In May 2009, Michele Osherow, an English professor at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and dramaturg at the Folger Theatre, in Washington, invited her colleague Manil Suri, a mathematician at the university, to act as
mathematics consultant for the Folger’s production of Tom Stoppard‘sArcadia. The play explores the relationship between past and present through the characters’ intellectual pursuits, poetic and mathematical. That led to a series of “show and tell” sessions explaining the mathematics behind the play to both cast members and audiences. In the fall of 2011, the two professors decided to take their collaboration to the classroom and jointly teach a freshman seminar, “Mathematics and What It Means to be Human.” Here is the first of a three-part series on how the experiment played out.