Math Whiz

Stuff I wrote elsewhere

I love to write about interesting people, and Bob Cordwell is one of the most interesting people I’ve run across in a while:

“Think of a circle with a lot of points on it? in fact, 79 points.” Eighteen-year-old Bob Cordwell stands at a chalkboard heading cheerfully into terrain that would make most of us uncomfortable.

For Cordwell, though, mathematics is a familiar landscape, like the keyboard for a piano prodigy, or the hardwood for a teenage basketball star.

“That’s a fairly sad circle of points,” he said with a laugh at the lopsided orb he drew, picking at it to smooth out the curve.

Points on a circle, and the lines joining them, are central to a mathematical proof the recent Manzano High School valedictorian worked out last summer.

“Obviously,” Cordwell said, “there have to be copies of every edge length.”

Well, no, it isn’t obvious to most of us. But Cordwell’s gift, and his charm, is that it is to him.