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

June 17, 2010
I was probably teaching statistics the second or third time around when I finally stumbled upon a good understanding the idea of "random." I had once thought that randomness meant a complete lack of predictability, that there was actually no pattern underlying outcomes. However, I eventually realized that predictability is exactly what randomness is about. If I flip a coin, I can expect it to come up "heads" half of the time, thus giving me a "random variable" that is actually quite predictable. For example, out of ten flips of a coin, one might expect five of them to come up heads.
June 10, 2010
In the center of Boston is the Boston Common, where there are several small statues of the ducklings made famous by the book “Make Way for Ducklings”. Long before I became a parent, I bought a painting from a local Boston artist that depicted the statues of the ducklings from that children's book. In a decision of radical faith in the future, and one that involved finding a few extra dollars that I, as a graduate student, didn’t really have at the time, I bought it and decided that if I was ever to have a child, I would hang it in their room.
June 3, 2010
I have written in this column before about the concept of "opportunity cost." This topic from economics says that every choice involves a cost, that when we choose to do one thing, we automatically choose not to do something else. When I think of the sacrifices my parents made so that my sister and I could obtain college educations, I realize that there were many opportunity costs to the decisions they made.
May 27, 2010
In economics, we talk about education as a way to build “human capital”, which will later be put to productive use in the labor market. It is one way that people can improve their chances of earning income, and the level of income earned. This is something that my parents, children of my immigrant grandparents whose education stopped at “continuation school”, knew instinctively as they navigated the world of education for me and my sister. This led them down paths that included religiously-focused education, at a Catholic grammar school and a Catholic high school.
May 20, 2010
Once, years ago, I found myself at a party talking about what it would mean to divide by zero. (No wonder I was terminally single at the time!) I explained that, while we can’t divide by zero, we can think of approaching a divisor of zero, and see what happens. Think first of dividing 1 by 1, to get 1/1, or 1. Now divide 1 by 0.1, to get 10. Continue on to divide 1 by 0.01 to get 100, and 1 by 0.001 to get 1000. You can see that if you continue on like this, the smaller the divisor gets, the larger the ratio gets.
May 13, 2010
Imagine a number line, extending in both directions infinitely. Above this line we might graph bars that represent the proportion of observations of something that fall within any given interval on the number line. We can do this for much of the data sets that show up in nature, such as the length of a leaf on a tree, the height of a grown woman, the average body temperature or even the length of a human life. When we start graphing these data that show up in nature, we notice that they tend to all look slightly similar.
May 6, 2010
The idea of a tangent line is central to many aspects of mathematics. In geometry, we study when a line rests on another figure at just one point, the point of tangency. In calculus, the slope of the line tangent to a curve at a point becomes the “derivative” of that curve at that point. One can even think of tangencies in more than one dimension. Imagine an (x,y) plane drawn on a table with a three dimensional object resting on it. One can therefore find a point of tangency in the x direction, and also one in the y direction.
April 29, 2010
I remember my comprehensive exams in graduate school as the low point of that experience. Classes were fun, and I did relatively well, and writing my dissertation was actually a joy most of the time. But in the one week dedicated to my comprehensive exams that turned into months as I ended up re-taking some of them, I was expected to know everything from my years there and to prove it on paper to what seemed like merciless graders. I don’t know if I had felt so vulnerable at any point in my life up until then, and have only felt so vulnerable a few times since then.
April 22, 2010
A colleague in the Biology department recently told me about a book that applies game theory to altruism in the animal world. Since I study altruism, and game theory is central to modern economics, I was particularly interested. Of course, I had to read about it myself, and found it fascinating.
April 15, 2010
Once, when I was in high school, I must have said something that particularly exasperated one of my teachers. She took a deep breath and looked out at me in the classroom (middle seat, second row) and said “Rosemarie, do you know what you are? You are in intellectual iconoclast.”


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