"Elvis the Calculus Dog"

SALEM, Va. - Dr. Roland Minton, professor of mathematics at Roanoke College, is the co-author of an article called "Do Dogs Know Bifurcations?" published in The College Mathematics Journal. The piece won the 2008 George Polya Award for mathematical exposition. The article was inspired by Elvis the Calculus Dog, a Welsh Corgi who belongs to Minton's co-author, Dr. Tim Pennings from Hope College.

Pennings and Elvis will host a conversation series on March 22 at 7 p.m. in the Bast Center to showcase Elvis's unique talent of solving calculus problems. The event is free and open to the public.

Pennings wrote an article detailing how Elvis's retrieval of a ball thrown into Lake Michigan can be transformed into a mathematical problem. He set up an experiment to test whether Elvis would instinctively choose the most efficient route to the ball, known as the optimal path. The optimal path minimizes the time of travel to the ball and depends on Elvis's different rates of speed for running and swimming.

Minton, of Roanoke's math faculty, came across Pennings' article and was so fascinated by it that he used it as a problem in his calculus textbook. Minton and Pennings quickly formed a friendship over e-mail and collaborated on the article in The College Mathematics Journal.

Pennings and Elvis have become celebrities in the mathematics world, appearing on television and in print while also taking their show to numerous high schools and colleges. They make calculus, which can seem scary to many people, accessible. Pennings says Elvis is "a great ambassador for mathematics."

Roanoke College, an independent, co-educational, four-year liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a classic, undergraduate setting. Roanoke prepares students for their futures through its commitment to providing a true classic college experience. Roanoke is one of just 280 colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review names Roanoke as one of the "best in the Southeast."

For additional information, call the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282.

Released: March 18, 2010
Contact Name: Public Relations
Contact Phone: (540) 375-2282
Contact Email: gereaux@roanoke.edu