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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience in London

Scribner Seminar, London FYE 2018   

Numb3rs in L0nd0nRoe-Dale photo

Rachel Roe-Dale, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Mathematics

How do we find x in the city? The variable, x, that is. This course applies numbers on location where we will use mathematics as a lens to explore England’s past, present, and future with applications and case studies from a variety of disciplines. In this course, we pair our quantitative explorations with museum and site visits to explore the narrative surrounding the issues pertinent to living in historical and present day London and explore how museums use objects and exhibits to tell a story about the same subject we explored quantitatively.

We begin our exploration by considering quantitative measurements of time and place as we discuss clockmaker John Harrison’s invention of the marine chronometer. Next, we look at how variables change over time by considering population and epidemic models. We examine the historical and current population trends in London, recolonization of the western coast of England by the Cornish chough (a species of crow), and the spread of the plague in 16th century London and in the rural village of Eyam. Other topics we investigate in the course include traffic flow, transportation networks, and the traveling salesperson problem originally proposed by the Irish mathematician Sir William Hamilton. We end the term by using our knowledge of networks to design an itinerary to visit some of London’s popular tourist sites. Students also create a final project which applies quantitative reasoning to a problem relevant to London living or history and present the problem in a simulated museum exhibition.

Rachel Roe-Dale is an Associate Professor in the Mathematics Department at Skidmore College and the Director of Quantitative Reasoning at Skidmore College. She earned an MS in Applied Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her courses and research focus on the applications of mathematics and quantitative literacy. Recently she co-curated the show Sixfold Symmetry: Pattern in Art and Science at Skidmore’s Tang museum. She is excited to use London and its museums as a classroom to explore current and historical issues from a quantitative perspective.