The great number debate on DVD

Williams College math professors go public

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., Dec. 8, 2006 -- Rumored to have the historical significance of the Edict of Nantes or the Yalta Conference, a heated debate between Williams College mathematicians Thomas Garrity and Colin Adams is being made available to the public in a 40-minute DVD, "The Great Pi/e Debate" by the Mathematical Association of America.

The DVD captures the hilarious battle for transcendence between the two transcendental numbers: Euler's number "e," and "pi." In trying to answer the question of which one of these is the better number, the two Williams professors resort to mud slinging, name calling, and whatever it takes to win the argument.

The DVD is moderated by Edward Burger, Williams math professor and winner of numerous awards for excellence in teaching and exposition. He is the author of numerous books, including "The Heart of Mathematics" and "Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz."

Colin Adams is described as "an innovative, demanding and very popular teacher, who has played a crucial role in the doubling of the enrollments in Williams math classes and the tripling of the number of majors." He was awarded the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998 and the Cherry Award for Great Teaching in 2003.

Many of his publications are aimed at making mathematics accessible and fun.

According to Adams, "in teaching people about math it is important for them to feel it's exciting and alive." This is what Adams had in mind when he wrote "The Knot Book: An Elementary Introduction to the Mathematical Theory of Knots", "Why Knot"" and "How to Ace Calculus: A Streetwise Guide."

Adams received his B.S. from MIT and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin- Madison. In addition to teaching at Williams, he has taught at Oregon State University and at the University of California at Santa Barbara and at Davis. Adams research interests include topology, hyperbolic manifolds, and knot theory.

Garrity, chair of the mathematics and statistics department at Williams, "makes mathematicians out of math phobes." Also winner of the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award, Garrity attracts flocks of students even to his not-so-easy classes.

A master of pedagogical tricks and teaching methods, Garrity has been known to do whatever it takes to keep his students engaged. "My goal is to foster the idea that mathematics, while useful, also provides us with a profound sense of deep interconnections in the world," says Garrity.

He specializes in algebraic and differential geometry and number theory. He is the author of "All the Mathematics You Missed: But Need to Know for Graduate School."

He received his B.A. and B.S. from the University of Texas at Austin and his Ph.D. from Brown University.

"The Great Pi/e Debate" can be ordered directly from the Mathematical Association's bookstore at

Catalog Code: PIE
DVD, 40 minutes, color, 2007
ISBN: 0883859009
List Price: $24.95


Williams College is consistently ranked one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges. The college's 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in this research. Students' educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment, which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions are made regardless of a student's financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted. Founded in 1793, it is the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college is located in Williamstown, Mass. To visit the college on the Internet:

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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