I remember one occasion, in my first year of graduate school, when a classmate asked a question in class. I have no memory of what the question was, but I recall the professor’s answer vividly. He told her "that question cannot be asked."

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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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November 10, 2011

I remember one occasion, in my first year of graduate school, when a classmate asked a question in class. I have no memory of what the question was, but I recall the professor’s answer vividly. He told her "that question cannot be asked."

November 3, 2011

In economics, we sometimes talk about "reservation wages." These are the lowest wages that one would accept to participate in the formal labor market.

October 28, 2011

In statistics one finds the experiment of flipping a coin and observing if the coin lands with heads facing up or with tails facing up. This is the central idea behind probability distributions that can be applied to many different situations involving uncertainty. I thought of the idea of a two sided coin recently when I realized that I am somewhat ambiguous about the coming holiday of Halloween.

October 21, 2011

One of the things I like most about math and teaching math is that there are often several different ways to get to an answer. For example, if one wanted to differentiate the square of a binomial function, one could multiply (FOIL) it out and then take the derivative, or one could use the product rule or even the chain rule. I often show students how the same answer can be arrived at in multiple ways, filling the board with several different calculations that miraculously all give the same value in the end. It is then that I am tempted to write the letters “Q.E.D.” on the board, which, as we used to joke in graduate school, is Latin for “ta da!”

October 13, 2011

The idea of a “double blind study” is central to the use of statistics as it applies to medicine. Such a study occurs if the person assigning medication does not know who receives true medicine and who is given a placebo, and neither do the patients or those providing the care. Such a structure attempts to remove the “placebo effect” on the part of both the patient and the treating doctor. Unfortunately, I found myself thinking of this quite a bit lately, as I faced the reality that my little sister is facing the battle of her life.

October 6, 2011

Last week, I saw a news clip about a Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, speaking on behalf of the protesters in Manhattan who are calling for radical change in our economic system that currently allows the very wealthy to pay less of a share of their earnings to taxes than do many of the people who work for them. I was intrigued because one of my advisors on my dissertation was a graduate student at Yale University when Dr. Stiglitz taught there, and always spoke with great awe of that professor whom he had known long ago.

September 29, 2011

I remember being part of a meeting many years ago where the term “STEM” (to describe the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and/or Medicine) was used lightly, under the assumption that everyone knew what it meant. Although I am technically not from a “STEM” discipline, since I am an economist, I teach in a math department, so was familiar with the term.

September 22, 2011

As readers of my column here know, I like to start my entries out by providing a “hook” from either math or economics, and then relating it to some aspect of parenting as a professor. Usually it is easy to choose which topic to use. Today, however, I am following the lead of my daughter, who, when faced with two good options, will often say “I want both.” For today, I cannot choose between writing about “randomness” or about “Venn Diagrams”, as both are equally appropriate for what I want to say.

September 15, 2011

The term "bifurcate" means to divide into two, to have the main body of something divide into two parts. I assume that being able to so this would allow one to, in essence, be in two places at once. I have been thinking of this term often in these last few weeks, as school started up again for me and for my daughter. It seems that I am constantly finding reasons why it would be good for me to be able to bifurcate.

September 8, 2011

The concept of “inverse” is central to Algebra. It might be used when describing adding a negative number to a positive one to clear out a simple algebraic equation, or might show up as a topic in Abstract (or Modern) Algebra. Recall that when talking about addition, the inverse operation is subtraction, while division is the inverse of multiplication.

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