Tom Henderson — Math Punk
For most of us, just hearing the word “math” spikes our blood pressure and fills us with fear and anxiety. This is not the case for Tom Henderson (a.k.a. the Math Punk), however, who has made mathematics his vocation and has an idea or two worth spreading. So what is the formula for an extraordinary Math Punk? Mathematician+comedian+professor+writer = Tom Henderson!
On Tom’s podcast Math for Primates, you may have heard him talk about Quantum Game Theory, Discrete Mathematics, or whether or not buying a pet monkey is the right thing to do. Perhaps you took a class from him at Portland State University or caught him on stage with The Light-Fingered Five improv group. Wherever Tom travels you can certainly say he is leaving his mark on the world of math and causing chaos along the way.
While teaching students at Portland State University, Tom would often say, “I don’t tell students that math is easy — I tell them it feels hard because it is hard, and that they are learning to work with fear and anxiety as their companions. I teach them to take a healthy attitude toward errors in reasoning; just as exercise improves bone strength through a cycle of microfractures and repairs, it is through frustration and error that mental toughness and agility are developed.” In a culture where we turn to the well-worn road of the “easy way” with pocket sized devices readily available at our disposal, Tom challenges us to embrace our discomforts surrounding math by taking the road less traveled.
Most recently, Tom has been tucked away in Vermont working on his book, Punk Mathematics. It is a new kind of math book: part math, part social. The idea began to take on life in 2010. Today, five years later, he admits he underestimated the amount of time it would take to accomplish his original goal and finish his book, but due to his tenacity, Punk Mathematics will be finished. As of this writing, it is all book-all of the time with just the occasional tweet.
We can’t wait for Tom to share a few brilliant ideas, tell a few jokes, and perhaps explain the benefits of owning a pet monkey when he gives his talk at our TEDxMtHood event on May 2nd.
Natasha lived in Manhattan before moving to Portland about 5 years ago. She spends her time running half marathons, cycling through the state with Cycle Oregon, sampling the delicious restaurants in Portland, and spending time with her fiancé and pug. She is committed to her community. Natasha believes in supporting local non-profits, including TEDxMtHood to inspire, and connect Portland's thriving community of individuals.