Santa Clara University

Mathematics and Computer Science department

Santa Clara University Mathematics and Computer Science Lecture Program



The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Santa Clara University is pleased to offer talks for various audiences. These may include middle school and high school classes and mathematics clubs, in-service teacher workshops, home-schooled groups of students, etc.; in short, anyone interested in mathematics or computer science who wants to know more about the subjects.

Faculty members from the Department will be available to give entertaining and informative presentations designed to convey the joy of mathematical discovery and insight into why mathematics and computer science are such engrossing activities.

Talks are generally planned to fit into a fifty-minute time period with time for discussion and questions. If a different amount of time is desired, this can be arranged with the speaker. The level for most talks can be adapted to take into account the background of the audience, but this also should be discussed with the speaker.

Speakers are available at many different times that fit around their teaching schedules. Those requesting speakers should request a visit and schedule a time by contacting the desired speaker from the list below. Some speakers are able to travel throughout the greater Bay Area. Speakers can also arrange a classroom on campus for groups that would like to visit; this is usually simpler for an evening presentation.

Speakers and Topics

  • Robert Bekes (tel: 408-554-4883 or email: rbekes at

    Topic: What are the chances? We present some interesting and controversial problems of probability, including the birthday problem, the Monte Hall problem, and the hanging problem. We will also discuss some card tricks and gambling strategies.

  • Frank Farris (tel: 408-554-4430 or email: ffarris at

    Topic: Symmetry in Rosettes, Friezes,  and Wallpaper. We show lots of pretty pictures to introduce basic ideas of symmetry. In a hands-on activity, students identify translations, rotations, reflections, and glide reflections that are symmetries of specific wallpaper patterns.  Depending on the level of the class, we can stick with easy rosettes, or go all the way with wallpaper.  For an advanced class, I can explain how the images are made using complex numbers.

  • George Mohler (tel: 408-554-4544 or email: gmohler at

    Topic: The Mathematics of Crime. We will provide an overview of how mathematics is being used in real life to understand and predict urban crime patterns. Several topics we will cover include why crimes "clump together", how to find a criminal given the locations of the crimes committed, and what the implications are for police and society.

  • Jean Pedersen (tel: 408-554-4538 or email: jpedersen at

    Topic: Number tricks and card tricks you can do yourself. In this presentation the speaker will show some number tricks and some card tricks. When magicians do tricks they seek to conceal why they work, but when mathematicians do tricks they seek to reveal why they work. Consequently all the tricks presented will be explained.  Other topics available on request.

  • Ed Schaefer (tel: 408-554-6899 or email: eschaefer at

    Topic Using Geometry to Solve Problems About Numbers. We will use an elliptic curve to solve the following problem: When is the product of two consecutive integers equal to the product of three consecutive integers? (This talk is accessible to any student familiar with the rudiments of graphing equations.)

  • Rick Scott (tel: 408-554-4460 or email: rscott at Available Jan-June only.

    Topic: How do we know that the earth is not a donut? The surface of a ball and the surface of a donut are just two examples of surfaces on which a creature might live. We will discuss surfaces in general and how someone living on a particular surface might tell which kind of surface it is.

  • Nicholas Tran: (tel: 408-554-4465 or email: ntran at

    Topic: Problems Even Computers Can't Solve. Computer are very good at calculations, but there are problems that even the most powerful computers cannot solve. We will look at some examples and their applications in protecting information on the Internet and fighting spam emails.

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