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
Camila cropped.jpg
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.

Family Welcome Lunch

BEAM 2016 is nearly here!  As the first step toward the summer, we invite 7th graders and their families to come, eat pizza, and meet BEAM alumni and parents. 

First, faculty from the summer described what they planned to teach:

Faculty introductions

Then, students, in 8th grade and in high school, talked about their experiences in BEAM and after.  Here are some highlights:

  • Jennora, who attended in 2015, thanked BEAM for support in applying to high school and summer programs.  This summer, she will be attending GOALS for Girls at the Intrepid Museum.  In the fall, she will be heading to Bard High School Early College. 
  • Mona, who attended in 2013, announced that she is spending her summer interning at Morgan Stanley working with their technology team.  She credited BEAM with giving her the courage to introduce herself to an Assistant Principal at the high school fair, which lead her to the Academy for Software Engineering.
  • Rebecca, who attended in 2015, described her favorite course last summer, Euclidean Geometry, where they learned how to construct two circles in such a way that they formed a triangle, and they were able to prove with certainty that the shape was equilateral. 
  • Zavier, who attended in 2011, is graduating high school and heading to SUNY Albany in the fall.  Since BEAM, he has been focused on computer science, and now teaches technology at a maker space. He thanked BEAM for acting as his college guidance counselor, helping with the SAT, his FAFSA, understanding financial aid, and more.

It was so wonderful to see all the 7th graders and imagine where they will be in 5 years!