Cover image for The math chat book
The math chat book
Morgan, Frank.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[Washington, D.C.] : Mathematical Association of America, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 113 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QA95 .M57 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Mathematics can be fun for everyone, and this book shows it. It grew out of the author's popularisation of mathematics via live, call-in TV shows and widely published articles. The questions, comments, and even the answers here come largely from the callers and readers themselves, and so the book covers the kind of mathematical problems that people are interested in, not those that professional mathematicians, writers or even publishers think people should be interested in. The book makes no attempt to fit any mould. Although written by a research mathematician, it goes where the callers and readers have directed it, over a wide range of topics and levels. Everyone paging through it will be captured by something of interest, whether they consider themselves interested in mathematics or not.

Author Notes

Frank Morgan is Dennis Mennan Third Century Professor of Mathematics at Williams College and Second Vice-President of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). He has received one of the first MAA Haimo awards for distinguished teaching. MIT's Baker teaching award, and an honorary doctorate from Cedar Crest College. Morgan went to MIT and Princeton, taught for ten years at MIT (where he served as Undergraduate Mathematics Chair), and came to Williams in 1987, where he has served as chair and as founding director of an NSF undergraduate research program.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Morgan's unusual but interesting book is a compilation of interesting questions and answers that have been part of the author's Math Chat television show or biweekly column in the Christian Science Monitor. The fundamental premise is that someone--students, teachers, and other adults--poses a question, then the author and a group of his students at Williams College attempt to produce reasonable answers. Often, these answers prompt further comments or questions from the audience, leading into a form of dialogue or conversation. This book sorts these question-prompted "chats" into five categories: time, probabilities and possibilities, prime numbers and computing, geometry, and physics and the world. However, these categories are quite rough, as the questions within them reach into the diverse areas of AIDS testing, infinities, magical tricks based on number theory, logic puzzles, calendar properties, computers with free will, the double soap bubble breakthrough, minimal distance networks, Feynman's sprinkler, and mirror reflections. The index provided is of little value, given the nature of the book. Readers wanting to explore a question-answer situation further will look for a list of relevant references, but unfortunately few are included. General readers; undergraduates; professionals. J. Johnson; Western Washington University

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
Story 1 Timep. 1
Episode 1 Riddle O'Clockp. 3
Episode 2 Does the Sun Rise in the East?p. 5
Episode 3 Leap Yearsp. 9
Episode 4 The Perfect Calendarp. 15
Episode 5 Where Does the New Millennium Begin?p. 17
Story 2 Probabilities and Possibilitiesp. 23
Episode 6 Baby Boys and Girls and World Populationp. 25
Episode 7 Predicting the Randomp. 29
Episode 8 The Bible Code and Personal Coincidencesp. 32
Episode 9 Incomparable Dice and Tic-Tac-Toep. 34
Episode 10 Crossing a Rickety Bridge at Nightp. 36
Episode 11 Ideal Coinagep. 38
Episode 12 Infinitely Many Ping-Pong Ballsp. 39
Episode 13 Testing for AIDSp. 41
Episode 14 Magician's Kings and Queensp. 42
Episode 15 Attic Lights, Marathons, and Fuse Timersp. 44
Episode 16 Presidents' Namesp. 47
Episode 17 Presidential Electionsp. 49
Story 3 Prime Numbers and Computingp. 51
Episode 18 New Largest Prime Numbersp. 53
Episode 19 Four 4sp. 57
Episode 20 Powers of 5p. 60
Episode 21 The 2000 Censusp. 68
Episode 22 Can a Computer Have Free Will?p. 70
Story 4 Geometryp. 75
Episode 23 The Double Soap Bubble Breakthroughp. 77
Episode 24 Shortest Road Networksp. 82
Episode 25 Can Three States Meet at More Than One Point?p. 84
Story 5 Physics and the Worldp. 87
Episode 26 Balls in the Air and Falling Elevatorsp. 89
Episode 27 Do Airplanes Get Lighter as Passengers Eat Lunch?p. 92
Episode 28 Tides and Spinning Sprinklersp. 95
Episode 29 Cars and the Futurep. 100
Episode 30 Eclipses and Mirrorsp. 102
Math Chat Winnersp. 105
Indexp. 111