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Mathematics Day celebrated at IISER Pune  Mar 14, 2016


This year, Math Day wasn’t just a day but a whole week wherein mathematics touched hearts and put a smile on every face. With the tag line of “Math day is coming…” a week-long series of events managed to excite minds and build up the anticipation for the Saturday closest to π-day (March 12, 2016).

One of these events was Posters with Posers, puzzles put up on colourful posters around campus, which made you think and rethink. Another was the essay/comic strip competition with innovative topics like life in a country that has banned primes, or one where light moved in spirals or where the value of currency decreased exponentially, a perfect opportunity to reveal our creative shades. There was also the Math Everywhere photo contest that made us look at every day sights around us with brand new mathematically tinted glasses.

On the eve of the Math Day we had a day in honor of the great mathematician Harish-Chandra. A bust of Harish-Chandra was unveiled and we had special lectures on the man and his work by Prof Langlands of IAS, Princeton and Prof Raghuram, Head of Math at IISER.

With everyone geared up, the long awaited day finally arrived. Math day unfolded with the unveiling of a mural to inaugurate the Math Museum, by Prof M.S. Raghunathan. This math-themed painting was a masterpiece created by the winners of a mural competition among IISER students.

We then had the traditional cutting of an apple pie that signaled the beginning of Mathematics Day. The Math Department profile booklet was released next and a tree planting ceremony by Prof Raghunathan. Prof Raghunathan is chair of the National Center for Mathematics and a distinguished professor at IIT Bombay and a recipient of almost every notable mathematics award in India, including the Padma Bhushan.

From ten onward, the real fun began. The Lecture Hall Complex bustled with activity as the Kings, Queens, Knights, Squires and Dames revealed the fun side of mathematics with the Game of Thrones themed math clubhouse. Clubhouse was a spectrum of fun math activity that drew the young and old alike, after all, who would not want to take home so many of the cash prizes and chocolates up for grabs. The Zome tools playroom gave you the opportunity to put your skills at making wire-frame models to the test. What are four-dimensional cubes you ask? Well, you could see one here. Math Pictionary was loud and crowded and a perfect opportunity to bring out the artist in you while the mind boggling Decode That! left people silently scratching their heads puzzling over coded messages. Human Knot Theory was a game where students held hands knotting themselves into loops and then tried to unknot themselves. The Room of Games was a perfect fusion of fun games and mathematics. The main attraction of the day was the World’s Largest Hexaflexagon designed by IISERites and put up on display in the courtyard of the LHC. Rubik-mania probably saw the largest crowds, with cubers testing their speed with various platonic solid shaped Rubik puzzles and with the specially designed Game of Thrones cube. And what kept them running back to the notice boards were the brain ticklers put up every thirty minutes, of which only one finally got solved. For computer nerds there was the pi-thon contest to showcase their python programming skills. And finally, the all-time favourite Prime Number Bee had everyone up on their feet, running around shouting primes with the largest prime of the day reaching 433!

The first half of the day ended with the much awaited Quiz Qualifiers which saw about a hundred teams racking their brains. The entire morning saw students and professors, little kids and parents, all busy trying out the various fun activities of the clubhouse. They retired for lunch with a smile on their faces and at least some new mathematics absorbed in all that fun. The post lunch session began with the Math Quiz Finals. Of the four teams, three were first years… a pleasant surprise.

Next up was a talk by Prof M.S. Raghunathan on “Mathematics: Art that would rather be Science?”. This was a public talk that emphasized the similarities between research-level mathematics and the creative arts. He gave away prizes after his talk, wherein the winners of various events were conferred with certificates and cash awards. After a short break for tea, we had a very entertaining and informative lecture-demonstration by Prof. Manish Jain of the Science Center at IUCAA.  He specializes in making simple toys and crafts that explain complex mathematical ideas and was an ideal choice for both the IISER students and the many school kids in the audience.
The highlight of the evening was the Math Play ‘Partition’, based on the life of the great mathematician Dr. S. Ramanujan. It was an exceptional performance by the Drama Club and raised the bar for student performances at IISER.

Post dinner was the screening of a documentary, Ramanujam: The mathematician and his legacy,  starring our very own Prof. A. Raghuram, Head of the math department. And last but not the least, the cherry on the top, was the Math Treasure Hunt for mystery-lovers which began at midnight and went on till the wee hours of the morning.

Thus concluded Mathematics Day 2016. The math geeks among us of course had a great time while we hopefully managed to give at least some of those who have never liked math a new appreciation for the subject. The success and smooth running of this festival, with so many different events, was the result of all the effort put in by various students and professors who spent hours making sure every aspect of it was well looked after. A wholehearted THANK YOU to everyone whose participation made Math Day so much fun and such a huge success! We hope to make next year’s Math Day even bigger and better!

- Article credit: Sayantika Mondal