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Straw in a Box

by Richard Jerrard, Joel Schneider, Ralph Smallberg, John Wetzel

Year of Award: 2007

Award: George Polya

Publication Information: The College Mathematics Journal, vol. 37, (2006), pp. 93-102

Summary: The authors explain the mathematics behind a problem from the 2003 New York Regents Exam which had two possible interpretations. 

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About the Author(s): (from The College Mathematics Journal, (2006)) Richard Jerrard received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, spent most of the subsequent 48 years at the University of Illinois (Urbana, IL 61801), and is now an emeritus professor. He started in applied mathematics and gradually migrated to topology and geometry. His recent work is with John Wetzel on “fitting” problems, of which this article is an example.

Joel Schneider was Vice President for Education and Research at Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Television Workshop). He was the content director for Square One TV, the Workshop’s long running televised series on mathematics, and was the architect of many of its other nationally and internationally broadcast programs in mathematics and science. In 1992, he received the Communications Award from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics. Regrettably, Joel died on September 12, 2004, as this article was being prepared.

Ralph Smallberg is a science education advisor to Sesame Workshop and a developer of science and mathematics curriculum, software, and television programming for children. Among the widely used programs to which he has contributed as author, designer, or content director are Square One TV, 3-2-1 Contact, and The Voyage of the Mimi.

John Wetzel earned his Ph.D. at Stanford in 1964 after undergraduate work at Purdue. His entire academic career was spent at the University of Illinois, from which he retired in 1999. He shares a condo in Champaign with his wife Rebecca and a miscellany of hippopotamic objet d’art, including an aggregation of some sixty-three hippo cookie jars. Always interested in classical geometry, he has most recently been studying the ways in which one shape can fit into another—problems he regards as fitting for retirement.


Subject classification(s): Index | Analytic Geometry | Calculus
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, October 22, 2008