Mathematics & Statistics Seminars
Northern Arizona University


The “Friday Afternoon Mathematics Undergraduate Seminar” (FAMUS) is a weekly event consisting of announcements, talks, and faculty interviews. FAMUS takes place most Fridays at 3:00-4:00pm in Room 164 of the Adel Mathematics Building. Typically the first half of FAMUS consists of a talk on a mathematical topic while an interview of a faculty member takes place in the second half. FAMUS is hosted by Jeff Rushall.

Come join us for some entertaining talks! Refreshments always served.

Schedule Fall 2019

Note that talks are listed in reverse chronological order.

A History of Pi

Date: Friday, December 6

Speaker: Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: I’ll explain how pi has been computed, estimated, and expressed through the centuries. It will be insanely entertaining. I normally like to give talks on pi on “Pi Day” (March 14th) (3-14)(get it?). But Pi Day falls on spring break these days. So we will pretend it is Pi Day and eat pie! Everyone is welcome to bring some pie. I will bring a pie. I’m told that NAU Math Club representatives will attend and bring pie.

The faculty guest will be Tyler Brock. Tyler will also bring a pie. [PDF of Flyer]

Should you consider grad school in math, statistics or math education?

Date: Friday, November 22

Speaker: Angie Hodge (NAU)

Abstract: During the talk, information will be provided about grad school, including who should consider it, and why, and how, etc. Several current grad students will provide first hand testimonials about life as a grad student. The talk will be followed by FREE PIZZA and and grad school comments. [PDF of Flyer]

Mrs. Perkins’ Quilts

Date: Friday, November 15

Speaker: Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: Quilters often make quilts with different sizes of squares. A “perfect squared square” is a square quilt made by stitching together a bunch of different sized squares, with all squares having whole number side lengths. Do they even exist? How are they found? And who is Mrs. Perkins? Come to FAMUS - all of this will be explained, and more. [PDF of Flyer]

In lieu of a faculty interview, we will do three things:

  1. Become members of AATM! I have an agreement with the President of the AATM (Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics) that anyone who comes to FAMUS on Friday and fills out a membership form gets a FREE membership! This gives you free copies of their publications, free registration to their meetings/conferences, and more.
  2. Work on the “Menger Sponge.” The NAU Math Club is still completing their huge Menger sponge. We’ll put some time into it on Friday.
  3. Eat some snacks.

Factoring (and other such activities that children often meet with disdain)

Date: Friday, November 1

Speaker: Tyler Brock (NAU)

Abstract: It is no secret that plenty of folks don’t enjoy factoring polynomials. Can teachers make the topic of factoring more accessible and interesting for their students? Are there other methods of factoring that we are not making use of that could help youngsters enjoy the process a bit more? And, let us not forget the question: Why do we care? All of these will be answered, and more! [PDF of Flyer]

What’s it Like?

Date: Friday, October 25

Speaker: Brian Beaudrie (NAU)

Abstract: During the summer of 2019, the presenter did something he hasn’t done in 20 years…took a college class. And it wasn’t a math class. And it was offered in Verona, Italy. Come to find out ‘what it’s like’ to be a college student in a foreign country.

The faculty guest is Nellie Gopaul. [PDF of Flyer]

A Cool Card Trick

Date: Friday, October 18

Speaker: Alessandra Graf (University of Waterloo in Canada)

Abstract: Suppose you shuffle a standard deck of 52 cards and deal them into 13 equal sized piles. Is it possible to pick a single card from each pile in such a way that each card has a different rank? Will it always be possible? In this talk, we will discuss how graph theory and the famous Hall’s Theorem can be used to answer such questions. [PDF of Flyer]

The Congruent Number Problem

Date: Friday, October 11

Speakers: Jonathan Wheeler, Alyssa Stenberg, and Jonathan Hillman (NAU)

Abstract: The speakers are Jonathan Wheeler, Alyssa Stenberg, and Jonathan Hillman. They all spent summer 2019 at REUs. They will each give a short-ish presentation on the what, when, where, how and why of their respective REUs. Afterwards we will have an open Q&A and then call it a day. [PDF of Flyer]

The Congruent Number Problem

Date: Friday, October 4

Speakers: Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: A congruent number is a whole number that is the area of a right triangle whose side lengths are all rational numbers. Finding all such natural numbers is known as the “congruent number problem,” which dates back to antiquity. I’ll present a short history of the problem, show contributions made by Fibonacci, Fermat and others, and even mention their connection to elliptic curves.

The faculty guest is Robert Buscaglia. [PDF of Flyer]

The Problem of the Calissons

Date: Friday, September 27

Speakers: Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: A calisson is a delightful French candy/cookie, often shaped as a rhombus. Over a century ago, French bakers discovered a curious fact about hexagonal arrangements of calissons, namely this: when filling the hexagon, there are equal numbers of all three rhombus orientations (see the attached flyer for a visual example). But mathematicians didn’t come around to investigate the problem until the late 1980s. In this talk, I’ll discuss the problem, show a couple of solutions, and possibly even serve some calissons. [PDF of Flyer]

Proving a Claim: Mathematicians who were too persuasive

Date: Friday, September 20

Speakers: Zachary Parker (NAU)

Abstract: In this talk, Zachary will present some well-known (and a few not-so-well-known) examples of mistakes made by some well-known (and a few not-so-well-known) mathematicians.

The faculty guest is Mike Falk. [PDF of Flyer]

The Circulant Hadamard Matrix Conjecture

Date: Friday, September 13

Speakers: Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: A Hadamard matrix is an $n\times n$ matrix $M$ with $1$’s or $-1$’s for entries that satisfies a specific matrix equation, namely $MM^T = nI_n$. Equivalently, $M$ has a biggest possible determinant value. In this talk I will present/explain all of this is a much different, down-to-earth way (you won’t need to know anything about matrix equations or matrix determinants), and I’ll discuss recent developments concerning a very famous conjecture about a specific type of Hadamard matrix.

The faculty guest is Jim Swift. [PDF of Flyer]

What did I do this summer?

Date: Friday, September 6

Speaker: Jeff Rushall (NAU)

Abstract: During the summer of 2019, I did some interesting things. I took some trips, did some math, did some GRADING, etc. I’ll show pictures and explain how I filled my summer, focusing occasionally on mathematics. [PDF of Flyer]

After my talk, there will be a parade of important people who talk about important things. They include: