Rosemarie Emanuele

"Math Geek Mom"

Although she holds a Ph.D. in economics from Boston College, Rosemarie Emanuele is a professor and the chair of the Department of Mathematics at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. She loves to teach math but also pursues research related to the economics of nonprofit organizations and volunteer labor, and has published in both economics and interdisciplinary journals — as well as in the book that inspired this blog. She is the proud mother of a wonderful daughter.

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Most Recent Articles

July 12, 2012
When the unusual heat gripped my part of the U.S. in the last few weeks, I did the only logical thing to do - I packed up each evening and took my daughter, and often a neighborhood friend or two, to the public pool. It was a great relief from the heat, and provided a wonderful end to the day. We often play together, splashing in the water that looks like a tortoise shell in the fading sunlight. However, she also likes to go off to swim with her friends, leaving me to either swim laps, to observe what is going on at the pool or to chat with fellow parents, many of whom are also left alone while their children play. As I sat back and took a breath, I found myself noticing several things.
July 5, 2012
We like to joke in economics that we economists seem to always have two hands. We are known for saying “on the one hand” and then explaining some policy implication, only to follow quickly with “on the other hand”, followed by a conflicting policy implication. I found myself thinking of this recently while on vacation as I debated the merits and costs of possibly buying a laptop computer or a tablet.
June 28, 2012
Many people are familiar with the race for partner that takes place in many law firms, and with the struggle for tenure that occurs in academia. These two cases are examples of what game theory calls a “tournament,” in which many workers compete for some prize based on their productivity. It is seen as a way to encourage workers to do their best and to act in ways that are in the best interest of their employer. I thought of this concept recently when I spent some time on the campus of my first job out of graduate school, a job that I left only steps ahead of what would almost definitely have been a tenure denial. As I went back there to work on some research, I realized that while the experience had been difficult, I had landed on my feet.
June 21, 2012
Like most people, my first encounter with the word “Monopoly” was through the board game by that name. It would be years before I studied the workings of a market controlled by a monopoly, but as a child I loved to become part of intense games of Monopoly, acquiring as many houses and hotels as I could with the money I had and earned from my investments. I thought of those little houses that dotted the spaces on the board game when I took my daughter and her friend to play in a very special park recently.
June 14, 2012
I find it interesting when economics is applied to offbeat topics.This is done in the best seller “Freakonomics,” which looks at a variety of social issues using the tools of economics. My own research applies the discipline of economics to studying altruism and nonprofit organizations, topics that are probably not the first things that come to mind when one thinks of economics. I also recall the professor who taught me macroeconomics many years ago, whose own research was on “envy”. I found myself thinking of him recently as I ran into one of my daughter’s former teachers as we stopped by the library on the way home from her summer camp. With wet hair and a bathing suit under her shorts, the teacher said that she looked like she was having fun. I could only add “I want her life.”
June 7, 2012
There is a function in math called the “Greatest Integer Function,” which assigns a value to every number that is the largest integer less than or equal to that number. For example, the numbers 1, 1.2 and 1.9 would all have a value of 1 for this function. As you can imagine, this leads to a graph that looks a lot like a set of stairs, and is the typical example used when describing what a “discontinuous” function looks like. I found myself thinking of this over the past week, as I watched my daughter move up a grade in school.
May 31, 2012
As I age, my eyes are staring to betray me. This is something that I particularly notice when I am reading things that involve superscripts or subscripts, which occurs often in math and economics.
May 24, 2012
An important topic from Algebra is that of intersecting lines. Equations can be written representing lines on graph paper, and Algebra, especially Linear Algebra, helps find points that are contained on more than one line, where two or more lines intersect. I thought of this last weekend as I watched former students walk across a stage to receive their diplomas, and realized that their lives had intersected with mine. I know that my life is richer for having known them.
May 17, 2012
One of the concepts I teach in my Quantitative Reasoning class is the idea of “Exponential Growth.” Such growth, where a variable grows by a fixed percent, is found in such things as population growth and the growth of money earning interest. I found myself thinking of this recently as I watch my daughter grow at a rate that seems to be exponential, outgrowing clothes almost before they can be worn and threatening to soon pass me by in terms of height. I am thrilled to see her turning into a healthy young lady, but I have to pause as I realize that, as she grows, she is exposed to aspects of life that I would prefer to shield her from.
May 10, 2012
Central to the subject of Economics is the idea of “utility maximization.” This concept proposes that people choose the optimal assortment of work, goods and leisure given the constraints they face. As calculus is applied to compute such choices, it is assumed that the economic agent is strictly self-interested, an assumption I find myself thinking about as we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend.

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