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[Weekly Inspiration] Mathematicians Famous for Something Other Than Math

[Weekly Inspiration] Mathematicians Famous for Something Other Than Math

Thursday March 14 is every math geek’s favorite holiday—Pi Day! It’s hard to get students to consider a career in math due to its difficulty. They may think mathematics is not the path to fame and fortune, but that couldn’t be further from the truth for these celebrities and history-makers that made their mark outside the world of formulas and integers.

Hedy Lamarr is considered one of the most beautiful women to have ever appeared on a movie screen. When she wasn’t acting, she was blazing a trail as a mathematician. One of her formulas for frequency modulation is still in use today in Bluetooth connectivity, wi-fi routers, and microwave transmitters.

Art Garfunkel may be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work in the duo Simon & Garfunkel, but he also holds a masters degree in mathematics education from Columbia University. He was on his way to a doctorate in math when he and Paul Simon had their first hits.

Florence Nightingale is perhaps the most famous healthcare worker in history and invented the modern profession of nursing, but much of her work was successful because of her proficiency in statistics and analytics. She even invented a specialized pie chart that researchers still use today.

Michael Jordan is an all-time great basketball player, but he spent most of his collegiate career majoring in math. He switched to geography in his junior year at the University of North Carolina, left school early for the NBA, and returned later to finish his degree.

Who knew math could be this cool? Try sharing some of these stories with your students this pi day (maybe over a slice of pie) and who know, maybe you'll even inspire a few students to become future mathematicians.

scott.sterling's picture

Scott Sterling is a former English teacher who worked in Title I middle and high schools in St. Petersburg, Florida who is now a freelance writer who focuses on education. He is also a stay-at-home dad to his 4-year-old daughter Lily, who will soon be starting her own educational journey.

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