Very Cool story about math. And people who love it.

Kid grows up in Maine, rides horses, plays in band. Goes to college interested in theater. Restores 70’s vintage Japanese Motorcycles. As a freshman, Lisa Piccirillo gets hooked on MATH.

Solves a 50 year old math problem in Days.

Excerpt from the article.

Lisa Piccirillo says one of her priorities is to help grow and broaden the mathematics community. “There certainly are many young women, people of color, non-heterosexual, or non-gender binary people who feel put at an arm’s length by the institution of mathematics,” she says. “It’s really important to me to help mitigate that in any small ways I can.” One important way to do that, she continues, is to help shatter the myth of the math prodigy.

When universities organize math conferences, she says, they should avoid inviting speakers who “give talks where they go really fast and they try to show you how smart they are and how hard their research is. That’s not good for anyone, but it’s especially not good for young people or people who are feeling maybe like they don’t belong here.” What those people in the audience don’t know, she says, is that nobody else really understands it either.

“You don’t have to be really ‘smart’ — whatever that means — to be a successful mathematician,” Piccirillo says. “There’s this idea that mathematicians are geniuses. A lot of them seem to be child prodigies that do these Olympiads. In fact, you don’t have to come from that background at all to be very good at math and most mathematicians, including many of the really great ones, don’t come from that sort of background.”

And as Piccirillo herself proves, some of them even go on to produce work that alters the course of mathematics.

That is so very COOL.

Dave Velzy