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2020 Awards Announced for Top Expository Mathematical Writing in MAA Publications

WASHINGTON, DC (July 27th, 2020) -We are pleased to announce the 2020 award recipients for the Allendoerfer Award, Trevor Evans Awards, Halmos Ford Award, and Polya Award.


Carl B. Allendoerfer Awards

Beth Malmskog and Kathryn Haymaker

Malmskog, B., & Haymaker, K. (2019). What (Quilting) Circles Can Be Squared? Mathematics Magazine, 92(3), 173–186.

“We are thrilled and honored to receive the Carl B. Allendoerfer Award!” said Beth Malmskog and Kathryn Haymaker. They credit this mathematical exploration to friendship, stating, “From the question that sparked our inquiry through our continuing investigations today, the work chronicled in this paper has been about building connection and community through mathematics.”

Juan Arias de Reyna, David Clark, and Noam D. Elkies

Arias de Reyna, J., Clark, D., & Elkies, N. (2019). A Modern Solution to the Gion Shrine Problem. Mathematics Magazine, 92(2), 110–122.

“It is a pleasure and a surprise to be awarded the Allendoerfer prize this year. In addition to being an interesting and challenging exercise, the Gion Shrine problem gave us an opportunity to portray mathematics at the intersection of art, recreation, science, history, and culture.” De Reyna, Clark, and Elkies said.

Trevor Evans Awards

Sanaz Aliari Kardehdeh, Bruce Golden, Eric Oden

Aliari, S., Golden, B., & Oden, E. (2019). Experimental Graph Theory. Math Horizons, 27(2), 10–13.

Aliari Kardehdeh, Golden, and Oden said, “They are hopeful that our paper will encourage other students and their instructors to use computational experimentation to help them answer mathematical questions of their own.”

Paul R. Halmos - Lester R. Ford Award

Daniel Ullman, Daniel Velleman

Ullman, D., & Velleman, D. (2019). Differences of Bijections. The American Mathematical Monthly, 126(3), 199–216.

Dr. Ullman and Dr. Velleman said that, “We enjoyed discovering and extending this literature, and we are very pleased and honored that the MAA has chosen to recognize our work with this award.”

Colin Adams, Allison Henrich, Kate Kearney, Nicholas Scoville

Adams, C., Henrich, A., Kearney, K., & Scoville, N. (2019). Knots Related by Knotoids. The American Mathematical Monthly, 126(6), 483–490.

Adams, Henrich, Kearney, and Scoville explained that this problem was started by “One faculty member asking another to treat them like an undergraduate researcher so they could work on a project together.” The other two researchers joined in on the project because the content was so engaging and fun.

John B. Little

Little, J. (2019). The Many Lives of the Twisted Cubic. The American Mathematical Monthly, 126(7), 579–592.

Little wanted to, “Thank the MAA for this recognition and also for publishing the Monthly, an outlet where works of mathematical synthesis and exposition can find a home.” He also wanted “to thank my frequent collaborators David Cox, Don O'Shea, and Hal Schenck for their encouragement.”

Balázs Gerencsér, Viktor Harangi

Gerencsér, B., & Harangi, V. (2019). Too Acute to Be True: The Story of Acute Sets. The American Mathematical Monthly, 126(10), 905–914.

The authors said, “All the results hinge on elegant ideas and do not require advanced mathematical tools. So we really wanted to make the paper as digestible and enjoyable as possible, hoping to reach high-school students as well. We are greatly honored by this recognition and hope that many readers will find this story just as fascinating as we do.”

George Pólya Award

Christopher J. Catone

Catone, C. (2019). Bringing Calculus into Discrete Math via the Discrete Derivative. The College Mathematics Journal, 50(1), 21–27.

This article demonstrates the interconnected nature between math disciplines by coupling calculus and discrete math. This article argues that the discrete derivative should be taught in discrete math courses, as the discrete derivative is useful in solving many problems, like finding closed-form expressions for sequences and series. By learning the discrete derivative without limits to complicate things, students can understand usual derivatives and other calculus formulas at their core. This article is engaging and entertaining for all levels of mathematicians.“As a graduate student, I watched George Polya's video ‘Let Us Teach Guessing’ and have been an admirer of his work ever since. It is an absolute honor to be chosen for this award that bears his name,” Dr. Catone said.

Adam Glesser, Matt Rathbun, Isabel M. Serrano, Bogdan D. Suceavă

Glesser, A., Rathbun, M., Serrano, I., & Suceavă, B. (2019). Eclectic Illuminism: Applications of Affine Geometry. The College Mathematics Journal, 50(2), 82–92.

This article explores how to use specific geometric properties and an affine transformation to then prove a general geometric statement. With the discussion of several examples of affine transformations leading to general geometric proofs, this paper presents deep intellectual thought and is very engaging for all readers.

The authors were excited to win this award, saying, “George Pólya, who outstandingly played the role of mathematician, educator, and writer, was a true intellectual of his time, and it is genuinely humbling to have his name within any neighborhood of ours.”

“Quality mathematical exposition has always been a core part of the identity of the MAA,” said Michael Pearson, executive director of MAA. “The articles we recognize with this year’s writing awards are outstanding representatives of that tradition.”