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MAA Student Chapters Newsletters - Fall 2003

Fall 2003

Boulder MathFest Report
Whassup in Phoenix
Final Notes
Contact Information


The Joint AMS-MAA Winter Meeting in Phoenix

Enjoy the warmth of Phoenix when the AMS and MAA hold their Joint Winter Meetings at the Phoenix Civic Plaza from Wednesday, January 7, through Saturday, January 10, 2004. The activities for students will include the Student Hospitality Center, the Undergraduate Students Poster Session, the MAA Student Lecture, and Mathematical Experiences for Students Outside the Classroom. In addition, students may want to cheer on the competitors in the session, Who Wants to Be a Mathematician?, or attend the session, What Can You Do with a Degree in Mathematics? Information on these activities may be found inside in the section ’Whassup in Phoenix.â?

MathFest 2003: Math at the Edge of the Rockies

Beautiful weather and the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains greeted the math people who attended MathFest 2003, held in Boulder, Colorado. Many students participated in the MAA and PME paper sessions, the problem-solving workshop, the MAA Student Lecture, and the National Collegiate Mathematics Championship. For a report on these and other activities, check out the Boulder MathFest Report.

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Boulder MathFest Report

Student Reception in Boulder

The annual MAA/PME Student Reception was held on Wednesday afternoon, July 31st, in the delightful outdoor pavilion of the Millennium Hotel in Boulder, Colorado. Many of the conference participants turned out to support over one hundred undergraduate students who attended MathFest this year. CUSAC co-chairs Richard Neal and Jean Bee Chan welcomed everyone and invited all to enjoy the ample refreshments.

The student reception has become a tradition at the summer meeting of the MAA. It is generally held right before the Opening Banquet and precedes the first full day of mathematics talks. It is a relaxed, fun event at which students can meet each other and be welcomed by established mathematicians. We hope to see you at the reception in Providence next year!

Students and faculty enjoy the Student Reception in Boulder
MAA Student Lecture

Professor Art Benjamin, Professor and Chair of the Mathematics Department at Harvey Mudd College, delivered the MAA Student Lecture, ’The Art of Mental Calculationâ?. The lecture was extremely well received and was attended by a full house.

Mathemagician Benjamin demonstrated his wizardry in doing calculations in his head with lightning speed, getting the answers before students in the audience who used handheld calculators. In addition to multiplying numbers in his head, he mentally squared numbers up to five digits long, and he figured out the day of the week of the dates of birth of people in the audience. Further, he constructed a four-by-four magic square on the spot! The most significant part of his lecture was that he revealed his secret method of mental calculation. All were mesmerized and awed. When the lecture ended, the applause went on endlessly!
Mathemagician Art Benjamin constructed
Anna's magic square in a flash

Students do ’Higher Mathâ? at the 2003 Boulder MathFest:

Student paper sessions highlighted the 2003 MathFest program for student and faculty attendees. This year, thanks to the generosity of Pi Mu Epsilon, the MAA Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters (MAACUSAC) was able to organize nine student sessions (instead of the usual eight), four on July 31st and five on August 1st. The 24-page program of student paper sessions listed presenters, titles, and abstracts for 53 presentations by 56 students in MAA-sponsored sessions, along with the parallel information for the six Pi Mu Epsilon sessions. A complete list of the MAA student speakers, titles, and abstracts can still be found at (look for the MathFest 2003 section on the web page).

Students traveled to Boulder from all across the country. Many students came in groups representing their institutions, such as those from Augustana College and Sam Houston State University. Some came as members of REUs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates), such as those from Williams College and Grand Valley State University. Twenty-five student presenters took advantage of their membership in the MAA or in their home institution’s MAA Student Chapter and received travel grants (up to $600) to help defray the cost of attending the meetings.

The Council on Undergraduate Research Council Award winner was Neil Hoffman of Williams College for his paper Double Bubbles in Other Universes.

The MAA awarded cash prizes of $150 each for nine presentations judged as outstanding, and the Council on Undergraduate Research also gave one $150 award. The recipients’ names, institutions, and presentation titles appear below.

Eric Bengtson (Augustana College): A Traffic Simulation Program

Natalie Puckett (Grand Junction Central High/Mesa State College): Center of Art

Moshe Cohen (Binghamton University, SUNY): New Results in Magic Square Enumeration

Christopher Bay (Truman State University): The Geometry of the Hausdorff Metric

Kristina Lund (Grand Valley State University): A Generalization of the Area Principle

Andrew Baxter & Stephen J. Weaver (Millersville University): Periodic Orbits in Triangular Air Hockey

Ariana Dundon (Pomona College): Commutative Algebra, Part III: Local Rings with Controlled Formal Fibers

Nicholas McClure (College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University): A Competing Population Model for Mosquitoes

Eric Engler (Williams College): Configuration Spaces, Part IV: Geometric Properties

These titles are a nice mix of pure, as well as applied mathematics, and give an idea of the depth and range of the student presentations one sees at any MathFest. Congratulations are due, not only to these award winners, but also to every student who presented at the conference. Many thanks are due to the faculty advisors of these students who worked with the students on their presentation and helped them get to MathFest. The MAA Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters looks forward to continuing this fine tradition at the 2004 MathFest in Providence, Rhode Island.

Two MCM Teams Win MAA Awards

From a field of almost 500 undergraduate teams entered in the 2003 Mathematical Contest in Modeling, two teams emerged as MAA Winners’the University of Washington, Seattle, with faculty advisor James Morrow, and Youngstown State University, Ohio, with faculty advisor Angela Spalsbury. The Washington team’Ernie Esser, Jeffrey Giansiracusa, and Sheng-Fong Pai’met the challenge of determining the size, location and number of cardboard boxes needed to cushion a biker’s fall. The Youngstown State team’Sarah Grove, Chris Jones, and Joel Lepak’came up with an algorithm for optimal dosages in the use of a Gamma Knife to treat brain tumor cells.

The teams had three and a half days to digest their problems, analyze them, come up with solutions, and then type their solutions. These teams made their presentation at MathFest as part of the SAC’s program, and a large audience had to opportunity to see these extraordinary undergraduates in action.

Jeffrey and Sheng-Fong of the Washington team were able to travel to Boulder for their presentation. In a demonstration showing how his team obtained needed empirical data, Jeffrey donned a helmet, goggles, and a lab coat, and then startled the audience by launching himself onto a large cardboard box so that we could witness how his energy was absorbed.

The Youngstown team was fully represented, with Sarah, Chris and Joel, as well as advisor Angela Spalsbury, all in attendance. It was a pleasure for the audience to see how the three presenting under-graduates students worked together so smoothly.

CUSAC co-chairs Jean and Richard attended the session and presented each student with an MAA certificate. Each team’s school also received a bronze plaque to commemorate their MCM-MAA winning solutions.

Problems, Problems, Problems

Clayton Dodge, Professor Emeritus, University of Maine, provided the Student Workshop at the recent MathFest meeting in Boulder. Professor Dodge’s workshop, titled ’Problems, Problems, Problems,â? was enjoyed and appreciated by dozens of students. The former editor of the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal for more than two decades, Dodge engaged the audience in a plethora of problems, along with strategies for solving them.

After detailing some problems, related techniques, and strategies, students were challenged to solve some of the more interesting problems on their own. Sheets of problems, pencils, and paper were passed out to the students. The students busily engaged themselves for a good portion of the two-hour workshop, delighting in working out problems. Some of the more interesting solutions were actively shared with the group. Many students spoke to the group about the strategies they used to solve problems and the ideas behind their solutions.

Gracing Professor Dodge and also attending the workshop was his daughter from the Los Angeles area, who flew in to spend some time with him in the beautiful Boulder region. The MAA Committee is most grateful to Professor Dodge for providing this super opportunity for students to meet him, to be challenged, and informed by him.

Twenty-six Finalists Competed at the Collegiate Mathematics Championship

The 7th annual U. S. National Collegiate Mathematics Championship was held at the MathFest in Boulder. A group of 26 students, finalists in The Problem Solving Competition, were present to compete. The Problem Solving Competition is a monthly problem solving activity conducted locally at 500 colleges and universities in the United States. The participating colleges enter their students in the final competition for the national championship each year.

This year’s first place winner was Michael Khoury. Michael is a junior at Denison University and is a repeat winner from 2001. Second Place went to Robin Baur of Harvey Mudd College. Third place went to James Lawrence of Miami University of Ohio, with fourth place going to Emily King of Texas A&M University. In the competition, all finalists are handed a clipboard with an initial problem face down. The students begin working the first of seven problems, arranged in order of increasing difficulty. Only when they have obtained the correct solution to a problem can they obtain the next problem. The first person to solve all seven problems is the overall champion.

2003 champions Emily King, James Lawrence, Michael Khoury and Robin Baur
In addition to beautiful red white and blue trophies, the first-place prize included a summer internship at Lawrence Livermore National Research Laboratory. A TI Voyage Calculator was also presented as a top prize. All 26 student finalists received red, white, and blue t-shirts along with beautiful silver medallions.

For information on how students from your college or university can qualify to attend the US National Collegiate Mathematics Championship held each summer during MathFest, contact Dr. Richard Neal at or write to Dr. Richard S. Neal, University of Oklahoma Department of Mathematics, Norman, OK 73019.

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Whassup in Phoenix

Broadening Students’ Mathematical Experiences

As mathematics faculty members we know that ’mathematics happensâ? all around us every day. This might not be so apparent to students in mathematics courses. Just think of how hard it is for them to see where the math is applicable even in their other coursework, like physics or chemistry. So, as Student Chapter and/or Math Club advisors we are always on the lookout for opportunities to expose students to mathematical activities and events that happen outside the classroom.

To help with this endeavor, the MAA Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters has sponsored a session at the annual Joint Meetings for the past few years called ’Mathematical Experiences for Students Outside the Classroomâ?. This winter, at the 2004 Joint Meetings in Phoenix, there will be over 3 hours of presentations, (8 ’ 10:55 AM and 2:15 ’ 3:30 on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2004) containing great ideas for things to do with math students outside the classroom. These include activities and projects undertaken during Math Awareness Week held in April each year, experiences with problem solving groups, mentoring and guiding undergraduate mathematical research, mathematics competitions, summer enrichment camps, and field trips. Besides hearing about ’whatâ? you can do with students, you can also hear about ’howâ? to go about doing it, from the people who actually did the activity. Perhaps you’ll be able to take an idea or two from this session and use it during the current semester at your own institution.

Mathematical Experiences for Students Outside the Classroom
Wednesday January 7, 2004

Session I: 8:00-10:55 a.m.

DSU Student Chapter of MAA Promotes Mathematics Awareness
Daniel P. Wisniewski, OSFS (, DeSales University

Field Trips to Our Nation’s Capital
Betty Mayfield (, Hood College

A First Timer's Experience with an Independent Study
Greg Cicconetti (, Muhlenberg College

Enticing, Engaging and Enlightening Examples of Mathematical Activities
Thomas Q. Sibley (TSIBLEY@CSBSJU.EDU), St. John’s University

Obtaining Student Research Sponsors and Showcasing Student Research at the United States Military Academy
LTC Michael J. Johnson* (, USMA
LTC Edgar Rugenstein (, USMA

A Mentoring Program for Math, Engineering, and Computer Science Majors
Holly Zullo (, Carroll College

Student-Centered Department Events
Cheryl L. Olsen (, Shippensburg University

A Competition for Future Mathematics Teachers
Vince Schielack (, Texas A&M University

From Problem Solving Group to Summer Research: k-sets of Magic Squares
Dave Feil* (, Carroll College
Andrew Shulman, Carroll College

Session II: 2:15-3:30 p.m.

A First Experience Advising Undergraduate Research
Lisa DeMeyer (, Central Michigan University

Student Construction Projects for Mathematics Awareness Week and Related Mathematics Problems
Aaron Trautwein (, Carthage College

Summer Math Enrichment Camp Experience
Lynn McGrath* (, University of San Diego
Perla Myers, University of San Diego
Jane Friedman, University of San Diego

The South Alabama Math Circles
Vasiliy Prokhorov* (, The University of South Alabama
Natalya Prokhorova (, The Alabama School of Math & Science, The University of South Alabama

Undergraduate Students Poster Session in Phoenix, January 9, 2004

The Undergraduate Student Poster Session will take place on January 9, 2004 in Phoenix, AZ, in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).

The poster session is organized by Mario Martelli of Claremont McKenna College, and it is sponsored by the Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters (CUSAC) of the MAA. Interested participants should send by December 9, 2003, a title and a (no more than) one-half-page abstract either by regular mail to Mario Martelli, Mathematics Department, Claremont McKenna College, 850 Columbia Ave., Claremont, CA 91711, or by e-mail to

Please list the name of the author(s), specify the presenter(s). Include address, phone number, and e-mail of one presenter who will coordinate your participation with the organizer. List the address and the name of the faculty advisor(s), and, when applicable, any source of financial support you may have received for the research on which the poster is based. The coordinating presenter will be notified of the acceptance not later than two weeks after the above information has been received. Expositors are strongly encouraged to apply early since the space is limited and it will be assigned on a first come, first serve basis.

The session is reserved for undergraduates, but first-year graduate students can submit posters on work done while they were undergraduates. As the title of the session suggests, the content of each poster cannot be purely expository. Typical contents may be either a new result, or an interesting proof of an existing theorem, or an unpublished solution to a problem that appeared in one of the MAA journals.

Each poster will be judged by three experts on the basis of mathematical originality and content, inventiveness and clarity of presentation, and appropriateness of answers given by the presenters to questions posed by the judges. Monetary prizes will be awarded to the best posters with funds provided by AMS, MAA, AWM, and CUR.

Abstracts of the posters will not be published in the printed program of the meeting. However, the organizer will prepare a handout listing all exhibitors together with contact information (e-mail, phone, address), a title of their poster, a short abstract and the name of the faculty under whose supervision the work was done. Presenters may wish to bring 25-50 copies of more detailed accounts to hand out to interested visitors. They may also wish to bring blank stick-on mailing labels for those visitors who want to receive a final copy of the work presented in the poster.

The organizer cannot provide any financial support for the students presenting the posters. Self-standing tabletop posters that are 48" wide, 36" high and are tri-fold, and "Spra Mount" will be available. Additional material for setting up the posters, as well as computers and/or other technological devices needed for the presentation, is the responsibility of each presenter. Please notify the organizer at your earliest convenience if you expect to need power outlet for your presentation. The room will be open for setting up the posters at 3:00 p.m. on Friday. See you in Phoenix!

Mario Martelli
Mathematics Department
Claremont McKenna College
850 Columbia Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711

telephone: (909) 607-8979

Student Lecture at Phoenix Meeting

Professor Mark Meerschaert will deliver the Student Lecture at the Joint Meetings in Phoenix. He is extremely good at making complex ideas accessible, so do not let any students be discouraged by statements in this abstract that they do not (at first reading) follow.

Title: Fractional Calculus with Applications
Time: Friday, 1:00 p.m.

Abstract: Fractional derivatives are almost as old as their integer-order cousins. Recently, fractional derivatives have found new applications in engineering, physics, finance, and hydrology. In physics, fractional derivatives are used to model anomalous diffusion, where a cloud of particles spreads differently than the classical Brownian motion model predicts. A probability model for anomalous diffusion is based on particle jumps with power law tails. The probability of a jump length larger than r falls off like rthese particle jumps have infinite variance, indicating a faster than usual spreading rate. Particle traces form random fractals whose dimension alpha equals the power law tail exponent. A fractional diffusion equation for the concentration of particles c(x ,t) at time t and location x takes a form

that can be solved via Fourier transforms. Fractional time derivatives model particle sticking or trapping in a porous medium. In finance, price jumps replace particle jumps, and the same models apply. In this talk, we give an introduction to this new area, starting from the beginning and ending with a look at ongoing research.

Biographical information: Mark M. Meerschaert is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics and the Graduate Program in Hydrologic Sciences at the University of Nevada as well as an active member of the Fractal Calculus project. Professor Meerschaert has professional experience in the areas of probability, statistics, and mathematical modeling. He started his mathematical career in 1979 as a systems analyst at Vector Research, Inc., of Ann Arbor and Washington, D.C., where he worked on a wide variety of modeling projects for government and industry. Meerschaert earned his doctorate in Mathematics (Probability) from the University of Michigan in 1984. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Albion College, Michigan State University, and most recently at the University of Nevada in Reno. His current research interests include ground water and surface water hydrology, partial differential equations and stochastic processes, time series analysis, limit theorems and parameter estimation for infinite variance probability models.
See for a photo and more information (publication list, etc.).

Also for Students in Phoenix

Student Hospitality Center
Wednesday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Organized by Richard Neal, University of Oklahoma.

Who Wants to Be a Mathematician?
Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Organized by Michael A. Breen and Annette W. Emerson, AMS; and William T. Butterworth, Barat College of DePaul University

Come watch ten of Phoenix's top high school students as they have the chance to compete for cash and prizes by answering questions about mathematics. There is no partial credit to agonize over, and the top prize is $2,000. Contestants can ask for help from the audience, so the more people in the audience who know mathematics, the better it is for the contestants. You are invited to come and take part in this educational and fun presentation.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Mathematics?
Saturday, 1:00 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.
Organized by John A. Vano, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Kim Roth, Wheeling Jesuit University

Ever wanted to know what all of your options are for careers with your math degree? This panel will talk about some of the options, from industry to grad school and other things in between. Undergraduate and graduate students are especially encouraged to attend.

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Final Notes

CUSAC Co-Chair Becomes MAA VP

Jean Bee Chan, who has devoted her talents, time, and energy to CUSAC as co-chair, was recently elected as a vice president of the MAA. Because of the demands of her new post, she has resigned as co-chair of our committee. Richard Neal, who will continue as sole chairwan of CUSAC, wrote: "She has done an excellent and valuable job. We wish her well with her new expanded duties where she can make even greater contributions."


Jean Bee Chan-MAA Student Lecture in Boulder; Ben Fusaro-MAA-MCM Winners; John Holte-Chapter Newsletter Editor; Tom Kelley-Student Papers; Laura Kelleher-Mathematical Experiences for Students Outside the Classroom; Tom Kelley-Broadening Students' Mathematical Experiences; Edward Keppelmann-Student Lecture in Phoenix; Mario Martelli-Poster Session in Phoenix; Betty Mayfield-Student Reception at Boulder MathFest; Richard Neal-Student Workshop & National Collegiate Mathematics Championship.

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Contact Information

How to Reach the MAA

For Membership Information, Subscriptions, and Publication Orders contact:

The MAA Service Center
P.O. Box 9112
Washington, DC 20090-1622
800-331-1522 or (301)617-9415
FAX: (301) 206-9789

For the MAA Headquarters:

The Mathematical Association of America
1529 Eighteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1385
800-741-9415 or (202) 387-5200
FAX: (202) 265-2384

How to Contact the Chapter Newsletter Editor

Suggestion, concerns, and/or contributions of articles for the CUSAC newsletter may be sent to:

John Holte
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Gustavus Adolphus College
800 W. College Avenue
St. Peter, MN 56082
(507) 933-7465

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