Mathematical Summer

We all know that this summer was unlike any we had seen before, but at BAMM we found new ways to keep sharing our live for math.

We took our first steps in the virtual world with COSI. BAMM had loved participating in the very first COSI SciFest on 2019, and we were already planning great things for the second edition, so it seemed only natural to try virtualizing at least some of our activities. We ran a short activity consisting on a snail race game and talked about dice and probability. The greatest thing about virtuality, I find, is that it is really easy to record your event and keep it for posterity. So if you missed this our COSI Science Festival event, you can watch it here (as many times as you want!).

That was back in May and we were ready for bigger things. A virtual summer camp? Why not! In 2018, a group of people at the Department of Mathematics had started the summer camp for high school girls that gave birth to BAMM. We couldn’t simply cancel that. Students had been applying since December, we just couldn’t leave them without their dose of summer math fun.

So we ran the summer camp, with no budget since the university was on financial cut, and even made it grow. We opened the camp to include boys and had a high school and a middle school edition.

Because we received way more applications than we could possibly accept, but we didn’t want to leave anyone out, we created a third edition of the camp, opened to anyone interested, including teachers and adults in general. What’s more, all the camp content will remain freely available online for a whole year, so you never go short on math fun. Join here, try the activities at your own pace and earn a badge for each challenge you complete!

Some awesome numbers:

  • 518 applications received
  • 85 high school students and 77 middle schoolers accepted
  • 192 auto-enrolled students for the open version
  • 22 different activities plus 18 project options
  • More than 2000 assignment submissions
  • Thousands of posts on the online platform
  • More than 1500 badges granted
  • 90 certificates of completion issued
  • About 15 hours in Zoom calls
  • 5 organizers/instructors

And 14 amazing volunteers without whom we would have never been able to reach those numbers and so we are forever thankful to them: professors Veronica Ciocanel and Cosmin Roman, undergraduate and graduate students Shreeya Behera, Kacey Clark, Robert Dixon, Nick Geis, KT Goldstein, Torey Hilbert, Peter Huston, Hannah Johnson, Michael Lane, Angela Li, Niko Schonsheck, and Vicki Simmerman.

Our deepest gratitude goes to Tom Evans as well, Manager of Open Learning at ODEE, our Canvas guru, for setting up the online platform for the camp.

Working on that project was a very enriching experience in many ways, and we hope students enjoyed it as much as we at BAMM did.

Our last summer activity was a workshop for teachers, in the context of an Interdisciplinary Professional Development Series, joint work with several OSU units: the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center, the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, the Museum of Biological Diversity, the Arne Slettebak Planetarium, Generation Rx (College of Pharmacy), and BAMM. In the math session, 40 teachers learned an awesome guess-the-number magic trick based on binary numbers and got ideas for how to use it in the classroom.

We are almost like fish in the water in the virtual world now and have great things in store for the Fall. Keep an eye on our calendar to learn about the upcoming events.

Classroom Visits Spring 2020

During the Spring 2020 semester, we continued with our BAMM @ Your School program. We were able to visit three elementary schools in February and March. We had more visits scheduled, but unfortunately, at the moment it seems unlikely that those visits will happen. We are following the appropriate social distancing recommendations to contribute to keep our community healthy.

We visited a 1st grade class at Deer Run Elementary and a 2nd grade class at Wyandot Elementary. On those workshops, students explored polyominoes. They each had a bunch of square tiles, and we started by asking them to take two tiles and put them together so that they share a full side. This was such an easy task that they looked at us intrigued, wondering if that was really all we were asking. Then we asked them to take two more tiles and try to come up with a different way of arranging the tiles, but again so they shared a side. This seemed a more interesting task, but it didn’t take them long to come up with the two different dominoes: vertical and horizontal. They were also able to conclude that a third one cannot be found.

The next task was to repeat the process with 3 tiles and then with 4 too. Some started competing with each other to see who could find more tetrominoes. Some were eager to go to the next step and asked “Can I try with 5 tiles now?”. We gave them a grid paper mat where they drew their findings. The last task was to make rectangles with pentominoes. They could use any they want, but if you’ve ever played tetris, you probably now this task is not as easy as it sounds.

At Glacier Ridge Elementary, we visited a 4th grade classroom and had them play games on graphs. We first talked a little about this other type of graph most of them were not familiar with and explained what a graph coloring is: one where connected vertices are of different colors. Then students chose a partner to play against and were given a board with a graph and some colored chips. To start, the players choose a set of colors to play with. One of the players is the “Maker”, trying to achieve a valid coloring, while the other player is the “Breaker” who is trying to rStudents playing games on graphs.uin the coloring. However, the Breaker has to respect the coloring rule too, that is, they cannot put a color on a vertex if one of its neighbors already has that color. The players take turns placing a chip on an empty vertex each time.

Students played on different graphs and with different numbers of colors and came up with some winning strategies, sometimes for the Maker and sometimes for the Breaker.

BAMM @ Your School is free and its only subject to time availability. Find more information about the program here. Volunteers are very much welcomed and appreciated. Find out about the upcoming volunteering opportunities, in this and our other programs, and register here.

BAMM @ the Museum

This Spring we also finally started a couple of partnerships we were looking at since last year. The program is called BAMM @ the Museum and it is a great way for us to extend our programming to other cities in Ohio. Museums are great hubs for interactive learning and they often offer workshops and other programming beyond their permanent exhibits.

In February and March, we visited for the first time two of our state’s great museums: AHA! A Hands-On Adventure, A Children’s Museum, in Lancaster, and The Works, Ohio Center for History, Art and Technology, in Newark.

AHA! is a very special museum for toddlers. There we set a station for three hours, during which a few toddlers stopped to play and experiment with materials such building tiles, rep-tiles puzzles, and Frogs and Toads. One 6-year old girl was very commited in trying all our activities and upon solving a puzzle looked at us like asking “What’s next?”

Symmetric shape built by a toddler at The Works MuseumWe crashed The Works on a slow rainy day but enjoyed hosting their Curious Kids program. Curious Kids is a weekly workshop for 2- to 6-year olds that lasts 30 minutes. Bart Snapp led a workshop on tilings and symmetries. The tables were fulled with wood tiles with different equilateral shapes and kids were asked to put them together creating patterns. He showed some examples with different types of symmetries and the little ones, with some help from their parents, were able to come up with examples of their own.

We promised to come back for Curious Kids every month. We will also join another one of their programs: Girls Night In, for teenage girls and their mothers.

We hope to find other museums in cities around Columbus, so that we can extend our math programming to all Ohio.


The Department of African American and African Studies has a Community Extension Center (CEC) located on the Near Eastside of Columbus. The CEC strives to provide academic and community education opportunities for its Near Eastside neighbors and the greater Central Ohio community. We were lucky to have come in contact with the AAAS Departament and are now joining their efforts offering math programming at the CEC.

On three consecutive Fridays in February and March, we offered a Mathmagic workshop there. Every session we taught one or two different magic tricks, so people who wanted to come to all would not be seeing repeated content. The workshop was addressed to middle school students, but some parents and other accompanying adults joined to. We were really happy to see adults and children alike very engaged in discovering the math behind the magic tricks.

That is not all, because we will be offering a math exhibit every month on the second Saturday. On those days, which we have called Math Day, from 12:30 to 3 pm everybody is welcomed to stop at the CEC and explore the beauty and richness of mathematics through numerous games, puzzles and crafts.

We also plan to keep on bringing more workshops for the K-12 students in the community, as well as other math programming.

STEAM Exchange

We were happy to yeSpeaker showing a triangular bubble inside a tetrahedronal frame.t again join one of the fantastic events hosted by the STEAM Factory. STEAM Exchange is a monthly themed interdisciplinary seminars. Every month, three faculty or staff from different disciplines are asked to present on how a particular topic relates to their individual disciplines and body of work. On February, the topic was bubbles.

Attendees heard about food insecurity and food deserts (or bubbles) from Dr. Mike Hogan, Associate Professor at the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Then Dr. Caitlin McGurk, from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, showed speech bubbles on some fabulous cartoons at the current exhibit Ladies First: A Century of Women’s Innovations in Comics and Cartoon Art.

Of course, a gathering about bubbles would not be complete without blowing some soap bubbles. So BAMM closed the evening talking about the Steiner or Motorway Problem and minimal surfaces, showing the fantastic forms soap film takes when adhering to different frames. We pointed out how the field of Minimal Surfaces was born from Plateu’s interest in studying soap film.

As it is always the case at STEAM Factory’s events, we had a lovely evening sharing the mathematical views on the topic and contrasting them with view’s in other fields.

J-term at Metro Middle School

During the first two weeks of school this year, BAMM had the opportunity of participating on the January term at Metro Early College Middle School. The Metro Early College Schools were born out of a partnership between OSU and Battelle to create a STEM school. At Metro Middle School, J term is time that allows for both extension and remediation, all personalized to the needs of each student. Students who master a subject have an opportunity to take an extension class in J-term. We were invited to teach one of these elective extension class for advanced math students.

We chose a different topic for each week and taught a daily period of 1.5 hours. The first week we talked about tesselations. Students started exploring tesselations with regular shapes, first using a single shapes and then mixing them. They also studied tesselations with nonregular triangles and quadrilaterals. We challenged them to find pentagons that could tesselate and were surprised to see them come up with a couple of families of them.

The second week was about Mathmagic, something the students were really looking forward to. Each day, we performed one or two tricks in front of them and then challenged them to unveil the tricks. At first they would always say that the trick was obvious and really easy, but upon trying to perform it themselves, they would realize that it was not as simple as they first thought. However, sometimes with a hint, most of them were eventually able to uncover it.

Through these engaging magic tricks, students practiced or learned mathematics ranging from multiplication tables to topology, passing through algebra and number systems. We very much enjoyed the experience and were amazed at these students ability with math. I wouldn’t be surprised that some of them ended up going for a career in math.

The Gift of Math

BAMM participated in Columbus Science Pub. The Columbus Science Pub presents a new talk every month. Speakers are invited based on requests from the audience, science topics in the news, and recommendations from the Columbus community. By connecting the Columbus community with expert speakers from across the fields of scientific study who use science in their daily lives, we grow science literacy.

In “The gift of math”, Monica Delgado, the Associate Director of Outreach at the Department, talked about the beauty of math. Every Science Pub is unique but math talks are always special. Monica had a table full of gadgets that we were all wondering how she was going to use. She discussed three topics that she learned about when she became a math student and that she still finds amazing and mind blowing. The first topic was the infinity, where Monica showed us infinity is not only really big numbers but very little numbers as well. By the second topic, soap bubbles, we knew what all the stuff on the table was for! When she asked us to suggest a possible shortest path to connect three cities, a young girl from the audience gave a good solution: connect two of the cities with a straight line and then connect the third one with a second line perpendicular to the first one. People are good at solving these problems but bubbles are better. Monica showed how bubbles can also plan the best path for a road trip across the USA. The third topic, Mobius bands, was an audience favorite. Everyone got to make their own bands, identifying their sides and cutting them to figure out the number of edges.

Monica closed her talk suggesting we all follow her example and put up math shows with our families this holidays. “This holiday season, give the gift of math”, she said.

Article contributed by Katherine O’Brien

Origami Holiday Decorations

After a hard work’s term, members of the Math community took a break before the exam week to make some paper holiday decorations. Reading day is meant to be a day for studying and preparing for the final exams. However, it is also a chance to take a deep breath and relax to be ready for the last stretch of the term.

Many opportunities are provided across campus for students to relax. Here at the Department of Mathematics BAMM offered a holiday origami workshop. Students and staff folded paper Christmas wreaths and stars that were then hanged for decoration on the Department’s tree.

BAMM @ Your School

BAMM @ Your School is one of the outreach projects at the Department of Mathematics. Through this program, we take fun, engaging, and deep mathematics workshops to schools in the Columbus Metropolitan area.

Notebook showing 4 by 4 and 5 by 5 configurations with their Mondrian numbersJust on November 21st, we had the opportunity to visit a fourth grade group at Daniel Wright Elementary School. Erika Roldan led a workshop on Mondrian numbers. Students worked in pairs and received an envelope containing red, yellow, blue, and white rectangles of all possible integer dimensions between 1 and 5. “Today you are going to become painters with these pieces”, said Erika.

Their first task was to classify the pieces according to their shape, in other words they had to make groups of congruent rectangles. Then they were asked to find all possible ways of building a 3 by 3 square using non-congruent pieces. When finished, they went on to do the same for a 4 by 4 and a 5 by 5 square.

Their last task was to compute the Mondrian number for all the possible configurations they had found. The Mondrian number of one of these such configurations is the difference between the maximum and the minimum areas of its pieces. To be able to do these, students registered their configurations on their notebooks. Some students made a lot of progress in the task, but even those who weren’t as fast practiced their geometrical skills and had a fun math class.

BAMM @ Your School is free and its only subject to time availability. Volunteers are very much welcomed and appreciated. Contact us, if you would like to visit a school with us.

The Mathematics of Origami

Last week, the Department of Mathematics, through the outreach initiative, had a guest for the Recreational Mathematics Seminar. Laura Jimenez is a mathematician and a PhD candidate at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas. In college, she began to develop a passion for origami, and she was able to tie it with mathematics. When she was a master’s student, she worked in mathematical outreach and popularization and gave workshops about the mathematics behind origami.

At the Recreational Mathematics Seminar on Friday, November 15, Laura talked about how not only math is used in proving whether something is foldable or not and finding the folding pattern, but also origami can be a powerful tool for solving mathematical problems, such as solving a third-degree equation.

During the talk, the speaker presented the Huzita axioms, the mathematical principles of paper folding. The axioms lisSecond Huzita axiom shown in paper folding.t the seven operations that can be achieved by folding paper. The first axiom reads “Given two distinct points p1 and p2, there is a unique fold that passes through both of them.” The second one goes about placing a point into another; in this case the fold created turns out to be the perpendicular bisector to the segment joining the two points. Later on, Laura showed how one can trisect an acute angle by folding paper, in other words, by following the Huzita axioms.

The seminar was followed by a workshop where attendants learned how to fold a cube and a 12-pointed star of modular origami. Some would say that this type of origami is the most mathematical one. Modular origami pieces are made up by several sheets of paper. Each sheet is folded in the same manner, creating a unit with flaps and pockets. Then all pieces are put together by inserting flaps into pockets. This type of origami allows us to build geometrical objects such as the platonic solids.

Laura emphasized hUndergraduate student showing the 12-pointed star he folded.ow origami is a great tool for teaching geometry.

On Saturday, our guest also ran our Girls Exploring Math Monthly workshop. Students explored the properties of buckyballs, polyhedra with regular pentagons and hexagons as faces. They analyzed the number of vertices, edges, and faces of each type, and came up with a relation between them. When building the origami model of a dodecahedron, the girls also looked at its graph representation and found a Hamiltonian path on it. Then, they used it to decide how to assemble the origami modules so that all the edges connected in every vertex had different colors (using modules of three different colors – it’s not as easy as you might think!).Young girls working at the Girls Exploring Math origami workshop.

The Recreational Math Seminar is gaining presence within the Department’s community, showing the most entertaining side of math. Recreational Math is a great way of getting undergraduate students interested in research. We will continue to bring more guests next term.