Sudoku and a mother’s belief clues to a world of pure mathematics

    Dr Vaipuna Raass says the best way for non-mathematicians to think of his field of pure mathematics is to envision a filled-in Sudoku puzzle.

    Dr Raass, who graduated from Waikato University last month wrote his thesis on Critical Sets of Full Latin Squares.

    Dr Raass said Latin squares were used in designing statistical experiments, processor scheduling for computer systems, error-detection in wireless message transmission and cryptography, the encoding and decoding of messages.

    ”An example of a 9 x 9 Latin square is a filled-in Sudoku puzzle,” Dr Raass said.

    “A full Latin square is a generalization of Latin squares where multiple entries are allowed in each cell.

    “Like a Sudoku puzzle, a critical set of a full Latin square is a partial structure that completes uniquely to the Latin square containing the numbers 1,2,…,n in each cell.”

    Dr Raass’s father was Asaeli Raass, who taught mathematics at Apifo’ou college in Tonga.

    After completing his Bachelor’s degree, he was a senior teacher for five years at Api fo’ou college teaching maths, physics and chemistry for years 12 and 13.

    He also lectured in first year maths at Waikato.

    “Dad was my role model and my aspiration to be like him made me the mathematician that I am today,” Dr Raass said.

    However, he also cited his mother as an inspiration.

    “Mum was a simple, humble woman who always believed in me – in my eyes, the perfect mother,” Dr Raass said.

    “Alongside Dad, their hard-work and sacrifices for us kids will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life.”

    Because of his father’s influence all of his siblings did well in maths, but he the only one pursuing a career as a mathematician. His brother, Fr Sateki Raass, is the parish priest at St Mary’s in Mt Albert.

    He is looking for work teaching mathematics in a university.

    He described his relationship with his doctoral supervisor, Dr Nicholas Cavenagh, as very close and supportive.

    He described him as a prominent scholar and researcher in Latin squares and other related combinatorial structures and would like to keep working with him.

    The main points

    • Dr Vaipuna Raass says the best way for non-mathematicians to think of his field of pure mathematics is to envision a filled-in Sudoku puzzle.
    • Dr Raass, who graduated from Waikato University last month wrote his thesis on Critical Sets of Full Latin Squares.
    • Dr Raass said Latin squares were used in designing statistical experiments, processor scheduling for computer systems, error-detection in wireless message transmission and cryptography, the encoding and decoding of messages.
    • ”An example of a 9 x 9 Latin square is a filled-in Sudoku puzzle,” Dr Raass said.

    For more information

    Critical Sets of Full Latin Squares

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