Manil Suri Highlights the Importance of Recreational Math in New York Times Op-Ed

manil suriIn his October New York Times column, mathematics professor Manil Suri highlighted the significance of recreational math and described the history of polymath Martin Gardner’s “Mathematical Games” series which ran in Scientific American for more than 25 years. As an undergraduate, Suri studied Gardner’s work and noted he had a unique ability to engage audiences to use the same logical and deductive skills used in regular mathematics.

“Mr. Gardner’s great genius lay in using such basic puzzles to lure readers into extensions requiring pattern recognition and generalization, where they were doing real math,” he wrote.

Suri also described how Gardner made significant progress in introducing recreational math into schools “as a way to interest young students in the wonders of mathematics,” even if he was frustrated with the slow process.

“The body of recreational mathematics that Mr. Gardner tended to and augmented is a valuable resource for mankind. He would have wanted no greater tribute, surely, than to have it keep nourishing future generations,” wrote Suri.

Read Suri’s column “The Importance of Recreational Math” in the New York Times. Following up on his column, the Times published a puzzle Suri created as an undergraduate in its Numberplay blog and also had a tie-in to his column on its Learning Network blog.

Manil Suri, Mathematics, Highlights the Underrepresentation of LGBT Professionals in STEM in the New York Times

Manil Suri 2In his latest New York Times column, Mathematics Professor Manil Suri wrote about the underrepresentation of LGBT professionals in STEM. The column, titled “Why is Science so Straight?” explored the reasons for the invisibility of LGBT members in STEM fields, what Suri called an “unspoken convention.”

“Underrepresentation is just one factor that reduces visibility. Unlike women and minorities, whose status is usually obvious, sexual orientation is a hidden characteristic. The fact that a sizable proportion of the L.G.B.T. STEM work force is closeted (43 percent, according to a 2015 estimate) further deepens this effect,” he wrote.

Suri also noted that the STEM work culture could play a role in reduced LGBT visibility: “There is a another, more insidious factor at work. STEM culture is very problem-focused. Conversations, even over lunch, typically remain restricted to work matters (which is very different from what I’ve noticed in arts and humanities settings),” he explained.

In his column, Suri provided perspective on how STEM professions could move forward in regards to increasing diversity: “More critically, STEM culture must rein in the pressure to separate professional and personal identities. It should view its workers more holistically, welcoming their interests and differences as sources of enhanced resourcefulness.”

Suri is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. Read his previous columns on the New York Times website.