Lecture-Special GW Association for Women in Mathematics Lecture (with a panel discussion to follow)
Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Place: Funger Hall 108
Speaker: Hakim Walker, Harvard University
Title: Cinco de Maya: A Crash Course in Mayan Mathematics
Abstract: May fifth is commonly known as Cinco de Mayo, a date in Mexican history that commemorates their victory over the French empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. To honor the upcoming occasion, we’ll be discussing the mathematical system of one of Mexico’s oldest civilizations, the Maya, who lived in southern Mexico and central America as early as 4,600 years ago.
In this crash course, we will introduce the Maya numeral system, which is simple enough to only use three symbols, yet powerful enough to represent large numbers easily and efficiently. We’ll observe how to perform basic arithmetic operations in their system (such as addition and multiplication), as well as how to extend their system to capture mathematical ideas that the Maya probably never used (such as rational and real numbers). We’ll also broaden our scope and take a brief tour of numeral systems throughout history and around the world, looking at their motivations, benefits, and disadvantages. By studying these numeral systems comparatively, we can improve our understanding of our own system of numbers, appreciate what makes the Maya system unique and useful to this day, and gain a deeper understanding of civilizations and cultures, past and present. Also, if time permits (which it probably won't), we will see what makes the number 252 special.
This talk is intended for people of all mathematical backgrounds.
Short bio: Hakim J. Walker is a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics at Harvard University. He earned his PhD in Math from George Washington University in 2017, where he studied Logic under Professor Valentina Harizanov. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant at GW, Hakim received a department teaching award in 2016, as well as the Philip J. Amsterdam university teaching award in 2017. He currently coordinates and teaches introductory math courses at Harvard, and helps to train and supervise new undergraduate and graduate math teachers. Hakim is also an academic and residential advisor for freshman students, and supports underprepared students in STEM through the Emerging Scholars Program.