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Rapid City professor awarded prestigious award for math essay

Black Hills Backstory: A man and his math
Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 8:15 AM MST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2021 at 10:52 AM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) -The Chauvenet Math Award has found a home in Rapid City.

Originally an art major, Dr. Travis Kowalski now relates to the subject of math more like art history than a numerical problem.

“I was an art major and I changed from an art major to a math major because I had learned that there was a big history to it,” said Kowalski. “That mathematics is really a large human enterprise to describe the world around you.”

Kowalski now leads the Math Department at the School of Mines. He won the award for his article “The Sine of a Single Degree,” which leads readers to hunt for a sine of one degree.

South Dakota Mines professor won the  Chauvenet Math Award. Dr. Travis Kowalski won the award...
South Dakota Mines professor won the Chauvenet Math Award. Dr. Travis Kowalski won the award for his article “The Sine of a Single Degree,” which leads readers to hunt for a sine of one degree.(KOTA/KEVN)

Kowalski has a special way when it comes to explaining math. It’s a discovery, matched with history, that tells a story. It’s no surprise why he is distinguished with the Chauvenet Prize, which recognizes outstanding expository articles on a mathematical topic.

“Big picture idea is this is Trigonometry,” Kowalski said. “And so, Trigonometry is essentially the study of relationships between angles and lengths. It’s the study of triangles and the study of circles. And so perhaps really succinctly it’s the study of how length and angles on circles are related.”

Cleary, this plunges into geometry, algebra, and the complexity of numbers.

Kowalski considers what he does an art form to better improve human understanding of the world around us to know more as a society. Why he moved into the field of math was an artistic choice, too.

“I enjoyed creating art. Working in mathematics was a way to add a kind of art that was universal,” Kowalski said. “That could persist. That I could put my name on some piece of humanity and say ‘hey I was here.’”

South Dakota Mines professor won the  Chauvenet Math Award. Dr. Travis Kowalski won the award...
South Dakota Mines professor won the Chauvenet Math Award. Dr. Travis Kowalski won the award for his article “The Sine of a Single Degree,” which leads readers to hunt for a sine of one degree.(KOTA/KEVN)

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