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Studio Guest – Prof. Günter M. Ziegler, Mathematician

Our studio guest Prof. Günter M. Ziegler is President of the German Mathematicians Association at the Technical University-Berlin, and works for the German Research Foundation Research Centre MATHEON.


DW-TV: One chance in fourteen million: winning the lottery certainly is not very likely, not even if you're a professor of mathematics who has spent his life studying the secrets of numbers. Professor Gunter Ziegler has done exactly that. First of all, a quick personal question: do you play the lottery?

Günter Ziegler: No, I don't. We sometimes say the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math. But if you ask mathematicians, many do play the lottery because it's fun.

DW-TV: You're a professor at the Technical University in Berlin. You're also president of the German Mathematics Association who are one of the organisers of the 2008 Year of Mathematics here in Germany. Why do we need an event like that?

Günter Ziegler: I think we need the event because people don't know what math is about. They remember some bit of math from school but they haven't seen all the other things. Math as a school subject is something different than math as science, and math research, and math in arts and all of that. We want to offer people the chance to discover that over the year.

DW-TV: You love numbers and patterns in mathematics. Is there a certain type of math person?

Günter Ziegler: I don't know. If I look at my colleagues, if I look at mathematicians, they are so different, so different from each other that I don't see one math stereotype.

06.01.2008 DW-TV Projekt Zukunft ziegler2

DW-TV: What is it about math that you find so interesting?

Günter Ziegler: You know I'm a geometer, so for me it's less the numbers and more the patterns. But for me it's not only seeing these patterns in the geometry I do but also in art or wherever you go. Math is with us whether we see it or not.

DW-TV: What are the specific ways or teaching methods that you use to foster an interest in math. And do you have to start being interested in math at an early age?

Günter Ziegler: I think it's definitely good to be interested in math at an early age. There's a lot we can learn from math: I mean we can learn how to concentrate, calculate and how to be critical about things. Math can also help you find out when people are trying to play games with you. If you see advertising from a bank that tells you how you can make your money grow if you choose them rather than another bank, and there's a certain graph. As a mathematician you know that you want to get compound interest and you know that it means the curve should go - exponentially. So math can tell you when people are trying to play games with you and math helps you to be critical.

(Interview Heather DeLisle)

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