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

February 23, 2012
In 1900, the mathematician David Hilbert listed 100 mathematical problems that he felt would be good problems to address in the next century. Many of these have been solved, but some still wait for solutions. I found myself thinking of this recently as I realized that the season of Lent had begun. While this is traditionally a season of fasting and repentance, many today also approach this season as an opportunity to find ways to bring about a more just world. I found myself thinking of the Hilbert problems because it occurred to me that those of us in higher education could bring our collective minds together to address several issues that, like the Hilbert questions of years ago, seem to need addressing.
February 16, 2012
In economics, we talk about a free market bringing consumers and producers to an allocation that will be in everyone’s best interest, a result that does not require any consideration by the participants of the well being of others in the economy. This idea, sometimes called the “Adam Smith Hypothesis”, relies on several assumptions, some of which make sense and some which might be suspect in our modern economy. One of the assumptions needed for such a powerful result is the assumption of free information, that those in the economy have access to reliable information that they do not need to pay for. This assumption comes to mind when I realize that I am one of the last people in North America who is not yet a member of Facebook.
February 9, 2012
There are many times in math that we encounter behavior that appears to repeat or cycle back on itself. For example, one often finds strings of repeating digits when trying to convert a rational number into a decimal, or one can observe cyclical behavior associated with the trigonometric functions. Such behavior came to mind recently as I realized that we are moving from winter into a spring that will eventually turn into summer, and that, as a mom, I needed to plan for such a change in seasons.
February 2, 2012
I once attended a seminar presented by the National Endowment for the Humanities on the Philosophy of Math. As an economist teaching in a math department, I was obviously the participant with the most unusual background, as most of the other participants were philosophers of math, many teaching in philosophy departments. While there, I recall one woman discussing the question of “is there a middle number?” Since there is no highest or lowest number, the question became whether there is a middle number. Her conclusion was that there is, indeed, a middle number, and that number is zero.
January 19, 2012
The Calculus book I use sometimes uses intricate algebra to find very involved ways to present an answer in the simplest form. Although I encourage students to manipulate terms to see how they arrived at the given answers, I sometimes find myself telling my students that “the meaning of life is not to match the answer in the back of the book.” This, of course, avoids the question of exactly what the meaning of life is. I thought of this recently as I spent a lovely afternoon with a friend and her daughter watching a production
January 12, 2012
In Economics, we say that the prevailing price is the one that allows the amount of a good that is willingly provided to be equal to the amount of that good that is demanded at that price. This means that, in an economy such as ours, prices are determined by market forces and not by some centralized planner. I recalled this lesson from the first days of any class in a Principles of Microeconomics as I checked out of a grocery store the other day.
January 5, 2012
When my daughter was first learning geometry, she came home one day to proclaim "I know what a ray is, mom. It is a line pointing in only one direction." She then went on to tell me that math was becoming her favorite subject. Of course, this was music to my ears.
December 22, 2011
Some thoughts for the holidays....
December 15, 2011
Economics is sometimes called "the Dismal Science," and I admit that I try to counteract this by bringing entertaining topics to my Economics as well as to my Math classes. My hope is that these topics will leave the student with a "hook" that will help them remember what was said.
December 8, 2011
I often begin classes in Economics with a discussion of how values of things are determined. I point out that the price of some things may or may not accurately reflect their importance in our lives. For example, water and air are vitally important in our lives, but often very inexpensive. Alternatively, diamonds are very expensive, but do little to sustain or improve our lives. The reason for this apparent paradox is found in the fact that prices are determined by the interaction of both supply and demand, allowing rare things that are not vital to our lives to become expensive, and important things that are readily available to become relatively inexpensive. I thought of this lately as I looked around at the current bustle and remembered a sign I saw in a store many years ago. Trying to encourage seasonal buying, it said "We make Christmas Cheaper."

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