Pi Day Thursday and the March Break Math Camp

Today is Pi Day, and as part of the March Break Math Camp that the department is running the students are celebrating this fascinating and mysterious number with activities, investigations and, of course, pie.  Apple pie to be exact.  We’ve even been featured in a Toronto Star article about the day.

The March Break Math Camp, open to students in Grades 4 – 10, has seen 57 students participate in a week of hands-on, interactive activities designed to introduce and excite them about the various fields of mathematics.  From number theory to geometry to building geodesic domes and optimizations.   The camp has also drawn from a partnership with the Canadian Math Kangaroo Competition to provide students with competition based problems and content.  Today they celebrate Pi with discussions of circles and the fascinating number ratio itself.

In addition, the camp will see guest speakers from the Department of Mathematics give talks to students on optimization, Mobius strips, origami and math, the board game Blockus and how Google works.

Grade 9/10 students building Geodesic Domes

Grade 7/8 students built circles from string, meter sticks and math!










So Happy Pi Day to you all from the students at the March Break Math Camp!

Math Mentorship Underway

On January 31st the Department of Mathematics welcomed 18 Grade 11 and 12 students to participate in a Mentorship program with our Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

So far the topics covered have been far ranging and of various interests.  A sampling of topics:

  • Optimal Transport
  • Topics in abstract algebra starting with some basic groups and rings theory building to some notions of geometry (e.g., projective spaces and affine varieties over complex numbers) with the ultimate goal to learn the intuition behind blowing-up and resolution of singularities, and producing graphs or animations of simple resolutions of curve singularities
  • Issues in the foundations of mathematics such as the difference between countable and uncountable sets, and “constructing” most of the basic mathematical objects (the integers, rational numbers, real numbers, complex numbers) starting from just the empty set
  • Number theory starting from the basics of congruences, Little Fermat Theorem, Euler function, Integer points inside polygons and ellipses and some other relatively elementary theorems
  • Calculus of Young tableaux with applications to combinatorics and symmetric polynomials

… and much more.

We are looking forward to seeing their poster presentations in April on the fascinating mathematics they have learned.

Update on the 2012 CUMC

By: Anne Dranovski <a.dranovski@gmail.com>

Last month, five U of T students, myself included, attended the 2012 CUMC at UBC Okanagan campus, in quiet, clement and panoramic Kelowna.We were Reza Asad, Dylan Butson, Anne Dranovski, Mike Hongyoul Park, and Jonathon Zung. (Years 4, 3, 4, 2 and 3, respectively.)

In the three days leading up to the CUMC, three of us participated in an Optimization Workshop organized by UBC Okanagan’s Department ofMathematics and Computer Science — the University is known for its unrivaled graduate programs (MSc and PhD) in Optimization and Convex Analysis (OCANA).

The workshop was a very interesting, concise and fast-paced introduction to major topics in optimization. Namely, monotone operators, derivative free optimization, and variational analysis.

During the CUMC, all five of us gave talks. For most of us this was a first talk. Audience turnout and feedback was extremely positive. Reza Asad’s talk was even attended by Professor Heinz Bauschke of the workshop. The subjects of our talks were as follows.

  • Reza Asad presented the Stiener symmetrization, which is a rearrangement or transformation of a set in the plane that comes in handy whenproving the isoperimetric inequality, as well as other functional inequalities, when applied to functions’ level sets, in mathematical physics and elsewhere.
  • Dylan Butson introduced the stochastic integral, the heart of the stochastic calculus, which extends the Riemann-Stieltjes integral to random processes such as Brownian motion, and has important applications in mathematical finance. To learn more about topics in stochastic calculus and, more generally, in mathematical probability, follow the previous link.
  • Mike Park reviewed Diophantine approximations, constructing examples of numbers which have very good rational approximations and, therefore,could not be algebraic. He also explained how to find good rational approximations using the theory of continued fractions.
  • In a crafty application of the Borsuk-Ulam theorem, (following Alon and West 1986,) Jonathon Zung showed how two topologically inclinedthieves, having stolen a necklace with k different types of jewels, could cut up the necklace so that each receives the same number of jewels of each type.
  • I gave a description of random polarizations, or two-point symmetrizations, on the sphere, which are also useful for proving inequalities in mathematical physics, and admit convergence results which generalize to more complicated rearrangements such as the Stiener symmetrization.

Collected speakers’ abstracts can be viewed here

On our second last day, Dylan Butson and I presented a bid to host next year’s CUMC. We were well-received, but lost honorably to UMontreal.

The CUMC was an incredible learning experience. I only wish more students from U of T were able to share in the week’s worth of non-stop math-musement. The good news is there will be ample opportunity for you to share math in conference-like settings with your peers before CUMC 2013, starting with a Mini Undergraduate Math Seminar (MUMS), to be held early September.

Students will speak about topics of interest in 25 minute long presentations. Please check the wiki for updates, and e-mail me your abstract and/or slides by August 31st if you would like to present.

Department Highlighted in Fields Notes

For it’s involvement in the Mathematics Pavilion at this year’s Science Rendezvous the department received a nod and a two page spread of photos from this year’s event.

The full article can be found here (starting on page 12)

For the past three years the Math department has had an ever growing pavilion at Science Rendezvous.  This near exponential growth has been in good part due to the efforts of the Fields Institute and their generous usage of space and resources.  This year’s event saw over 300 visitors and allowed them to freely tour the Fields Institute and be up close and personal with a wide variety of math activities and personel.

We look forward to next year’s event and the continued growth of this wonderful pavilion.

Math Students Hit One Out of the Park

OUA Championship Trophy with Ryan and Tyler

Tyler Wilson (left) and Ryan Donnelly (right) hold the OUA Championship Trophy after Sunday's game

The Blues baseball team has now been twice honoured in the U of T Bulletin.

The first was a profile of the department’s own graduate student Ryan Donnelly and profiled his skills as a pitcher in a “game shortened, no-hitter” against the Gaels from Queen’s University.*

The second featured both Mr. Donnelly and another of our graduate students Mr. Tyler Wilson as it celebrated the Blues “8-4 victory over the Western Mustangs” to cinche the OUA Championship.**

According to Mr. Donnelly, there seems to be something about the sport of baseball that attracts mathematicians; perhaps it’s the meticulously repetitive nature of the pitching.

Whatever it may be we congratulate Ryan and Tyler and the entire Blues team for their great victory!  Batter up!


*More on Ryan’s story can be read here
**More on the OUA Championship featuring Tyler can be read here (includes a short video of the game)

Spring Reunion 2010

Professor Kumar Murty (Chair of the Math Department) and Event Participants

Professor Kumar Murty (Chair of the Math Department) and event participants introduce themselves and tell a bit about their backgrounds

This past Saturday (May 29th) the University of Toronto held it’s Spring Reunion for Alumni who graduated in a year ending in 0 or 5. The Math Department held it’s own event as part of it entitled “A Celebration of Mathematics”. The turn-out was good and participants were treated to a series of three lectures from three distinct speakers.

Participants heard a brief history of the Department from Professor Kumar Murty, Chair.  They then heard from one of the department’s undergraduate specialist math students and head of the undergraduate math union.  The final talk was a brief taste of Professor Jeremy Quastel’s upcoming International Congress of Mathematics (ICM) talk.

More information on the event, along with more pictures, can be found at: http://www.math.toronto.edu/cms/spring-reunion-201/

Scholarship Winners and Donors Honoured

On March 31st, staff, faculty, alumni and students gathered in Hart House to celebrate recent scholarship winners and donors.  The Mathematics Department was proud to celebrate this event with a number of outstanding scholarship winners from the department as well as Professor George Elliott, an honoured donor.

Mathematics Scholarship Winners, Donor Professor George Elliott, Chair Kumar Murty and Dean Meric Gertler

Mathematics Scholarship Winners, (far right) Professor George Elliott (Donor), (center right) Professor Kumar Murty (Chair of Mathematics Department) and (center left) Professor Meric Gertler (Dean of Arts and Science)