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Ken Ono Gives the 2017 Arnold Ross Lecture, Followed by Who Wants to Be a Mathematician

About 150 students and teachers from the Orlando, Florida area saw the 2017 Arnold Ross Lecture by Ken Ono, followed by a victory by Cameron Chang in Who Wants to Be a Mathematician. Descriptions and photos of both events follow, as well as videos from the games, including one of Cameron just after his victory.

Why does Ramanujan, "The Man Who Knew Infinity,’’ matter?, Ken Ono, Emory University

Ken Ono and title slide

Ken Ono gave the audience many reasons to care about Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920), the Indian mathematician who did tremendous work with little formal training. His life story is very touching, his work still yields new insights today--both about the math results themselves and about applications of his discoveries, for example, in signal processing. Ono described Ramanujan's life while sharing clips from the film about Ramanujan, The Man Who Knew Infinity, on which he served as associate producer. Here is an excerpt of the letter that Ramanujan, then a clerk, sent to the English mathematician, G.H. Hardy.

Excerpt from Ramanujan's letter

The clips showed

  • Ramanujan explaining to his future wife what mathematics meant to him,
  • Hardy (in England) reading a letter that Ramanujan sent him, which eventually led Hardy to invite Ramanujan to come to England,
  • Hardy wondering if his colleague, John Littlewood, had written the letter as a hoax, and questioning Littlewood about the letter, and
  • Ramanujan and Hardy at the University of Cambridge clashing over their different approaches to math but then understanding one another and establishing a deep connection.

Left: Ken Ono with Dev Patel, who played Ramanujan, on the set of the film. Right: A scene in Hardy's office, in which he and Ramanujan discuss their different mathematical styles.

Ono explained some of Ramanujan's results--continued fractions and partitions--and also talked about Ono's and his father's personal connection with Ramanujan, which formed part of Ono's book, My Search for Ramanujan: How I Learned to Count. Near the end of his talk he gave a synopsis of Ramanujan's life:

Synopsis of Ramanujan

After the lecture, the audience got to munch on some mathematical cookies furnished by the AMS.

Above photos: Pam Catron, College Counselor - Windermere Preparatory School.

Who Wants to Be a Mathematician

Contestants, Ken, and Eduardo

Left to right: Eduardo Teixeira, winner of the 2017 ICTP Ramanujan Prize, Sandy Xia, Cypress Creek High School, Esha Ranade, Orlando Science Schools, Cameron Chang, Lake Highland Preparatory School, Franklin Estein, Windermere Preparatory School, Ross Fasone, Hagerty High School, ZeZhong Yang, Lake Mary Preparatory School, Justin Wurst, Boone High School, Joseph Thompson, Windermere High School, and Ken Ono.

Videos of the games:

Photos from the lecture and games:

2017 Arnold Ross Lecture

Game one contestantsYouth was served in game one. Esha, a sophomore, and Joseph, a freshman, tied for first. Esha won the tie-breaker over Joseph to advance to the Square-Off Round against the eventual winner of the next game. Esha's first-place finish earned her $500 from the AMS and a TI-Nspire graphing calculator from Texas Instruments. A software glitch slowed down game one, which was bad news for those on the clock, but good news for the audience as the extra time allowed some of the students to win DVDs of The Man Who Knew Infinity, donated by Ken Ono.


Game two contestantsNo glitches in this game. At the halfway point, Ross was in first, with Cameron, Franklin, and ZeZhong tied for second. Cameron took over the lead after question six and held on for the win. His cash and prize winnings matched Esha's from game one.


Esha and Cameron Esha and Cameron squared off on one question for another \$500 and a chance at the \$2,000 Bonus Question. Cameron buzzed in first but was incorrect. Esha was also incorrect with her answer when she buzzed in, and once the two buzzers were reset, Cameron immediately rang in with the correct answer. Cameron answered the Bonus Question involving logic fairly quickly and was correct, which earned him a total of $3,000. (Photo by Alan Fasone.)



Cameron and Esha with their uncashable checks, flanked by host Mike Breen (left) and Ken Ono (right).

Prizes won:

  • TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator from Texas Instruments and $3,000 from the AMS: Cameron Chang, Lake Highland Preparatory School
  • TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator from Texas Instruments and $500 from the AMS: Esha Ranade, Orlando Science Schools
  • Maple 2017 from Maplesoft: Joseph Thompson, Windermere High School, and Ross Fasone, Hagerty High School
  • Calculus with Early Transcendentals from John Wiley and Sons: Justin Wurst, Boone High School, and Franklin Estein, Windermere Preparatory School
  • What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Vo. 10 from the AMS: Sandy Xia, Cypress Creek High School, and ZeZhong Yang, Lake Mary Preparatory School

Here is Cameron just after his victory.

Thanks very much to our sponsors: Maplesoft, the Who Wants to Be a Mathematician Technology Sponsor; Art of Problem Solving, the Online Community Sponsor; Texas Instruments; and John Wiley and Sons. Thanks also to the teachers, who arranged for their students to attend, and to Emily Duguid at the Orlando Science Center, who arranged the logistics for the lecture and game.

Find out more about the Arnold Ross Lectures.

Find out more about Who Wants to Be a Mathematician.

Below: Esha and her rooting section just after the games.

Esha's rooting section

Lecture slides courtesy of Ken Ono. Video and almost all photos (except those credited above) by Robin Aguiar, AMS Meetings and Professional Services. Text by Mike Breen, AMS Public Awareness Office.