Nelly Litvak, a UT mathematician, has written a book about applications of mathematics. It is one of four titles to be nominated for Russia’s highly prestigious “Enlightener” award for popular scientific writing.

The scientific tradition is alive and well in Russia, a country whose authors publish many great books on popular scientific topics every year, including on mathematics. Litvak is very pleased with the recognition, saying, “It’s an incredible honor to be nominated for this award.”

The author explains: “It is a book for the general public about applications of mathematics in digital technologies. The book covers many topics, including planning and scheduling, coding theory, robustness of the Internet, load balancing in web servers, probabilistic counters, cryptography and online auctions. I am Russian and I wrote the book in Russian, my native language, but mathematics is of course universal. I am very grateful for lots of help, enthusiasm, support and expert advice from my colleagues, at the department of Applied Mathematics at the UT.”

Facebook group

When Litvak was giving public lectures about her new book in Russia, she noticed that mathematics education was a very emotional and often even painful topic. The book’s title is Who needs mathematics? People would often come to her lectures with questions such as: “Why do I have to know what a logarithm is? When will I ever need this? What should I do if my child just doesn’t understand maths?” To help foster an appreciation of maths, she is running a Facebook group in Russian where she teaches non-mathematically-minded adults basic mathematics (trigonometry, logarithms) and explains how these things are related to real life. The interest is huge. More than 3,200 members joined the group in the first four months, and the number is growing every day.

Nelly Litvak

Nelly Litvak is an associate professor at the University of Twente and a part-time professor at Eindhoven University of Technology. Nelly received her PhD in Stochastic Operations Research from Eindhoven University of Technology (EURANDOM) in 2002. In recent years she has been working on algorithms for complex networks, specifically algorithms for node ranking such as Google PageRank, efficient detection of network structures, and the analysis of network correlations. Nelly has received several grants and awards including the Stieltjes Prize for the best PhD thesis, an NWO Meervoud grant and the Google Faculty Research Award. In her free time, Nelly is a successful non-fiction and popular science author.

More information

Nelly Litvak, Andrei Raigorodsky. Who needs mathematics? A clear book about how the digital world works", Mann Ivanov Ferber Publishers, 2017.

drs. M.M.J. van Hillegersberg - Hofmans (Martine)
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