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MIT’s Male Math Maze: no doubt things have changed ... or have they?

An autobiographical account of MIT's math department in the 1980s by playwright and performer Gioia De Cari SM '88 has sold out its run at the Central Square Theater and generated widespread discussion about how much, or how little, things have changed at MIT.
Gioia De Cari, an MIT alumna, in 'Truth Values'
Caption:
Gioia De Cari, an MIT alumna, in 'Truth Values'
Credits:
CST (Central Square Theater)

While making the most of the comic absurdity of being pawed by nerds, being asked to serve cookies at a seminar, and retaliating with fashion experiments (well, she did graduate back in 1988 — no doubt things have changed ... or have they?), "Truth Values" is also a serious exploration of the world of elite mathematics and the role of women in science. Gioia De Cari, who received an SM in mathematics from MIT in 1988, has been performing to sold-out audiences in her autobiographical solo show Truth Values: One Girl's Romp through MIT's Male Math Maze at the Central Square Theater at 450 Mass Ave. The play has been extended through Sept. 27.

Performances are followed by conversations with artists and scientists from MIT and Harvard. Notable speakers have included Nancy Hopkins, the Amgen, Inc. Professor of Biology, whose role a decade ago in a study of women faculty in the school of science led to widespread national coverage of MIT's Gender Equity Project. Hopkins and Michael Sipser, head of the math department, compared data on the recruitment and retention of women students and faculty in recent years. Alumni from theoretical physics, humanities and architecture, among others, weighed in with their own experiences and perspectives.

Ken Haggerty '11 wondered whether he could relate, not being a girl or a mathematician,  but "found myself literally connecting events in my life to events portrayed in the play, and at the show's end, I felt that 'connection', the 'redeeming value,' which you are supposed to feel after seeing a truly wonderful show."

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