Josiah Banks is an energetic and outgoing student with a passion for math.
A senior double majoring in theoretical mathematics and math education, Banks attributed his love of math to a very special person in his life, Michael Soroka, a calculus teacher at Campbell Memorial High School.
“He was a wonderful teacher,” Banks said. “He was very funny, down to earth, and knew how to explain things in a very effective way. He’s the one that really got me into math education. I wasn’t originally into math education. I wasn’t even going to go straight into math; I was going to do architecture at first.”
Three-quarters through Banks’ senior year, Soroka passed away.
“The teacher that came in, she never taught calculus [before] … and we all still wanted to learn more about [math] in memory of him,” Banks said. “We knew [Soroka] would still want us to learn. I got my friend’s notes from the year before and actually ended up learning the material…and basically helped the [new] teacher teach the class. That started my mathematics journey.”
Originally wanting to teach math at the high school level, Banks took a theoretical math class from Dr. Jacek Fabrykowski as part of the regular curriculum for integrated mathematics education majors.
“[Dr. Fabrykowski] really pushed me, and it was probably the hardest math course I ever had,” Banks said. “He made me understand that theoretical mathematics is so beautiful.”
Banks plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in math so he can teach theoretical mathematics at the college level. His main interests are in number theory and abstract algebra. This past summer, Banks studied number theory at Texas A&M at a Research Experience for Undergraduates.
“[Number theory focuses on integers] — no fractions, no decimals,” Banks explained. “It’s the study of all the properties of those numbers, [such as] divisibility.”
A form of number theory that interests Banks is modular arithmetic.
“[Modular arithmetic is] actually in a lot of things nowadays, and it’s very interesting,” Josiah said. “It’s like a section out of mathematics called discrete mathematics. In this world we live in — we live in a very continuous world — we’re used to seeing things constantly flowing. Well, with integers there are spaces between 0 and 1. You’re not looking at 0.1 or 0.2; you’re looking at just 0 or 1 or 2 with nothing in between. You’re not looking at fractions; nothing like that. So, some people find discrete mathematics and number theory very challenging, because…we are used to the things that are continuous.”
During his time at Texas A&M, Banks studied number theory. Parts of number theory he studied included the smallest parts function, the partition function and asymptotic formulas.
“It’s just amazing how number theory can relate to so many different aspects of mathematics without [people] even knowing it,” Banks said.
But Banks did more than just study numbers during his time in Texas.
“It was wonderful. I met a lot of wonderful people; I learned a lot of interesting things. I networked a lot, and I visited a lot of cool places in Texas,” Banks said. “Pretty sure I had the best BBQ of my life.”
After his summer in Texas, Banks came back to YSU and participated and presented research at the annual MathFest competition in DC, as well as competing in the competition.
He has also competed in the prestigious Putnam exam twice, the Integration Bee, the Calculus Competition, and has been a Presidential Mentor for the past two years, all on top of being active in over 10 student organization on campus.
“There are so many things our students need to know about, because there are so many opportunities in our math department,” Banks said. “I’m very proud of this math department. It’s great.”