Prof. Chartier Receives Beckenbach Prize for Innovative Book

Prof. Tim Chartier
Prof. Tim Chartier

From supercomputers to 3D printers, many of the advances of our modern world depend on data. Professor Tim Chartier's latest book, When Life is Linear: From Computer Graphics to Bracketology, employs an innovative approach to explain a major tool used to manipulate and study data: linear algebra. That book has been recognized by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) as one of the best in the field.

Chartier received the association's Beckenbach Book Prize, which honors the author of a distinguished, innovative book published by MAA Press. The prize and its $2,500 stipend is not presented regularly, but always honors a book published during the past five years.

Chartier's book was cited as "a relevant and exciting exception" to the impression of linear algebra as a dull and useless subject. In making the award at the MAA annual conference in Atlanta, MAA President Francis Su noted that Chartier avoids that charge by employing everyday content like Netflix algorithms, sports rankings, handwriting analysis and Google PageRank to demonstrate linear algebra's relevance to readers' lives.

"This innovative book brings linear algebra alive in a refreshing and creative way. Mathematicians like Chartier demonstrate the real-world applications of mathematics in everyday life," Su said.

Math Ambassador

Chartier's book coverChartier has been an active member of the MAA for two decades, and currently serves as its second vice president and as a member of the editorial board for its Math Horizons magazine. The organization named him as its "Math Ambassador" in 2014, and he was selected to present a distinguished lecture at the MAA national office in Washington.

Chartier specializes in numerical linear algebra. His expertise in data analytics has prompted frequent consultation requests for ESPN's Sport Science program, the National Basketball Association and NASCAR teams. He and two collaborators received a patent for application of the principles of basketball tournament "bracketology" as a system of ranking content in social media.

Chartier has also published the book Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi and Other Cool Bits in Computing, co-authored a textbook on numerical methods and published a video series titled Big Data, and How Data Analytics Is Transforming the World. The Life Is Linear book also helped guide a Davidson-created MOOC (massive open online course) through edX that features Chartier as instructor.

Chartier is also chief researcher for Tresata, a predictive analytics software company, and is an accomplished mime. He and his spouse, Tanya, have presented their mime show, titled MimeMatics, at professional meetings and educational venues across the country and abroad.

The Mathematical Association of America is the world's largest community of mathematicians, students and enthusiasts. It seeks to accelerate the understanding of the world through mathematics.

Bill Giduz