BEAM Faculty Doing Great Things: Ben Blum-Smith on Math and Democracy

Ben with students at Ted

Our summer staff do amazing things! Recently, Ben Blum-Smith was named to the Spring 2018 class of TED Residents, which is a chance for big thinkers to workshop and share their big ideas with others. 

As the culminating experience of the residency, Ben and his fellow residents each gave a TED talk (not online yet!). Ben invited three BEAM students to the talks, both his and the fellow residents, and they had this to say about the experience:

Attending this talk impacted me on a philosophical, emotional, and most importantly educational level. I met an urban planner, that was cool. I’m into math and politics, so that was cool. And revolutionizing data collection is awesome. I’m very excited about this opportunity. It was awesome.
— Abrahan, 12th grade
Abrahan cropped.jpg
Representation matters a tremendous amount to me and seeing people like me, as well as people from diverse backgrounds, was inspiring. I heard ideas on topics that matter to me, like an imbalance of resources to people of lower income as well as other amazing ideas that I haven’t thought much about.
The entire show, I visualized myself on stage. I imagined one day being able to give a TED talk myself. This experience has been so inspiring.
— Camila, 8th grade
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The best way to learn something new is to simply do more of it. Last summer, [at BEAM 7 at Union College,] I went to lecture on voting which was really interesting. Now, I’ve been to both of Ben’s talks on gerrymandering [at TED and at the Museum of Mathematics]. The thing that has helped me get better and be more interested in math is seeing the bigger things that I could do in math or physics once I learn the practical parts. These things can be fun and interesting, and last a long time in my mind.
— Porter, 8th grade
Porter Cropped.JPG

Ben: keep up the incredible work! Thanks so much for inviting BEAM students along for the ride. 

PS: Keep an eye on the Museum of Mathematics' YouTube page for a link to Ben's longer Math Encounters. 

Ben Blum-Smith is a teacher and mathematician who is exploring the interface between math and democracy. He also works to broaden access to the field, through organizations such as the Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics and the Bard Prison Initiative.

Annual Slightly Mathy Trivia Night!

Each year, BEAM supporters, students, and staff get together for a night of slightly mathy-trivia, upscale pizza, beer, wine, and fun!  

Our volunteer trivia host, Andy, designed a night of quirky and challenging questions!  Here's a sample question from each round: (answers at the bottom of the post!)

  • Round 1 was a potpourri of challenging questions.  Here's a mathy one: "What is the smallest possible value for |a - b|, if a + b = 2017, a only contains even digits, and b only contains odd digits?"
  • Round 2 featured a matching game.  Given a single sentence about a game in one of 20 languages, can you figure out which language you're reading and what sport is being described?  Here's an example: "In what game does one of the rules translate to 'Carduri trainer reprezintă Articole, Suporterii și Stadioane de un Antrenor poate utiliza în luptă'?"
  • Round 3 was all NYC, with questions about the boroughs, high schools, bridges, and more about our city. For example,  "Which high school, which is one of the westernmost schools in Manhattan, is named after a former director-general of New Netherland?"

Teams, comprised of a mix of students, staff, and supporters worked together and got to know each other over the course of 36 challenging questions! 

Between Rounds 2 and 3, we took a break to ask all the students present about their experiences with BEAM.  The 8th-12th graders answered serious questions, and joked around, about math, high school, college, and more. 

Couldn't make it this year?  Sign up for BEAM's mailing list in the footer of this page to here when ticket sales start for next year.  Our staff and students can't wait to meet you!

Curious? Here are the answers:

  • 245 (a=886 and b=1131)
  • Pokémon (the language is Romanian)
  • Stuyvesant (where one BEAM student is in 10th grade!)

An Evening of Dinner and Board Games

Every winter, BEAM brings together program supporters and students for an evening of dinner and board games.  An elegant board games party?  Yes, you heard that right!

Playing Swish

This winter, we saw folks playing Swish, chess, Ricochet Robots, Blokus, Apples to Apples, and Set. 

Playing Set

Over games and dinner, the adults got to hear just what it was like for students to participate in BEAM. After dinner, a panel of students answered questions from the audience about their experiences at BEAM, in high school, at other programs, and their goals for the future. 

Malachi answers

It was a lovely event.  We hope you can join us next year!