Off on a Tangent 19.01


Welcome to the first issue of Off on a Tangent for the year. This is the official newsletter for Hope College’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics. In the past, we published every fortnight (i.e. every two weeks). This year, being a bit (by a bit I mean A LOT) different than past years, we will publish a little more sporadically. We will try to keep you updated on what is going on in the department as well as some current interesting mathematical and statistical happenings around the world. We also plan to include a problem of the fortnight in each issue. However, this year you will not turn them in for colloquium credit, but work them for fun.

MATH Challenge

The 2020 Michigan Autumn Take Home Challenge (or MATH Challenge) will take place in the morning (9:30am – 12:30pm) on Saturday, November 7. Teams of two or three students take a three-hour exam consisting of ten interesting problems dealing with topics and concepts found in the undergraduate mathematics curriculum.  Each team takes the exam at their home campus under the supervision of a faculty advisor. 

The department pays the registration fee for each team. The sign-up deadline is Friday, October 23 at 4:00 p.m.  Interested students can sign up by sending Prof. Cinzori an email at

A group of students may sign up as a team.  Individual students are also encourage to sign up; they will be assigned to a team on the day of the competition. 

Follow us on Social Media

Now you can follow the Hope College Department of Mathematics and Statistics on Instagram and Twitter! Follow @hopemathstat on either Instagram or Twitter for information on faculty members and students in our department, jobs in mathematics, mathematical facts, fun problems to try, and happenings in the world of mathematics.

A few weeks ago, Pi Man, not only made an appearance on Instagram but has also been spotted around campus!

Incognito and irrational? “Sometimes I am 3.14159+…other times not.” —Alfred Bester, The Pi Man

Fall Ice Cream Social

Join the Mathematics and Statistics faculty and fellow math students for our traditional Fall Social on Friday, September 18 from 3:14 to 4:14 PM. The event will take place on the Van Andel Plaza located in front of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center under the tent. We will have ice cream treats and fun games. (All COVID-19 appropriate.) This is a great way to get to know your fellow math students and faculty. Remember to wear your favorite face mask to the event! (Rumor has it that there may be a few giveaways of some face masks like Pi Man is wearing!)


Have you seen the chalkboards that were recently installed outside VanderWerf Hall? Has the physics that is on them in this picture been replaced by mathematics yet? I hope so. These boards, which we are calling the Vanderboards, will be used during outside classes. They are also available for individual student use. However, during this COVID time, chalk for sharing can’t be provided. (Geometer’s Note: Notice the nice one-point perspective in this picture.)

Actuary Internship Opportunity

Jackson National Life Insurance Company has internship opportunities available within their Actuarial Department in Lansing, Michigan for the Summer 2021.

Jackson is one of the largest life insurance companies in the United States. It has been providing advisors with products to help their clients achieve financial security for over 50 years. An internship with Jackson’s Actuarial Department offers practical, hands-on work experience that enhances students’ academic, career, and personal development, while helping the Company identify talented individuals.

Students who are interested in applying for an internship are strongly encouraged to apply using this link no later than October 1st, as selections for the 2021 intern class will likely be made before this year’s end.

For more information contact Ivan Parker at

Problem of the Fortnight

The carousel on Windmill Island here in Holland has been around a long time and is starting to show signs of wear. In fact, the deck of the carousel has needed a paint job for a couple years now. However before it could be painted, Herm VanderVeedenVanderMeen (the carousel master) wanted to know exactly how much paint would be needed to do the job. The problem was, though, he couldn’t figure out how to determine the area of the carousel deck, which is an annular ring, because the motor and gears in the middle of the merry-go-round prevented him from measuring the radii of the inner and outer circles. If he could have measured those, his job would have been easy!

One day, he was talking to a group of Hope College students, who had taken their parents to Windmill Island, and he told them about his dilemma. One of the students, who had taken some really great math courses at Hope, said to him, “I think I can help you out,” and she took his tape measure, walked over to the carousel and made a single measurement along a straight line. Her measurement was 30 feet, and after making a few quick calculations in her head, she told Herm the area of the carousel deck.

The question is, What measurement did she make (and how did she use it to calculate the area of the carousel deck), and what is the area of the carousel deck?

Click here for the solution. But don’t click until you have given the problem the old college try!!!!

Gömböc—The Shape That Shouldn’t Exist

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