Math department wraps up semester with X-Position

By Kevinisha Walker

kevinishaonthetorch@gmail.com

Math riddles, lectures and quantitative analysis took over last week’s Math X-Position, an event where Roosevelt University students and faculty joined forces to celebrate math concepts and student analyses.

The event started off with a riddle: “A farmer wants to cross a river and bring his cat, mouse and cheese. He can only carry two at a time, but the cat wants to eat the mouse, and the mouse wants the cheese. How can he get everyone across the river?”

While congregated on the Wabash Building’s fourth floor, several students yelled out answers, which proved to be unsuccessful.

Moving on from the unsolved riddle, X-position attendees listened to DePaul University’s Dr. Marshall Ash lecture about factorial n!

In mathematics, factorial n! is the product of all positive integers less than or equal to n.

Because factorial n! has an exclamation point, some faculty members expressed their excitement with the math concept.

“Who would’ve guessed that math had exclamation points?,” said Melanie Pivarsky, assistant professor of mathematics.

Ash explained several math problems involving factorial n!, which some might argue looks extremely difficult.

Even some students said they were puzzled by the professor’s lecture.

“I was confused by the lecture, but I’m also not majoring in calculus,” said Roosevelt junior, Taylin Humphrey.

But Ash said solving for factorial n! might look daunting, but it’s really not that hard.

“I could seriously ask seventh graders to do this,” Ash said, “It’s not calculus. It’s just whole numbers.”

He went on to say that anyone who has learned sin and cosine can learn how to work a factorial n! problem.

For students who didn’t learn trigonometric functions, Ash said, “You’ll have to trust me a lot.”

Ash proved factorial n! in one hour, although it normally takes three hours to prove. While he broke the problem down on the black board, the actual problem was written out on 13 pages.

After learning about factorial n!, the X-Position audience listened to Roosevelt undergraduate Theresa Hill lecture about continued fractions.

“Continued fractions occur when a₁ and b₁ are either rational, real or complex numbers,” Hill said.

She then went on to talk about the Euclidean Algorithm and its connection to continued fractions.

Another Roosevelt undergraduate, Elias Friedman, lectured about information involving coding and scientific concepts including entropy.

“Entropy is what we don’t know because there’s way too much of it to keep track of,” he said.

Alternatively, Friedman said, “Information is the information that we do know.”

He later said that this information is useful in coding, specifically Morse code.

The X-position also featured student posters surrounding a Wabash Building classroom.

Students from quantitative literacy courses created the posters, which included data and information about education, immigration, homicide, obesity and voting, to name a few. After a day of solving for factorial n! and showcasing students’ quantitative analyses, the math x-position wrapped up the semester with success.

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