The Way I See It: Magical mathematical tour of the Rice campus

The Way I See It: Magical mathematical tour of the Rice campus

Special to the Rice News

Where on the Rice campus can you find examples of 45-degree, 90-degree and 180-degree angles? Where can you find concentric circles in the Academic Quadrangle? How many different ways can you explain how to count the number of holes on the “frog wall”? What is the diameter of each of these holes? Which building’s ceiling was created using computer technology? These are just a few of the questions that students and teachers answer on the mathematical tour of the Rice campus that I have been conducting since the 1970s.


As an undergraduate and graduate student at Rice in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I was struck by the beauty and symmetry within the campus. Mathematics was everywhere. As buildings were added on campus, I found new examples of mathematics, such as the hyperbolic triangle at the entrance of the Humanities Building.

As director of the Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP), I conduct mathematical tours of the Rice campus for groups of students or mathematics teachers affiliated with RUSMP. Students need to see mathematics outside the mathematics classroom. The Rice campus is the perfect setting for this. My first tour was designed for my daughter, Joanna, who experienced the wonders of the whispering niches and the acoustically live ceiling in the physics building when she was 3 years old. Ever since, I have conducted my famous mathematical tours, tailoring them to the mathematics level of each group. I am now joined by Richard Parr, RUSMP associate director for curricular and instructional programs, who also conducts these tours.

Our most recent group of students arrived on campus Wednesday, March 19. Cedric French, mathematics teacher and chair at Westside High School and RUSMP master teacher, arrived at the Sallyport with his calculus students during their spring break. After the mathematics tour of the campus, the group attended Eric Chesebro’s Math 102 class, and then walked to the R-Room for lunch and conversations about mathematics and mathematics careers with the RUSMP team, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics John Polking and Chesebro, the Evans Instructor of Mathematics. What a great way to spend spring break!

— Anne Papakonstantinou is a clinical assistant professor of mathematics in the Wiess School of Natural Sciences and director of the Rice University School Mathematics Project.

— “The Way I See It” is a special guest column written by faculty, staff and students at the invitation of the Rice News.

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