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Fairfield U. Graduate May Have Solved A $1 Million Math Problem

Angela Moore pursues what she calls recreational mathematics -- or solving complex problems just for the fun and challenge.
Angela Moore pursues what she calls recreational mathematics -- or solving complex problems just for the fun and challenge. Photo Credit: Angela Moore

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Angela Moore, a Fairfield University graduate, believes she has solved the Beal Conjecture -- a math problem that has captivated headlines since the 1990s and boasts a $1 million bounty for anyone who can prove or disprove the theory.

The theory itself is quite difficult for anyone without a scholarly background in mathematics to understand. Moore herself didn’t study the subject despite completing two majors and a minor at Fairfield University.

Rather, Moore enjoys what is called recreational mathematics, making her work on the Beal Conjecture a hobby more than an occupation.

“Everyone was talking about [Beal Conjecture ] in 2013. I remember, it was all over the news,” Moore said, remembering the year after she received her degree from Fairfield.

“I really like puzzles, and it had an amazing prize,” so she went for it.

But it wasn’t the money that fueled her research. She admitted her love of living a modest life with her family in their duplex in New Haven. In fact, Moore has no extravagant plans for the cool million she could be taking home in just two years time.

“It was the fact that people thought I couldn’t do it,” Moore said, revealing the motivation behind her binge into mathematics research that took place on weekends and after her full-time job at Yale University, where she works as an international affairs assistant.

In 2013, her work to disprove the Beal Conjecture by arguing a “positive zero,” often used in computing would solve the impossible equation, was published in Math Goodies -- a website that publishes interactive lessons.

Her success continued last year, when her work was republished in Math News. When word got out about her new theory, Moore decided to rewrite her paper, outlining formally concise ideas into more detailed prose, and published her work this year on a Cornell University “pre-print” server known as arXiv (pronounced: “archive”) .

“I’ve now been asked to give an hourlong presentation at [the 19th annual CMC3 Recreational Mathematics Conference] in Lake Tahoe,” Moore said.

If her presentation and paper are accepted by the Beal Conjecture Prize Committee, it will have to undergo peer review for two years. If widely accepted by the mathematics community after two years, she said, then she would receive the award.

In the meantime, however, Moore is keeping busy with her many hobbies, including work on her fourth book in an ongoing series of children’s comics focused on teaching kids about bullying, shoplifting, binge dieting and a number of other social development topics.

She hopes her work in recreational mathematics will help others explore new hobbies that they may be afraid to try for fear of failure.

“People normally think math is an evil topic, especially in school, where they assume it’s going to be difficult,” Moore said. “Don’t be afraid of failure, because you’ll never know if you don’t try… if you see something interesting go after it.”

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