teachers in all of the schools in Somerville, both public and parochial.  The grant application is on the Somerville Mathematics Fund website and is due by January 9, 2018.

The maximum amount of any grant is $500 per year.  Previous winners are welcome to apply again as long as they have completed their report on the previous grant.  You can read about last year’s grant winners on the Somerville Mathematics Blog or by requesting a copy of this year’s annual newsletter which was mailed in early December.

The Somerville Mathematics Fund, was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage achievement in mathematics in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts.  Over seventeen years, the math fund has awarded  $104,060 in teacher grants in the city of Somerville.  You might want to listen to our  TEDxSomerville talk on the work of the Somerville Math Fund
to learn about the various things the math fund is doing.

In early April, the Somerville Math Fund will be seeking applications from students who reside in Somerville for college mathematics scholarships.

The teacher grant application is available on

For more information, to volunteer or to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact Erica (617-666-0666 or mathfund@gmail.com)

The link to this post is http://somervillemathematics.blogspot.com/2017/12/grant-opportunity-for-teachers-who-have.html
©2017, Erica Dakin Voolich

Monday, October 30, 2017

Scrapheap Showdown 2017: Get Over It!

On October 29, 30 high school students on 10 teams gathered in “The Cage” in Cousens Gym at Tufts University to compete in the 13th annual Scrapheap Showdown.  Instead of the usual interesting “junk” in the center of the room when the students walked in, there were piles of paper along with large cones of string.  The students were given their challenge: to design and build a four-foot-span paper bridge. The teams worked intensely, designing, building, testing, reinforcing, and adjusting their bridges.

Time was called after 3 hours.  Now was the time for the competition.  

Each of the ten bridges employed differences in design from suspension to trestles and combinations of other features.    The students' bridges competed against each other, tested for their ability to withstand “traffic” — a remote-controlled car driven across. 

Their bridges’ centers were measured for height above the table with points given for each inch above the table height up to 6 inches. The third challenge involved supporting maximum weight spread over the span of the bridge with minimal deflection.  A bamboo skewer was placed in the middle of the bridge.  The change height of the bridge could be measured by the displacement machine built by Richard Graf for a previous Scrapheap Showdown. 
Richard Graf with his machine to measure deflection to 1/16"

The bridges were going to be measured to two inches of deflection from adding weighs spread across the span of the bridge road bead.  The winning bridge was able to support more than 108 pounds with less than two inches of deflection in the center of the roadbed. 
108 lbs and counting!
Wall tiles, metal weights, and barbells
and still not deflecting more than 1"!

The 2nd place team was able to support 82 pounds.

The team with the highest overall score, was Crimson Quackateers  (Owen Chiu, Daniel Correa, Jeffery Zou). 
The Crimson Quackateers with their winning bridge.

 The second place team was the Honeybees (Tristan Brown-Vazquez, Max Nadeau, Nikolas Protopapas).  
The Honeybees with their bridge.

Third place was the Shrimps (Kenia Arbaiza, Kristina Gurung and Tayara Romero).  

The Shrimps with their bridge.

The Fourth place team was Team Take Dubs Part 2. (Qijin Chau, Gabe Kafka-Gibbons, Samuel Saron).  
Team Take Dubs, part 2 with their bridge.

Fifth place was Striking Panthers (Desi Feldman, Robert Lavey).
The Striking Panthers with their bridge.

The teams could choose their prize in the order they finished.    
The prizes donated were:  three $100 gift cards (donated by Anne Button), four Red Sox tickets (donated by Sam Voolich), three $50 RedBones BBQ gift cards, 3 $50 Amazon gift cards (donated by Jay Landers & Jasper Lawson) and a combination of Museum passes (4 Science Museum including 4 to the Omni Theater, 2 Museum of Fine Arts and 2 Children’s Museum, donated by Vinny Tajeda & Maggie Rabidou). 

There was a prize for aesthetics sponsored by Jay Landers, it was a hard choice to choose the “best looking” but the winners were the Striking Panthers.

The other teams participating were Lady Highlanders (YuYing Chen, Priscila Ponce, Leslie Nava Sanchez),
Lady Highlanders with their bridge

Dumbledore's Army (Harmanpreet Kaur, Nasreen Kaur, Willow Klein), 
Dumbledore's Army with their bridge.

Team Bulldogs (Cole LaFee, John Minghetti, Dillion Tivnan), 
Team Bulldogs with their bridge.

 Team Team (Aaron Diener, Sam Diener, Dennis Gill), 
Team Team with their bridge.

The X-Man (Zachary Dion, Luca Duclos-Orsello, Kevin Pleitez).
The X-Men with their bridge.
This event was for both fundraising and an intellectual challenge--all funds raised go towards a Somerville Mathematics Fund scholarship for an outstanding Somerville mathematics student.  All competitors and volunteers went home with Scrapheap Showdown teeshirts donated by Gerald and Debra Bickoff of Commercial Cleaning Service.  

Designers & refiners of the challenge were: Anne Button, Chase Duclos-Orsello, Zachary Faubion, Adam Foster, Monica Fernandes, Miriam Gates, Richard Graf, Jay Landers, Zbigniew Nitecki, Erica Voolich, and Michael Voolich.  

Stanhope Framers donated the foam core.  Fleming Printing Co. donated the “roadbeds” made from chipboard, Michael Morgan and Patricia Murphey-Sheehy, teachers at Somerville High School, recruited student teams.  Amy Weiss designed the T-shirts and Yongkang Yu designed the poster advertising the event at the high school.  

Sponsors of the event included Winter Hill Bank, RedBones BBQ, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, Commercial Cleaning Service, Jay & Jasper, Susan Weiss, and our most wonderful host, Tufts University.  Various members of the Board worked on all aspects of organizing the event and worked to make it a success along with community volunteers Tony Johnson and Clarissa Westney.

The Somerville Mathematics Fund was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage mathematics achievement in Somerville.  In January, they will be looking for teacher grant applications; and in April, they will be looking for scholarship applications.   For more information or to volunteer or to make a donation, call 617-666-0666, e-mail mathfund@gmail.com, or go to www.somervillemathematicsfund.org.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Scrapheap Showdown is Coming!! Get Your Team Together Now!

Scrapheap Showdown is Coming ... time to get your teams together.
The Somerville Math Fund's annual high school engineering challenge is coming on Sunday October 29th.
Teams of three will arrive to discover what will be their challenge to build this year.  If you're interested in seeing some of the previous years' projects, click here.

To compete you must be a high school student living in Somerville MA.  Go to this link to get all of the details.  Start organizing your team NOW, the registration is due on October 13.

In the past, the teams not only came up with creative names for their teams, but they also came up with interesting creative solutions to the annual challenges.  We always have great prizes.

Go forth and form your teams!

Good Luck!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Outstanding Students win Somerville Math Fund Scholarships

Jiahui Zhao, David Matthews, Christina Keating, Lily Chau, Camille Chan,
Manogya Acharya, Alice Egar, and  Anmol Maini are congratulated by Erica Voolich

The Somerville Mathematics Fund is pleased to announce the winners of their renewable mathematics scholarships for 2017.  The Math Fund was founded to celebrate and encourage math achievement and these students deserve to be celebrated for their work in math and science while in high school. Thanks to the generosity of many individuals and a few organizations, this year we were able to award a record 8 scholarships, totaling $32,000 over four years.

Manogya Acharya will attend Boston College; Camille Chan, Tufts University; Lily Chau and Jiahui Zhao, U Mass Amherst; Alice Egar, Princeton University; Christina Keating, U Mass Lowell; Anmol Maini, MIT; and David Matthews, the University of Vermont.

Their scholarships of $1000 are renewable for up to a total of four years as long as they maintain a B average and take mathematics or courses which use mathematics.

One of the scholarships was given in the memory of an outstanding woman mathematician, Dr. Alice T Schafer scholarship and another scholarship in honor of the founders of a local scholarship organization which grew into a national scholarship charity.

Erica Voolich congratulates Alice Egar on winning the Dr. Alice Schafer Scholarship

Alice Egar won the Alice T Schafer Scholarship.  She is planning to study biology, and eventually earning a PhD.   Dr. Schafer (1915 - 2009) was orphaned as an infant and raised by two aunts.  When she went to college at the University of Richmond of Virginia, women students weren’t allowed in the library and she was discouraged from majoring in mathematics.  She won prizes, earned a PhD, taught at colleges (including Wellesley) and among the things she is known for is helping start the Association for Women in Mathematics (1971).  Less known about Dr. Schafer was her helping to start the Somerville Mathematics Fund in 2000 -- attending all of the planning meetings and contributing to their work as long as she was able.  She is remembered for her passion and work to insure mathematical opportunities for women. Since Dr. Schafer was committed to the education and supporting women in mathematics, Alice Egar’s interest in doing original research is a wonderful way to honor Dr. Alice Schafer's memory.

Erica Voolich congratulates Anmol Maini on winning
the Charlotte and Dr. Irving Fradkin Scholarship

Anmol Maini received the Charlotte and Dr. Irving Fradkin Scholarship.  You can read the story of Dr. Fradkin’s (and his dear wife Charlotte who worked behind the scenes to help make his dream possible) at https://scholarshipamerica.org/fradkin/
Dr. Fradkin was the founder of Dollars for Scholars, and in April 2013 retired from Scholarship America the parent organization after 50 years, and recently died in 2016.  Anmol vision of the role of mathematics in all areas of science make him a perfect recipient of this award.

The Somerville Mathematics Fund was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage achievement in mathematics in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts. It May 2011, it was recognized as the outstanding Dollars for Scholars Chapter in New England.  Since it's founding, it has awarded $292,000 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 annual Scrapheap Showdown.  For more  information, to volunteer, or to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact Erica Voolich (617-666-0666 or mathfund@gmail.com) or go to www.somervillemathematicsfund.org.

The link to this page is http://somervillemathematics.blogspot.com/2017/06/outstanding-students-win-somerville.html
©2017 Erica Dakin Voolich

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pizza, then Pi and finally Pies — What More Can You Want on a Well-Rounded Pi Day?

Graphing Circumference vs Diameter of various round objects
Tuesday, March 14 was Pi Day (3.14)  What better excuse is there to have a celebration of math with middle schoolers than π?     Last Friday night, well over 250 students, parents, teachers, and volunteers from the high school, PTA and community, celebrated π  at the Healey School by eating pizza for dinner, then spending an evening estimating, creating, collecting data, answering questions, and ending with pies for everyone.
After feeling a jar lid in the box, making an estimate of it's circumference in mm

After enjoying pizza donated by the Bickoff family of the Commercial Cleaning Service (discounted by White Sport), the students from the Healey School, who were joined by students from, East Somerville, Argenziano, West Somerville and Kennedy Schools went around to a wide variety of math activities set up in the gym.  These activities included: bicycle wheel roll, guessing contest, tooth pick drop (Buffon Needle problem), drawing a circle the size of a CD, mystery boxes, π button design, π facts quiz, birthday in π, circle in square vs square in circle, drawing cardioid or nephroid, drawing concentric circles by folding, drawing circles by tangents, drawing circle by right angles, graphing circumference vs diameter, predicting circumferences in mm by feel of objects in mystery boxes.
Predicting how far the bike wheel will roll in 1.5 revolutions

The event was planned by Wil Jacques (Healey), Jen Rodriguez (Healey), and Erica Voolich (Somerville Mathematics Fund) with help from Scott Weaver (ESCS) and Jonathan Killian (Argenziano).  Table Talk Pies of Worcester generously supplied small pies for all who came that night and large pies for the winners of events.  Table Talk has generously supported this Somerville Math Fund event for fourteen years.

Estimating the number of objects in the jars
When planning the first SMF π Night in 2003, the Math Fund called the Table Talk Pi Company and explained what π day was and Table Talk generously donated large pies for prizes and small pies for everyone.  Fourteen years later, Table Talk Pies is not only still donating to the the Somerville Pi night celebration, but to many more celebrations.   In fact, this year Table Talk donated than 56,832 pies to schools and organizations celebrating pi day — but most likely the pi day celebrations were delayed all over New England thanks to the March Pi Day Nor’easter.

Finding their birth date in Pi
A big thank you to all the volunteers and donors who made this fun, educational evening possible.  It takes a community to celebrate π day!
Making Pi Buttons
The Somerville Mathematics Fund, was founded in 2000 with the mission to celebrate and encourage mathematics achievement in Somerville MA.  In April they will be looking for applications for renewable college mathematics scholarships.  For more information or to make a donation or to volunteer, www.somervillemathematicsfund.org or mathfund@gmail.com or call 617-666-0666.
Drawing a cardioid using only straight lines

The link to this page is http://somervillemathematics.blogspot.com/2017/03/pizza-then-pi-and-finally-pies-what.html
©2017 Erica Dakin Voolich

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Teachers with Great Ideas on How to Teach Children Math in Somerville Win Grants!

Many teachers have great ideas on how to make their classrooms a better place for their students to learn math.  The teachers’ ideas frequently outrun the budget schools have for supplies and their own ability to subsidize their classroom.  The Somerville Mathematics Fund tries to fill this need through the generosity of their donors.  The Apple Tree Fund, CliffordLarsonAllen Foundation, Jay and Jasper, William Kuhlman, Winter Hill Bank, and Rebecca Wood-Spagnoli each sponsored a teacher's grant.  The rest of the grants were funded thanks to the combined generosity of everyone who contributed to the Math Fund’s annual fundraiser.  The following teachers won grants to encourage and support mathematics achievement in the classrooms of Somerville.

These Teacher Grants were funded by the many generous donors who together contributed enough in our annual  fundraiser to support all of them.  There is power in donations of many sizes coming together to support the larger whole.
•Julia Allen, East Somerville Community School Unidos (1st), 1st grade team math night
•Christopher Ames, Kennedy School & West Somerville Neighborhood School (Math Instructional Coach), 2nd-5th Problem Solving Program
•Allie Bahn, Argenziano School (4th), Math Games and Materials
•Charlene Buckley, West Somerville Neighborhood School (4th), Math Closet Materials for 3rd & 4th
•Caroline Martha Burkard, East Somerville Community School  (4th), math games and materials
•Maureen Cronin, Winter Hill Community Innovation School (2nd), Time & Money
•Donna Driscoll, Argenziano School and East Somerville Community School (Math Coach), Math Center Materials
•Michael Fitzpatrick, St. Catherine School, (1st), STEM problems solving activities
•Julie Gallardo, Argenziano School (3rd), Think Tank Measurement & Geometry
•Diana Garity, Argenziano School (4th), TouchMath
•Cathy Hughes, Kennedy School (1st), Reckenreks
•Debra Hurley, Kennedy School (2nd), Bee Bots
•Erin McGovern, Argenziano School  (3rd), Think Tank Number Sense & Mental Math
•Holly McMahon, Winter Hill Community Innovation School (1st),  Math Materials
•Andrea Palmer, Winter Hill Community Innovation School & Healey School (Math Coach K-5), Math Manipulatives
•Hannah de Souza Rodrigues, Argenziano School (3rd), Think Tank Problem Solving
•Roxanne Scrima & Sharon Cuddy, Kennedy School (K), Reckenreks

The Math Fund wants to thank the Apple Tree Fund for generously underwriting the following teacher grants:
•Samantha Song, Kennedy School (1st), Math Manipulatives & Containers
•Barbara Strell, Healey School (K - 2nd Resource Room Teacher), Math Manipulatives
•Emily Voigt, Brown School (1st), Blocks

The Math Fund wants to thank CliffordLarson Allen Foundation for generously underwriting the following teacher grants:
•Erik Roberts, East Somerville Community School (6th-8th Self-contained ELA & Math), Math Centers
•Angela Rodriguez, Argenziano School (1st), Math Centers

The Math Fund wants to thank  Jay and Jasper for generously underwriting the following teacher grants:
•Danielle Shulman, West Somerville Neighborhood School (4th), 3 Chrome Books
•Gina Yarmel, Argenziano School (3rd), 3 Chrome Books

The Math Fund wants to thank each of the following for generously underwriting a teacher grant:

William Kuhlman:
•Leah Jaenicke, Argenziano School (4th Integrated - SEI), Math Games & Materials

Rebecca Wood-Spagnoli:
•Brittany Sullivan, Winter Hill Community Innovation School (5th, SEI), Math Manipulatives

The Winter Hill Bank:
•Julie Jones & Lauren McGlashing, Capuano School (K), Math Take Home Bags

The Somerville Mathematics Fund was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage achievement in mathematics in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts.  Over seventeen years, the Somerville Math Fund has awarded $104,060 in teacher grants in the city of Somerville.

In early April, the fund will be seeking applications from outstanding math and science students who reside in Somerville for college mathematics scholarships.  The Somerville Math Fund scholarships are $1,000/year for up to 4 years for students who lived in Somerville while in high school.  Links to 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 (617-666-0666 or mathfund@gmail.com).