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News from the Mathematics Department

Upcoming Visit for Mathematics Professor Ed Burger, Cherry Award Finalist

Oct. 18, 2009

Dr. Edward B. Burger, Professor of Mathematics and Gaudino Scholar at Williams College, has been named a finalist for the prestigious Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching at Baylor University. Dr. Burger will visit Baylor University from October 25-28, 2009.

Professor Burger has taught mathematics at Williams College since 1990. Since that time, he has been honored with numerous teaching awards, including the 2007 Award of Excellence from Technology & Learning magazine, the 2006 Reader's Digest "100 Best of America" as Best Math Teacher, and the 2006 Lester R. Ford Award, the 2004 Chauvenet Prize and the 2001 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College Teaching of Mathematics, all from the Mathematical Association of America.

He is the author or co-author of more than 30 research articles and 21 books and CD-ROM texts, including The Heart of Mathematics: An Invitation to Effective Thinking; Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz: Making Light of Weighty Ideas; and Extending the Frontiers of Mathematics: Inquiries into Proof and Argumentation. He also is an associate editor for The American Mathematical Monthly and a member-elect of the editorial board for Math Horizons.

Burger also has written and appeared in number of educational videos, including the 24-lecture video series, "Zero to Infinity: A History of Numbers" and "An Introduction to Number Theory." From 2005-2007, he served as a mathematics adviser for the "NUMB3RS in the Classroom Project," with CBS-TV/Paramount Studios/Texas Instruments.

His research interests include algebraic number theory, Diophantine analysis, geometry of numbers, and the theory of continued fractions. He teaches abstract algebra, the art of creating mathematics and Diophantine analysis.

Burger earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics summa cum laude with distinction from Connecticut College in 1985. He received his doctorate in 1990 from the University of Texas at Austin. He has taught or been a visiting scholar at the University of Texas at Austin, Westminster College, James Madison University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the Macquarie University in Australia.

The titles, times, places, and abstracts for his three presentations at Baylor are:

The Art of Exploring Invisible Worlds: Thinking through the Fourth Dimension
(Public Lecture; Monday, October 26, 3:30-4:30pm; D109 Baylor Sciences Building)

Do we truly exist in a "3-dimensional" world? Could there be an extra, fourth dimension? If so, then are we just living on a "thin" slice of space? How can we wrap our minds around worlds that we cannot see? Here we face these questions, attempt some daring feats of dimension, and delve into a vast, mysterious, and invisible universe. Along the way, we'll discover how embracing life lessons from mathematical thinking allows us to see our familiar world--and even the world of art--in an entirely new way.

If you hate mathematics, this talk is for you; if the sight of an equation makes you queasy, this talk is for you; if you never thought you'd ever attend a math lecture, this presentation is for you! Math-fans and math-phobes alike are encouraged to join the fun.


The Texas Cake Cutting Massacre: Can Conflicts be Resolved by Making Piece?
(Classroom Lecture #1; Monday, October 26, 9:05-9:55 am; SR 344)

Can birthday cakes lead to "B" horror films or world peace? Are strong negotiating skills required to share a pie or is it best to avoid all communication? How about a Bundt cake? How about the Middle East? Here we will consider these questions and others and, as the icing on the cake, we'll answer some.

No particular mathematical or negotiation skills are required. This talk is open to everyone.


Transcendental Meditation Near "Small" Fractions
(Classroom Lecture #2; Tuesday, October 27, 9:30-10:45 am; SR 344)

What does it mean for a number to be "transcendental"? What does it mean for a fraction to be "small"? How do these two seemingly unrelated phrases come together in one talk title? Here we will answer these questions by starting at the very beginning of what is known as transcendental number theory and discovering some incredibly beautiful results (Spoiler Alert: The speaker's favorite theorem from mathematics will be revealed!).

The audience need only be familiar with basic calculus, although it would also be helpful if attendees have heard of the word "polynomial."