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.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

2nd Annual Game Jam, time to get teams together!

 The Somerville Mathematics Fund presents

our 2nd Virtual Game Jam!

Due to the pandemic, we’ve created a virtual challenge in

lieu of our annual Scrapheap Showdown event.

Compete in teams of three on a different kind of

challenge, one where you design a game that will

be played and judged in part by the other teams.

Winners will receive exciting prizes!

● Create your game October 19th to 29th.

● Play and rate other entries November 1st to 5th.

● Winner announced November 7th

Register individually or as a team by October 13th



Friday, June 18, 2021

Outstanding Students win Somerville Math Fund Scholarships

The Somerville Mathematics Fund is pleased to announce the winners of their renewable mathematics scholarships for 2021.  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 10 scholarships, totaling $60,000 over four years.

            Somerville Math Fund Scholarship Winners:
Top (left to right): Samiyra Afife, Henry Ayanna, Owen Chiu, AJ Feldman, 
Brayden Goldstein-Gelb; 
Bottom (left to right) Nasreen Kaur, Alexandra Marston, Justin Millette, Sophia Sim, and Kevin Wen

Due to COVID-19, we were unable to award the scholarships at an awards night for a second year.  The school notified the students they had won without telling them which scholarship, so they didn’t know the President of the Somerville Math Fund or the donor of their scholarship would be calling each of them to tell them of their award and that a letter was in the mail.

The winners are attending a variety of schools next fall.  Samiyra Afife and Brandon Goldstein-Gelb will attend Brown U; Henry Ayanna, Harvard U; Owen Chiu, Northeastern U; A J Feldman, Colby College; Nasreen Kaur, Boston U; Alexandra Marston, UMass Boston; Justin Millette, Tufts; Sophia Sim, UMass Lowell; and Kevin Wen, MIT.

Their annual scholarships of $1500 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.  

There were four memorial scholarships this year:  Dr. Alice T  Schafer Scholarship, Lt. Catherine M. Landers, S. Ramanujan, and Michael Voolich.

                 Nasreen Kaur, Dr. Alice T Schafer Scholarship winner

One of the scholarships was given in the memory of an outstanding woman mathematician, Dr. Alice T Schafer.  Nasreen Kaur was awarded the Alice T Schafer Memorial Scholarship, she is planning on majoring computer engineering at Boston University.

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 role 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, Nasreen’s majoring in computer science is a wonderful way to honor Dr. Alice Schafer's memory.

                 Samiyra Afife, Lt. Catherine M Landers Scholarship winner

The Lt. Catherine M. Landers Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Samiyra Afife.  Samiyra has in interest in health and human biology.  When Lt. Landers (1920 - 2012) wanted to go to nursing school (graduating in 1942), her grandmother opened a cedar chest were she had been saving dollar bills to help pay for her granddaughter’s education.  Lt Landers won a Bronze Star for her service during WW2, where she ran a field hospital outside Paris; she was about to be shipped to the far East when WW2 ended and so she boarded a transport ship for the USA instead.   Jay Landers and Jasper Lawson donated a scholarship in her memory, honoring her commitment to education. Samiyra's interest in health is a wonderful way to honor Lt. Landers' commitment to education.

                    Kevin Wen, S. Ramanujan Scholarship winner

Our newest named scholarship is in memory of S. Ramanujan, it is a gift from the Jha Family and is awarded to Kevin Wen who is planning on attending MIT.  Kevin wants a career in therapeutics where he can create drugs and medical therapies to help people.  Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887 - 1920) was a mostly self-taught brilliant Indian mathematician who sadly died young.  He discovered his love of mathematics while in high school when he found a book that listed 4000 mathematical theorems without information on they were discovered or developed. So he continued his math work, often on a slate, only recording his concluding theorem on paper when finished, without the details of how he came to the conclusion.  With his humble beginnings and no formal mathematical training, the story of his life and how he finally connected with the well-known mathematicians of his day is detailed the book and movie, The Man Who Knew Infinity. That book inspired the Jha family who gave your scholarship in his honor. Ramanujan’s notebooks and papers have included both previously discovered and new mathematical theorems many in number theory.  These notebooks have continued to provide mathematicians with material to study and try to figure out how Ramanujan discovered these theorems and to see if they were provable.  Kevin did original research on impact of plastic pollution. His original work is a way to honor S. Ramanujan  

            Henry Ayanna, who is appropriately attired for someone with 
            a love of music, Michael Voolich scholarship winner

The Michael Voolich Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Henry Ayanna who is interested in both science and music at Harvard U.  Michael Voolich (1943 - 2019) was a person who was interested in how everything worked, if Renaissance man was a job offering, Michael would have applied. He learned by asking questions and then he loved telling everyone what he had learned and how seemingly disparate things were related.  He had a career than included teaching many different subjects in local schools, none of which was math. But, he married a math teacher.  So, when the Somerville Math Fund was being discussed and organized in his living room, of course he joined the founding board.  

He liked to do things for people and of course for the math fund.  His telephone calls and trips to Table Talk Pie Company each year for city-wide Pi Night celebration were a highlight each year. He especially loved helping find things for others to donate for the Scrapheap Showdown each year and his marvelous multiple clamps will still be a necessary part of future Scrapheap challenges to come.  

Michael loved to be able to give and help others in the local community along with his extended family here and abroad. This scholarship was funded by the many people who donated in his memory to the Somerville Math Fund.  Henry’s taking the high level science classes while also performing his violin at an award winning level would clearly lead to many interesting discussions if Michael were still alive — he would want to know all about how they are related and work.

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 in 2000, it has awarded $505,000 in four-year mathematics scholarships to ninety-nine outstanding Somerville students.  

The link for this post is https://somervillemathematics.blogspot.com/2021/06/outstanding-students-win-somerville.html


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Have a Great Idea on How to Teach Math? These Teachers Do!

by Erica Voolich

     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.  

    This year has been an unusual year.  The Somerville Public School buildings have been closed since last March.  Teachers who won Somerville Math Fund grants last year were just receiving or ordering their materials when everything changed because of the pandemic.  We allowed the teachers to adjust their orders from classroom materials to materials for home remote learning.  We still don’t have an actual date for the Somerville students and teachers to be physically back in their classrooms.  It was hard year for teachers to plan, as a result we had a large drop off of applications.  

    This year we have five teacher winners, four have hopes of returning to the actual classroom sometime in the near future.  Each teacher’s grant has a generous sponsor who is making their teacher’s work easier.  Our congratulations to each of the winners and our thanks to each of the sponsors for their generous support:

• Kelly Dickson, Winter Hill Community Innovation School (6th - 8th, Autism Teacher), Math Games & Manipulatives, sponsored by Winter Hill Bank

• Meredith Rothstein, Winter Hill Community Innovation School (5th - 8th, Autism Teacher), Manipulatives to develop Basic Skills sponsored by Lali and Jay Haines.

• Roxane Scrima, John F Kennedy School, (K), Math Manipulatives for home packets for each family, sponsored by East Cambridge Savings Bank.

• Amanda Singleton, Winter Hill Community Innovation School (4th-5th, Autism Teacher), Individualized learning math manipulatives, sponsored by Tufts University.

• Meaghan Tubridy, Albert Argenziano School, (3rd - 4th, Special Education), Individualized packets math materials for home and school sponsored by William Kuhlman.

    The Somerville Mathematics Fund was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage achievement in mathematics in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts.  Over twenty-one years, the Somerville Math Fund has awarded $133,418 in teacher grants supporting three hundred forty teachers’ projects in the city of Somerville along with emergency grants to East Somerville teachers after the devastating school fire.

    In early April, the fund will be seeking applications from students who reside in Somerville for college mathematics scholarships.  Over twenty-one years, the Somerville Math Fund has awarded a total of $445,000 in four-year mathematics scholarships to ninety-nine students.  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).

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Scrapheap Move Over, here comes Game Jam!

 by Erica Dakin Voolich

Previous years in October I’d be telling you about teams each of three students arriving at the gym at Tufts University for an engineering challenge on a Sunday afternoon.  Well, guess what happened with Scrapheap in the pandemic?  No such event was possible.  But, the Somerville Math Fund’s Board would not be deterred, they decided they would hold a Game Jam instead in December, with students each working in teams of three each from their own home.

Seven teams signed up for the Somerville Math Fund Game Jam.  They got “their marching orders” in a zoom meeting on Tuesday night and then on Wednesday afternoon picked up their supplies in a pizza box at the high school.  

Students had from Tuesday night at 6:30 PM until Sunday at 6:30 PM to work on and upload their games.  They needed to design a board or card game that could be played by 3 or more players, assuming each the players could possibly at different locations.  The theme of the game was Space — any interpretation of that theme was OK.  All the teams of three were creating at home, not together in person — not like the pre-COVID days of Scrapheap Showdown, with a large pile of junk, our scrapheap in the middle of a Tufts U gym floor.  Each player was given a pizza box full of papers with different board designs, rules, many different sided dice, playing cards and some random unrelated items that they needed to figure out how to use at least one of them in the game.  These were used in interesting ways.  In one game the stress ball became the sun on the game board of the planets, in another there was an animal building challenge with another random object as the board game progressed. 

The Board was impressed by the creativity of the games the students came up with.  Lots of detail and thought went in to the rules and design.  Creative choice of how to use the required theme of “space.” Some planetary or astroid travel or building for survival or defense, some different non-Euclidean geometric spaces, even some aliens to escape.  Some games were for younger students some assumed high school math.

After the games were submitted and uploaded to the Somerville Math Fund Classroom, the Board members needed to play the games and the teams of contestants were each given two games to play and evaluate with the same rubric the Board was using.  The rubric was on a scale of 16 (up to 4 points in each of 4 categories) and each game was judged by students as well as Board members and the final score was the average of the students’ scores with the average of the Board members’ scores.

The first place team was “No Name Given” (Marie Lessard-Brandt, Isra Khan, Rio Hunter Black) with their game “Belt Hop,” 13.2 points.  The second place team was “Senioritis” (Justin Millette, Henry Ayanna, Owen Chiu) with their game “Cosmic Civilization,” 13 points.

The third place team was “Buddies” ( Brayden Goldstein-Gelb, AJ Feldman, Kevin Wen), with their game “Hold Your Horses,” 12.3 points.  The fourth place team was “We Don’t Know” (Nikhilesh Rattan, Samuel Diener, Chakshu Patel), with their game of  “The Final Space Race,” 11.8 points.

The teams chose their prizes in the order they finished.  The prizes donated were three passes donated by the New England Aquarium good through 2021, three $100 Target gift card, three $25 Apple gift cards and three $25  Amazon gift cards.

Designers and refiners of the challenge were members of the Somerville Math Fund Board: Sanford Bogage, Chase Duclos-Orsello, Adam Foster, Monica Fernandes, Richard Graf, Jay Landers, Kelly O’Connell, Erica Voolich, Susan Weiss with design suggestions and distribution help from Patricia Murphy-Sheehy at Somerville High, Head of Math Department.  The math teachers at Somerville High School, recruited student teams.  

Thanks to our sponsors, this activity was both a fund raiser for scholarships, provided prizes for the students and allowed the students to participate without paying any registration fee.  Our wonderful sponsors were Commercial Cleaning Co/Bickoff Family, Jasper J. Lawson, PhD. and Associates, Midé Technology Corporation, Tufts University, Winter Hill Bank, and two anonymous donors.

The Somerville Mathematics Fund was chartered in 2000 to celebrate and encourage mathematics achievement in Somerville.  On January 7th, we will be looking for teacher grant applications; and in April, we 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.