Math Keynotes and Talks

I love turning audiences on to the fun side of mathematics and making them laugh as well as learning real mathematics. You’ll see a variety below. They are accessible to a wide range of audiences (young and old, mathematically fluent and mathematically not fluent, etc.)  I always tailor my content to its audience, and will work with you to make sure the level is perfect for your group!

The Mathematics of Comedy or the Comedy of Mathematics (I’m not sure which)

In this workshop, we explain some mathematical concepts using comedy.  And we’ll explain some comedy concepts using mathematics, and we’ll discover that it’s all part of the same soup! This will be a highly interactive workshop – you won’t be seated the entire time.  This works very nicely as a keynote for a general audience.

Extreme Mathematics

The world’s shortest math paper! The world’s largest number! (Yes, I know what I just said) The world’s silliest theorem! This is a fun talk where I present just enough mathematics to understand all of these three things – and there is a surprising punchline at the end! This is another keynote, but aimed at an audience that is coming in with an interest in mathematics for its own sake.

A Non-Imaginary Approach to Complex Numbers

Math teachers introduce complex numbers to students this way: Take the real numbers, throw in the ridiculous square root of negative one, then duck. And students hate it.  In this talk, we’ll derive complex numbers in an intuitive way that doesn’t involve taking the square root of anything. This is a fun presentation that will involve people being punched repeatedly in the face, a picture of the Enterprise, and a surprisingly relevant quote from Taylor Swift. The ideal audience will have some interest in mathematics, with bonus points if they know about complex numbers and are angered by them.

The 3n+1 Problem: A Beautiful Unsolved Problem in Fifth Grade Arithmetic

The Collatz conjecture, (the 3n+1 problem) has been attacked by some of the greatest mathematical minds of two centuries and has resisted all attempts to solve it.  Wonderfully, this intriguing problem is accessible to any curious person who knows how to multiply by three and to divide by two. This talk will involve a little bit of lecturing, some exploration time, and then a presentation of some surprising results.  This talk is aimed at people who think numbers are beautiful.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma: A Game Theory Paradox

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is an easily stated problem with real world implications that is pretty easy to solve, but nobody likes the solution, and so mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers have studied the problem for decades, trying to get a different answer.  I present the dilemma (and related dilemmas) in the form of two player games resembling rock-paper-scissors that the audience will play and then analyze together. They will be spending a lot of time going “one two three SHOOT” trying to win as many waffles as possible. From war with Korea to hockey helmets, to over-fishing lakes to using deodorant, understanding this problem will affect the way the audience sees many aspects of the world.

High School English: Who is Bennett Cerf and What Does He Know About Anything?

Okay – this isn’t a math talk, but if I’m visiting your school anyway, let me visit with your English classes. High school students often find themselves disliking books that other people tell them are Good, and concluding that if they don’t like capital-G Good books, then they don’t like books at all.  In this irreverent, highly personal talk, we talk about some classic books that I like, more that I hate, and how the literary establishment has reacted to a simple website. I will, of course, bring the students into the discussion, giving them the freedom and joy to skewer their own sacred cows. If you provide me with a list of books that they’ve read in their class, I’ll make sure to incorporate them into the presentation.