First, I would like to apologize to my readers for having not posted since–yelp!–January. Since then, I have completed a brutal-yet-fulfilling second semester in the mathematics Master’s program at the University of Vermont. I am now halfway to that degree. This summer, I am teaching calculus 1, preparing for the master’s oral exams next spring, and working on a research plan for a PhD (I need to have my application to UVM’s PhD program in by the end of the year). I am also taking some time to reflect on what I have learned and where I intend to go in my career. I have spent many hours reading mathematical journals, which has not only helped me learn more about math, but has also given me new ideas about the teaching and learning of math and where my career fits into that scheme. More about this in posts to come. In the meantime, I am looking forward to having the work on convex skulls and legislative districts submitted to a scholarly journal. Stay tuned for updates!

# It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s that crazy time of year. Tax season is upon us, and if you are a college student or intend to be one in the fall, it’s also time to file your FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is exactly what its name implies–an application that you fill out in order to have your eligibility determined for federal grants and loans for the upcoming academic year. Federal student aid can be extremely helpful, but with caps on borrowing for most federal loan programs and the maximum Pell grant weighing in at less than $6,000 per academic year, federal aid often doesn’t come close to covering the full cost of a college education. But do not be discouraged. There are scholarships available for practically everyone, but many are frequently overlooked. You’ve probably heard that your school and community organizations are a good place to look for scholarships, but make sure you tailor your search. By applying for scholarships that are geared toward people like you–people with your interests, activities, family background, etc–you up your chances of cashing in. Also, many scholarship committees look at an applicant’s FAFSA, so be sure to file even if you don’t think you will qualify for federal aid.

# Math: What is it Good For? (Part 1)

Wondering just how higher math applies to real life? Sitting in your geometry class wondering how Heron’s Formula or rigorous definitions of convexity will ever be useful to you? Well, from the summer of 2012 through January of 2013, I worked with my adviser and a few other undergrad students at Lyndon State College on a research project to find a mathematical solution to the political problem of gerrymandering. We wanted to find a way to calculate the area of the largest convex polygon that could be drawn inside of a given non-convex polygon (where the non-convex polygon represents the legislative district). The idea was to find the ratio between the area of the district and the area of this largest inner convex polygon; a low ratio meant a nicely-shaped district. The folks in charge of redistricting could then use this ratio to draw new districts in an apolitical way. I wrote one of the computer programs for this project (and yes, I used Heron’s Formula), and the team and I presented our work at a Faculty Fellow Presentation at Lyndon State College in April 2013. Just last week, my adviser presented our work at the Joint Mathematics Meetings of the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America in Baltimore, MD. We are now hoping to having the work published. Stay tuned for more developments. Now who says geometry isn’t useful?

# Improving Higher Ed Access

I’m trying to keep this page apolitical, but I’m hoping you will still read this article from *The New York Times* about Michelle Obama’s plans to increase access to higher education. While we can certainly debate how to go about it, I think most of you would agree that increased access is needed. I hope you will share your ideas in comments.

# What Math Students Really Do

I’m really excited to share this video from Upworthy. For anyone who is wondering what studying math is really like, this video provides a great answer. It turns out studying math is not that different from studying anything else: math can be difficult to understand and takes plenty of time and practice to be become comfortable with. But just like any other skill, math skills can be mastered with practice, perseverance, and a willingness to seek out help. So don’t let math–or any other academic subject–intimidate you. Watch the video now and get inspired!

# STEM Stereotypes

Check out this article from *The New York Times* last fall. Do you think shows like the *Big Bang Theory* perpetuate stereotypes that keep women–and maybe men too–out of STEM fields?

# Welcome to Math Aspirations!

Welcome to Math Aspirations! My name is Erin Milne, and I am a math graduate student at the University of Vermont. I started this blog to reach out to high school and college students who are interested in studying math or are interested in any area but come from a low-income family and/or are among the first generation in their family to go to college. All these students are near and dear to my heart because I was one of them, and I believe their success is crucial to the success of America. I will be posting about topics related to mathematics, mathematics education, and the education system in general. I hope you will all feel free to comment on my posts, as I am hoping to get a robust conversation started about these issues.

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