One Canton resident is out to drum up more excitement for mathematics while also competing for $50,000.
Sommer Gentry, a Naval Academy math professor, will display her math puzzle-solving skills next Monday on FOX’s “Superhuman.”
The reality TV show competition, which is hosted by actor Kal Penn and features singer Christina Milian, former boxer Mike Tyson and neurosurgeon Dr. Rahul Jandial as panelists, encourages contestants to share some of their superhuman-like skills and brainpower in hopes of winning the grand prize.
Gentry, 39, also an adviser to the U.S. and Canada on efforts to create nation-paired organ donation registries, said she decided to apply for the contest after receiving an email about the show.
After interviewing with producers last year, the Stanford University and MIT graduate began to think of what skill she could display that would interest audience members, perhaps allowing them to follow along with a pen and paper.
“I wasn’t sure that I do the sort of math tricks that are impressive to an audience,” Gentry said, but she wanted to “show people that recreational mathematics is fun and interesting” and to debunk the stereotypes of what a math professor is like.
Not all are introverted, said Gentry, who has taught math for the past 12 years. In fact, her job often requires her to work in big teams and interact with others when allocating research and solving problems.
“I’m a people person. I love to be in front of a group, and I like to talk about what gets me excited,” she said, emphasizing her hope that her TV appearance helps create more excitement around aspects of math, specifically math puzzle-solving or brain-teasing word problems.
As for her experience on the show, Gentry said competing against other “Superhumans” wasn’t as unnerving as others may think. Each was celebrating their unique human abilities, but she did feel a bit nervous while waiting backstage to solve her puzzle, she said.
“But then I thought, I’m here for a reason and I’m here to sell mathematics to an audience, to explain why I find it so compelling to solve puzzles and make others feel like they can solve puzzles as well,” she said. “I’m doing this is to show everyone how cool this is.”
Her students weren’t as enthused when she told them that she would be displaying her puzzle-solving skills on "Superhuman,” she said, but the Naval Academy has since created a summer program for high school students that teaches them how to discover solutions themselves, “so they can see their superhuman skills as well."
And if viewers don’t tune in for the math, they can at least tune in for the jovial back and forth between Gentry and Penn (Gentry said she pokes fun at the actor).
“We had some really great banter on stage,” Gentry said.
The episode featuring Gentry, the seventh of the season, will air at 9 p.m. Monday on Fox.
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