Mathematician, magician to give lectures as Green Honors Professor Chair


    Arthur Benjamin, a mathematician and magician, is this year’s 2012 Green Honors Professor Chair and will give a series of lectures on fun ways to do math through Oct. 25.

    The Green Honors Chair, according to associate professor and chair of the department of mathematics, George Gilbert, rotates among departments.

    “Each department can bring in a special visitor about once every three years,” Gilbert said. “The faculty decides whom they would like to invite. It is always someone with a national or international reputation who has something special to bring to TCU.”

    Benjamin has appeared on television and radio programs, including The Colbert Report and The Today Show. He demonstrates his mixture of math and magic and teaches children and adults how to do fast mental math calculations.

    “I want to show them how much fun math can be, whether it is through dazzling displays of mental arithmetic or the mathematics of games and puzzles,” Benjamin said. “Most students don’t get to see that side of mathematics. They see it as just doing a lot of calculations. I want people to see there is a real beauty and relevant side to mathematics as well.”

    At his first lecture on Oct. 23, Benjamin showed the correlation between mathematics and a backgammon game and presented ways in which you could win a backgammon game using mathematics.

    Phil Hartman of the biology department attended the first lecture. Although Hartman isn’t a math professor, he attended the lecture out of interest and heard Benjamin was a good presenter.

    “I enjoyed Benjamin’s lecture very much,” Hartman said. “Such lectures benefit the TCU community because they show us the utility of mathematics. Many have the misperception that mathematics is a discipline with limited application. Benjamin dispelled this in a fun and intellectually stimulating fashion.”

    Ken Richardson, a mathematics professor, said he admires Benjamin's efforts to make mathematics fascinating to the general public and students in particular.

    “I believe it is always useful to listen to scholars and creative people who are passionate about their fields,” Richardson said. “Students and faculty alike can be inspired by Benjamin, and our minds can be stimulated in ways that will allow us to approach our research and learning in new ways. I am happy to hang around someone else who loves this discipline and expresses that enthusiasm to everyone he meets.”

    With more lectures to come, Benjamin will discuss Sudoku and mathematics and how to solve a Rubik’s Cube with math.