Does Math Have a PR Problem?

  • Speakers
  • Maria Klawe, Ph.D.President, Math For America
  • Timothy Large, Ph.D.Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Mathematics, Columbia University
  • Kyne SantosDrag Queen and Math Communicator
Date & Time


About Presents
Presents is a free events series exploring the connections between science, culture and society. Join our scientists and special guests as they discuss the intersections of their work, followed by an evening of conversation over drinks. It’s an opportunity to hear new perspectives that may challenge your assumptions and stoke your curiosity. Meet interesting people who share a passion for ideas and discovery. Come for the conversation, stay for the connections.

What gets people most excited about science? Space, dinosaurs and robots probably top the list. Math, on the other hand, is often perceived as boring and inaccessible, with folks quick to proclaim that math “isn’t for them.” Which is a shame because math is the language of our universe.

So, how do we engage people with math? How can we encourage people to reapproach their connection to math if they’ve moved away from it? And how can we create math experiences that foster a deeper sense of belonging?

Kyne Santos, a drag queen and math communicator, is passionate about crafting new and relevant ways for people to connect with math and discover its beauty. From her recent book, “Math and Drag,” which explores the intersections of math and queerness, to her popular educational videos on social media, she skillfully blends creativity and identity exploration with mathematical concepts to make them more accessible.

At Columbia University, Simons Junior Fellow Tim Large studies the math behind how things move in classical mechanics, such as a planet around its star. His research area, called symplectic geometry, is still relatively new and has much to be discovered. That potential inspires Large to collaborate with people with different perspectives, expertise and backgrounds and to find ways to promote greater inclusivity within the field.

As president of Math for America (MƒA), Maria Klawe is focused on solving a different problem the field faces: retaining exceptional math and science teachers in K–12 public schools. By providing financial support, opportunities for deep community collaboration and continued learning, MƒA supports nearly 1,000 STEM teachers throughout New York City so they can continue to make lasting impacts on their students, schools and communities.

Join them as they sit down with John Tracey, program director of Science, Society & Culture at the Simons Foundation, for a conversation that aims to unpick some of the reasons why math gets such a bad rap and the ways people are working to change that narrative.

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:

Maria Klawe joined Math for America as president in late 2023 after a 17-year term as Harvey Mudd College’s fifth president.

Before joining Harvey Mudd, she served as dean of engineering and professor of computer science at Princeton University. Klawe joined Princeton from the University of British Columbia, where she served in various roles from 1988 to 2002. Before then, Klawe spent eight years with IBM Research in California and two years at the University of Toronto.

She received her Ph.D. (1977) and B.Sc. (1973) in mathematics from the University of Alberta. Klawe is a board member of Phenome Health, EdReports and the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath). She has also served as a founding advisory board member of Parity.org, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a trustee for the Simons Laufer Mathematical Sciences Institute. Fortune ranked Klawe 17th on its 2014 list of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”

Tim Large is a mathematics postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University mentored by Mohammed Abouzaid. He received his Ph.D. from MIT in June 2021 under the supervision of Paul Seidel. Before that, he studied at the University of Cambridge, where he was named “Senior Wrangler” — the top mathematics undergraduate — in 2015.

Large’s work combines ideas from homotopy theory and Floer homology to study problems in symplectic geometry and low-dimensional topology. While at MIT, he developed a new model for equivariant Floer homology with applications to double coverings of 3-manifolds. He constructed a symplectic manifold with trivial traditional Floer homology but interesting Floer-theoretic K-theory. As a researcher at Columbia, his work will focus on using the lens of Floer K-theory and similar theories to investigate examples of mirror symmetry.

Kyne Santos is the stage name for Kyne Santos, a world-class drag queen, mathematics communicator, author, podcast host and keynote speaker.

Known as the math queen, Kyne makes popular educational videos on social media about math, science, history and drag, which have been viewed more than 350 million times. She shows viewers that math is fun, artistic and inclusive. She started the first drag-STEM podcast “Think Queen,” in 2023, launched the weekly newsletter The Math Queen Digest in 2024 and recently authored a book titled “Math In Drag.”

She appeared on the first season of Canada’s Drag Race and has been named a TikTok API trailblazer and one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30 Local Toronto.” She was nominated for a 2021 GLAAD Media Award for TikTok Queer Advocate of the Year.

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