Mathematics Awareness Month — Unraveling Complex Systems, a note from math editor Vickie Kearn

April is Mathematics Awareness Month. Just in case you didn’t know this, here is a little history. It was started in 1986 as Mathematics Awareness Week with a proclamation by Ronald Reagan. Each year the celebration has grown in scope and in 1999 Mathematics Awareness Week became Mathematics Awareness Month. There are all kinds of activities, including workshops, competitions, seminars, exhibits, and festivals that focus on increasing the public understanding of and appreciation for mathematics. Each year there is a different theme and this year the focus is on Unraveling Complex Systems.

Complex systems are everywhere. Examples that will be familiar to you include power grids, the internet, financial markets, environmental ecosystems, our bodies, transportation systems, etc. Mathematics helps us to understand these systems, enhance their reliability, and improve their performance.

The official website for Mathematics Awareness Month is at and it is a wonderful place to find out all about complex systems. You can learn about disease transmission, the economic impact of catastrophic events and the effect of a blackout on an electric grid.

Princeton University Press has two book series devoted to complexity and complex systems. The Princeton Studies in Complexity is edited by Simon Levin (Princeton University) and Steven Strogatz (Cornell University). This series publishes enduring research on complex systems in the natural, physical, and social sciences. A special focus is on complex adaptive systems, in which macroscopic features emerge from the collective dynamics of individual agents. Evolutionary processes, from the life history adaptations of natural populations to the evolution of societies, are of major interest. Recent books in the series include
Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life
John H. Miller & Scott E. Page
Critical Transitions in Nature and Society
Marten Scheffer
Generative Social Science: Studies in Agent-Based Computational Modeling
Joshua M. Epstein
A complete listing of all the titles in the Princeton Studies in Complexity can be found at

The Primers in Complex Systems series, edited by John Miller (Carnegie Mellon University and the Santa Fe Institute), includes short well-focused, accessible, high quality introductions to key topics in complex systems. Each book serves as a coherent primer on the topic, providing a solid, scientifically accurate introduction to the core elements, including current knowledge, practice, examples, and future frontiers. The primers are accessible to an advanced undergraduate or graduate student, or a non-specialist in the specific area of complex systems covered by the book. Any mathematics should be accessible (or made accessible) to someone who has taken a typical sequence of undergraduate mathematics. The first two books in this series have recently been published. They are Ant Encounters by Deborah Gordon and Diversity and Complexity by Scott Page. You can learn about forthcoming volumes at the series homepage


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