You are here

MAA Student Chapters Newsletters - Spring 2004

Spring 2004

The Newsletter for Advisors of Student Chapters of the Mathematical Association of America

Spring 2004

Photos & Fun Facts from Phoenix
Providence Preview
An Advanced Look at Atlanta
Credits & Contact Information


MathFest 2004 in Providence

Plan on participating in the activities planned for the Providence, Rhode Island, MathFest this summer, from Wednesday, August 11, through Saturday, August 14, 2004. The activities for students will include the Student Hospitality Center, the MAA Student Paper Sessions, the presentations of the MAA Mathematical Contest in Modeling winners, the MAA Student Lecture, the MAA Student Workshop, and the Student Problem Solving Competition. In addition, students and advisors will likely be interested in the parallel Pi Mu Epsilon student papers sessions, the PME banquet, the PME J. Sutherland Frame lecture, and a Math Horizons special session. Information on these activities may be found inside in the section ’Providence Preview.â?

MAA Student Activities at the Phoenix Joint Mathematics Meetings

Warm and sunny weather welcomed those who attended the JMM at Phoenix in January. A record number of students participated in the MAA student poster session, about one hundred students and advisors attended the MAA student lecture, many folks attended the special session on ’Mathematical Experiences for Students outside the Classroom,â? and students and others enjoyed the diversions offered at the Student Hospitality Center throughout the meetings. Thanks to the Diversity Initiative, some students from underrepresented groups received assistance with travel and registration expenses. For a report on these activities, check out the ’Photos and Fun Facts from Phoenix.â?

Check out the new student website at

Back to top

Photos & Fun Facts from Phoenix

A Class at Star Fleet Academy

Mark Meerschaert
Well over one hundred students and advisors attended this year’s MAA student lecture. Dr. Mark M. Meerschaert of the University of Nevada enthusiastically presented a sample lecture of the course in ’fractal calculusâ? that students may get at Star Fleet Academy in the future. In his talk he introduced students to the notions of fractional derivatives, PDEs with fractional derivatives, and non-normal random diffusion processes. In speaking of the joys of playing with wild ideas in mathematics, like fractional derivatives, he exclaimed, ’You screw around and useful things happen! What could be better?â?

Copies of the slides of his talk may still be seen at

Dr. Mark Meerschaert

Richard and Araceli Neal Host the Student Hospitality Center

Despite a last-minute change of venue that moved the student hospitality center from a prime location near the exhibits to a room in another wing of the Phoenix Convention Center, many students’about 70’crowded into the center on opening day. Once there, the Neals offered the visitors an assortment of snacks and an opportunity to participate in an ’icebreakerâ? activity. Professor Tom Sibley of Saint John’s/Saint Benedict’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, put the students in groups of eight or so, had them clasp one another’s hands at random, and then had them try to maneuver themselves into a simple loop’the not knot. According to Tom, they had about an 80 percent chance of success. For round 2, the students were challenged to link up in a way that would form a real knot.
Hospitality Center
Mathematical Experiences for Students outside the Classroom

In January 2004, at the Joint MAA/AMS Meetings in Phoenix, the MAA Committee on Student Chapters and Undergraduate Experiences in Mathematics sponsored a Contributed Paper Session on Mathematical Experiences for Students Outside the Classroom. The session featured a variety of presentations with suggestions for activities for Student Chapters and Math Clubs, tips for creating and sustaining student research and independent projects, and projects involving elementary and secondary students as well as future mathematics teachers.

Suggestions for student activities included a discussion by Daniel Wisniewski from DeSales University ( of the Problem of the Month Contest (open to all university students, faculty and staff) and Student Chapter trips to the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade in Maryland and to the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts.

Betty Mayfield ( and three of her students from Hood College described several field trips that they have taken in and near Washington, D.C., including behind the scenes visits to mathematical exhibits at the Smithsonian Institute and descriptions of how some of these places can be visited through virtual field trips.

Thomas Sibley of St. John’s University (TSIBLEY@CSBSJU.EDU) demonstrated several enticing activities such as a donut coloring contest and human knots. Cheryl Olsen ( of Shippensburg University gave examples of successful department sponsored outside of class activities including picnics, student seminars and conferences, and career nights. Aaron Trautwein of Carthage College ( described how the mathematics majors have included students from a wider audience in the celebration of Mathematics Awareness Week by using large-scale projects such as the construction of a large tetrahedron and a banner size golden spiral.

Greg Cicconetti of Muhlenburg College ( described his adventures guiding a student through an independent study project for the first time, learning both mathematics related to visualizing images and strategies for engaging students in future projects. Michael Johnson ( and Edgar Rugenstein ( of the United States Military Academy discussed the valuable research experiences their students have had, highlighting strategies for identifying sponsors for student research projects and for showcasing the student’s research. Holly Zullo of Carroll College ( shared goals and the nuts and bolts of a mentoring program for undergraduate mathematics, engineering, and computer science majors. Dave Feil of Carroll College ( showed how the solution to a problem posed to a student problem solving group led to a summer of research with a student into magic squares, a student talk at a Sectional MAA meeting and the submission of a paper. Lisa DeMeyer of Central Michigan University ( discussed the structure of a summer undergraduate research program as well as the problems that her students worked on, their accomplishments, and her reflections on her experiences as a first time advisor for undergraduate research.

Lynn McGrath of the University of San Diego ( described how she and colleagues Perla Myers and Jane Friedman worked with undergraduate mathematics majors and future mathematics teachers in a summer mathematics enrichment camp for elementary students. Vince Schielack of Texas A&M University ( described a competition for future teachers of secondary mathematics designed to generate interest in mathematics teaching careers and recognize exemplary students. Natalya Prokhorova of The Alabama School of Math & Science and the University of South Alabama ( discussed the South Alabama Math Circles, developed with Vasiliy Prokhorov of the University of South Alabama (, which engages secondary students in creative problem solving through topics in mathematics that are normally outside of the school curriculum.

Diversity Initiative

CUSAC administers a special MAA fund to help bring students from underrepresented groups to the Joint Mathematics Meetings. Faculty may apply for small (up to $500 per institution) grants to cover the cost of registration, food, lodging, and travel for their students. This year we were pleased to offer travel grants to six colleges and universities to send students to Phoenix’four colleges from California, one from Texas, and one from Georgia. A total of eighteen students from those schools participated in the Joint Meetings, attending the MAA Student Lecture, student reception, and undergraduate poster session as well as many other events. Six of the students presented their work in the poster session.

Diversity Initiative students and faculty with MAA Student Lecturer Mark Meerschaert

The Unprecedented Undergraduate Student Poster Session in Phoenix

Professor Mario Martelli of Claremont McKenna College, the organizer of the undergraduate poster session, wrote for Focus: ’With an unprecedented number of 110 teams from all over the country, the Undergraduate Student Poster Session increased its already well- established role in the Joint Annual."

The authors of winning posters pose with Mario Martelli and Colin Adams

Meeting of the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Association for Women in Mathematics. Thanks to the efforts of Jim Tattersall, Associate Secretary of the MAA, we were assigned half the Ballroom of the Phoenix Convention Center and we filled it up! Over 115 professional mathematicians participated in the evaluation of the posters, and 32 $100 prizes were given to the posters that received the highest marks. As in past years the prize money came from the AMS, MAA, AWM, and CUR. This year, for the first time, and with welcomed generosity, we received a considerable contribution from the Moore Foundation.â? The two posters that received the highest marks of all were ’A Conjecture on Homogeneous Ideals,â? presented by Melissa Krause of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (advisor Dr. Ben Richert) and ’Subgraph Summability Number of a Graph,â? presented by Josh Whitney from Arizona State University (advisor Dr. Sivaran Narayan, Central Michigan University). Both projects were done with the REU programs at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and at Central Michigan University. The complete list of all winning posters, in alphabetical order with no ranking, is available at the MAA website: /news/jmmundergradposter04.html. Mario wrote: ’It has been an incredible and exciting event! Some people said that a lot of merit is mine, but I firmly believe that most of the merit should go to the presenters and to their advisors. Dear friends, presenters, advisors, and judges, I hope to see you all at the Undergraduate Student Poster Session in Atlanta in January 2005!â?

Back to top

Providence Preview

Call for Student Papers for MathFest 2004

Students who wish to present a paper at MathFest 2004 in Providence, RI (August 12-14) must be nominated by a faculty advisor familiar with the work to be presented. To propose a paper for presentation, the student must complete a form and obtain the signature of a faculty sponsor.
Nomination forms for the MAA student paper sessions can be obtained from:
Dr. Thomas Kelley
Department of Mathematics
Henry Ford Community College
Dearborn, MI 49128
(313) 845-6492
All students who make presentations at MathFest are eligible for travel reimbursement. Those who are also members of an MAA Student Chapter can get higher amounts of support (max $600) as opposed to those who are not (max $300). Funds are tight, though, so these maximums may not be attained. The deadline for receipt of applications with abstracts is July 2, 2004. The above website has sample abstracts from 2003.

PME student speakers must be nominated by their chapter advisors. Application forms for PME student speakers can be found at or can be obtained from the PME Secretary-Treasurer, Dr. Leo Schneider ( Students who make presentations at the Annual Meeting of Pi Mu Epsilon are eligible for partial travel reimbursement. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is July 2, 2004.

MAA-Pi Mu Epsilon Student Reception

Wednesday, August 11, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Student Hospitality Center

Richard and Araceli Neal, University of Oklahoma
Thursday, August 12, 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Friday the 13th, 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Saturday, August 14, 9:00 am-1:00 pm

The Student Hospitality Center (SHC) provides a place for students and other MathFest attendees to meet for informal conversation, refreshments, and mathematical diversions. The SHC also provides programs for the MAA and Pi Mu Epsilon student paper sessions, packets for the MAA student presenters, and information on MathFest activities of interest to students. Special information for students can be found at MAA Online at and

MAA Student Paper Sessions

Thomas E. Kelley, Henry Ford Community College
Thursday, August 12, 1:00 pm-5:00 pm
Friday, August 13, 1:00 pm-5:00 pm

Pi Mu Epsilon Paper Sessions

Jennifer Galovich, St. John’s University
Thursday, August 12, 1:00 pm-5:00 pm
Friday, August 13, 1:00 pm- 5:00 pm

MAA Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) Winners

Ben Fusaro, Florida State University
Thursday, August 12, 5:00 pm-5:50 pm

Pi Mu Epsilon Banquet

Friday, August 13, 6:00 pm-7:45 pm

PME J. Sutherland Frame Lecture

’When Five Colors Sufficeâ?
Joan P. Hutchinson, Macalester College
Friday, August 13, 8:00 pm-9:00 pm

The challenging four-color conjecture, posed in 1852, asks whether four colors are enough to color the regions of any map so that two regions that share a boundary receive different colors. In 1976 K. Appel and W. Haken proved that four colors suffice. With some changes to the problem, four colors may no longer be enough. We discuss these variations in which five, not four, colors suffice.

MAA Student Workshop

"Topics in Fractal Geometry"
Benoit Mandelbrot
Saturday, August 14, 1:00 pm-2:50 pm

MAA Student Lecture

’The Secret of Brunelleschi’s Cupolaâ?
Mario Martelli, Claremont-McKenna College
Saturday, August 14, 3:00 pm-3:50 pm

In 1429 the architect Filippo Brunelleschi won the competition for building the ’octagonal cupolaâ? of Florence’s cathedral. His innovative design did not use centering. Brunelleschi built a model to show that his proposal would work, but he categorically refused to reveal his secret. The mystery remains today, but a recent mathematical analysis has been able to lift the veil from parts of Brunelleschi’s design. How? Come to the talk to find out.

Math Horizons Special Session

Arthur T. Benjamin, Harvey Mudd College
Jennifer J. Quinn, Occidental College
Saturday, August 14, 4:00 pm-4:30 pm

Meet the editors of Math Horizons. It is the MAA’s magazine written for students, filled with intriguing articles, profiles, problems, humor, and contests. We are interested in your suggestions, and we will be looking for students to join our Student Advisory Group.

Student Problem Solving Competition

Richard Neal, University of Oklahoma
Saturday, August 14, 4:45 pm ’5:45 pm

This is the finals of the Problem Solving Competition. Universities and colleges that participate monthly on their own campuses by holding problem solving contests are invited to send two contestants. Each contestant will be required to solve a series of mathematical problems. Based upon the outcome, a champion and a runner up will be named.

Back to top

An Advanced Look at Atlanta

Mathematical Experiences for Students Outside the Classroom

The Contributed Papers Session sponsored by CUSAC has been approved for the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta. This session, titled ’Mathematical Experiences for Students Outside the Classroom,â? is being organized by
Kay Somers of Moravian College and Jody Sorensen ofGrand Valley State University.
Mathematics "happens" both inside and outside the classroom and, in fact, many mathematics majors are drawn to the subject through a special event sponsored by a Student Chapter or Math Club. This session seeks presentations by academic, industrial, business, and/or student mathematicians so that the audience will be encouraged to organize and run special events for their students.

Descriptions of non-classroom activities could include, but are not limited to, special lectures, workshops for students, Math Days, Math Fairs, research projects for students, Math Career Days, student conferences, recreational mathematics activities, problem solving activities and contests, general community-building activities, and student consulting projects. Information on how such activities are organized and carried out, what activities especially grab students' interests, how students are contacted and encouraged to participate, and how the events are funded will be especially helpful. This session is organized by the MAA Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters.

MAA Student Lecturer

The MAA student lecturer at the JMM in Atlanta will be Robin Wilson. It is probable that his topic will be ’The Mathematics of Lewis Carroll.â?

Back to top

Credits & Contact Information


MAA Student Lecturer photo’Betty Mayfield; Student Hospitality Center photo’Eileen Kennedy, Southern University; Mathematical Experiences for Students outside the Classroom, Phoenix’Laura Kelleher; Diversity Initiative’Betty Mayfield; Student Poster Session at Phoenix’Mario Martelli; Providence Preview’April Focus; Call for Student Papers’Thomas Kelley; Mathematical Experiences for Students outside the Classroom, Atlanta’Kay Somers

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
Back to top