MATC Mathematics Club
Lecture #105

Madison Area Technical College
Madison, Wisconsin


Spring 2011 Presentation #105 (April 8, 2011)

Professor Joseph Gallian, University of Minnesota and
former President of the Mathematical Association of America

"Breaking Driver's License Codes"

Abstract: Many states use complicated algorithms or formulas to assign driver's license numbers but keep the method confidential. Just for the fun of it, I attempted to figure out how the states code their license numbers. In this talk I will discuss how I was able to break the codes for Minnesota and Missouri. The talk illustrates an important problem-solving technique used by scientists but is not emphasized in mathematics classes. It also teaches the lesson that sometimes things done just for the sake of curiosity can have applications. The talk is intended for a general audience. No advanced mathematics is needed. To learn more about our speaker, please visit:

Biography: Joe Gallian received a Ph. D. from Notre Dame in 1971. He has been at UMD since 1972. He is the author of the book "Contemporary Abstract Algebra" (7th edition) and coauthor of the book "For All Practical Purposes" (8th edition). He has published more than 100 articles and given over 250 invited lectures at colleges, universities and conferences. He has directed summer research programs for undergraduate students since 1977 which has resulted in more than 150 papers published by undergraduates in main stream research journals. He has received the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Distinguished Teaching Award, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Minnesota Professor of the Year Award, the University of Minnesota Morse Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award, the UMD Jean G. Blehart Distinguished Teaching Award and the UMD Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Research. He is a past President of the MAA and recipient of the MAA Allendoerfer and Evans awards for exposition. Recent projects include: Executive Producer of the documentary film "Hard Problems," about the United States team's participation in International Mathematical Olympiad; editor of a book on Mathematics and Sports; a 250 page survey of graph labeling research; chair of the committee for 2010 Mathematics Awareness Month; coauthor of paper published in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society on a cross-cultural analysis of students with exceptional talent in mathematical problem solving.


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