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MAA Student Chapters Newsletters - Spring 2006

Spring 2006

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


MathFest 2006 in Knoxville

Plan on participating in the activities planned for the Knoxville, Tennessee, MathFest this summer, starting with the MAA-Pi Mu Epsilon reception for undergraduates Wednesday evening, August 9, 2006, and a new event, Math Jeopardy, immediately following the reception. The activities for students will continue through Saturday, August 12, and will include the MAA Student Lecture, the MAA Student Paper Sessions, the MAA Student Activities Session (formerly called the MAA Student Workshop), the presentations of the MAA Mathematical Contest in Modeling winners, the Student Hospitality Center, 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, and the PME J. Sutherland Frame lecture. Information on these activities may be found inside in the section ’What’s Next’in Knoxville.â?

Inside you will also find the new rules for the student papers sessions and information about a new grant supporting regional conferences.

Student-Related Activities at the San Antonio JMM

Warm and sunny weather and San Antonio’s famed River Walk welcomed those who attended the JMM in January. Once again, a record number of students participated in the MAA student poster session, a large number of students and advisors attended the MAA student lecture by Marc Chamberland, and many students and others enjoyed the diversions offered at the Student Hospitality Center throughout the meetings. At a special breakfast for Chapter Advisors and MAA Liaisons, the MAA gathered information on activities their institutions sponsor for their students. Find out more in the ’Sessions in San Antonioâ? section.

Sessions in San Antonio

The Many Faces of Pi
by Mario Martelli

At the Annual Joint Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, the Student Lecture of Saturday, January 14, was received with great interest and enthusiasm by a very large audience. The speaker, Prof. Marc Chamberland from Grinnell College, spoke about ’The Many Faces of Pi.â? Marc provided us with the following brief summary of his talk.

The number Pi is a rich subject for mathematical study and is perhaps the only non-trivial number that the public would recognize. Archimedes used regular polygons to show that 223/71
The early heroes of Calculus represented Pi with infinite series, or infinite products and/or continued fractions. Later mathematicians used infinite series that converge very rapidly. A recent class of series (called BBP series) allows one to efficiently calculate digits of Pi (base 16) without the knowledge of earlier digits!

Modern approaches to calculating many digits of Pi are based either on quickly converging series or Machin-like arctangent formulas such as Ï?/4 = 12 arctan(1/49) + 32 arctan(1/57) ’ 5 arctan(1/239) + 12 arctan(1/110443). The Japanese team led by Yasuma Kanada holds the record of Pi digits with over one trillion digits!

Mathematically, Pi is ubiquitous. It wins an Oscar for its role in analysis, number theory, and probability and statistics. It even makes a cameo appearance in chaos theory.

Pi has made its way into popular culture with appearances in Star Trek, The Simpsons, Jeopardy, the prize-winning novel Life of Pi, and the movies Pi and A Beautiful Mind.

The presentation was punctuated by interesting anecdotes and images. The one-hour time passed faster than anybody could expect. Art Benjamin and Jennifer Quinn attended the talk and asked Marc to write an article for Math Horizons, of which they are editors. We are looking forward to read more about Pi in this lively publication.

Diversity Initiative
by Betty Mayfield

CUSAC administers a grant program, the Diversity Initiative, which encourages undergraduate students from under-represented groups to participate in the national meetings. The program, developed several years ago by Jean Bee Chan, awards small travel grants every year to college and university faculty who bring women and students from ethnic and racial minorities to the Joint Mathematics Meetings. The committee usually begins by contacting schools that are relatively close to the meeting site, so that we can help as many students as possible. In the past two years, we have also worked closely with the NREUP program, funding those students who have come to the meetings to present posters or give talks about their summer research.

Seven institutions were awarded grants for the San Antonio meetings:
  • Sam Houston State University
  • Howard University
  • California State University, Channel Islands
  • Meredith College
  • University of Texas, Arlington
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Central College.

Prof. Marc Chamberland (far right) poses
with Diversity Grant students after his lecture.

The grants supported the travel of 27 students, 15 of whom submitted posters to the Undergraduate Poster Session ’ and some of whom won prizes there!

For information about next year’s grants for the New Orleans meetings, contact Kay Somers of the Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters:
These students from the Rochester Institute of Technology and supported by a Diversity Initiative grant won one of the top prizes at the Undergraduate Student Poster Session.

Undergraduate Poster Session
by Diana Thomas

This year’s poster session was a tremendous success, with over 130 posters presented and judged by 140 professional mathematicians. The poster session was well attended and continues to attract a large audience at the Joint Mathematics Meetings.

I attended my first poster session as an advisor in 1998. Fewer than 20 posters were presented. Since then the session has grown in size to the event we see today largely owing to Mario Martelli (Claremont McKenna College), who organized it from 2000 to 2005. Many changes came with my first year as organizer. The submission of abstracts and collection of judge information is now done electronically. This would have been impossible without the time and effort of Hal Nesbitt, Program Coordinator of the MAA. During this transition, I received much needed support from Suzanne Lenhart, the Chair of the MAA-CUPM Subcommittee on Undergraduate Research, Betty Mayfield, Chair of the MAA Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters (CUSAC), and Michael Pearson, Director of Programs and Services of the MAA.

A lot of time and effort goes into the poster session, from evaluating student abstracts to assigning judges to posters. Special thanks go to Suzanne Lenhart (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) for arranging the prizes donated by the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, the Association for Women in Mathematics, the Council on Undergraduate Research, the Educational Advancement Foundation, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. I also would like to thank Mike O’Leary (Towson University) for assigning judges to posters. I’d like to also thank the students from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and from Towson University for their invaluable help in setting up the room and for their assistance in a variety of tasks on the day of the poster session.

The tremendous enthusiasm from past and new judges was very much appreciated. A heartfelt thanks to all standby judges, whom I relied on to evaluate posters on a variety of topics. Because of the large number of poster presentations, we required many new judges. Past judges helped spread the word to recruit new judges. As usual, Project NExT came through with new recruits. Aparna Higgins was especially diligent in obtaining judges at the last hour. Thanks to all of you who do this wonderful service, and I hope to count on you next year!

Finally, the poster session would not be as successful as it is if it were not for the students and their advisors. Many past judges and attendees commented on the exceptional quality of posters and their corresponding presentations. Of special note was Truman State University with two prize winners, Kensey L. Riley and Bach Quang Ha.

I hope to see the same large showing of students next year in New Orleans. Save the date and apply early. A list of this year’s prize-winners can be found at /students/undergrad/06winners.html. News for next year’s poster session will be found on the MAA website at .

Michael Pearson presents Mario Martelli with an award for
outstanding service to the MAA for all that he has done to make
the Undergraduate Student Poster Session a success.

Diana Thomas, Mario Martelli, and poster award winners

Math Outside the Classroom
by Kay Somers

The MAA Contributed Paper Session on ’Research and Other Mathematical Experiences for Students outside the Classroomâ? was held on Friday, January 13, 2006, at the San Antonio JMM. The session was jointly sponsored by the MAA Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters and by the CUPM Subcommittee on Undergraduate Research. Organizers were: Kay Somers, Moravian College; Susan Morey, Texas State University; Sivaram Narayan, Central Michigan University; and Jody Sorensen, Grand Valley State University.

Speakers described activities and student research projects and programs so that others would be encouraged to organize and run these types of events for their students. The sixteen talks described interdisciplinary seminars in mathematics and economics and interdisciplinary research experiences in mathematics and biology, as well as how to foster and advise undergraduate research projects at your home institution. Outside-of-the-classroom activities addressed included suggestions for celebrating ’Pi Day,â? descriptions of math club activities that engage students and alumni, a report on an ’Integration Bee,â? and tips for organizing and maintaining an undergraduate mathematics competition.

Kay Somers introduces Steve Leonhardi at the
Contributed Paper Session.

Student Hospitality Center
by Richard Neal and John Holte

The Student Hospitality Center at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio was organized and hosted once again by Richard and Araceli Neal. More than 100 guests attended the special opening reception Thursday afternoon. Throughout the days of the JMM, many student visitors congregated and discussed the presentations, socialized, and enjoyed the free refreshments offered them. The students also enjoyed the challenge of trying to solve some of the many puzzles distributed among the tables of the center.

The Student Hospitality Center is sponsored by the MAA Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters. It has become a place to keep up with the flow of the meeting, to leave messages, to meet others and talk, or just to relax between sessions. Please look for the Student Hospitality Center at the summer MathFest and the winter Joint Mathematics Meetings each year.
Students thronged at the SHC reception.
Richard Neal, Kay Somers, CUSAC President Betty Mayfield,
and Araceli Neal are in the background.

Liaisons-Advisors Breakfast
by Jody Sorensen and Jackie Jensen

One of the areas of focus for the 2006 MAA strategic planning initiative is student activities. To recognize this, the MAA hosted a Combined MAA Departmental Liaison and PME/MAA Student Chapter Advisor Breakfast at the Joint Meetings in San Antonio. This was a lively and well-attended event, with short addresses from officers of the MAA and PME. Andrew Sterrett mentioned that he is looking for career profiles for the MAA student webpage, as well as for an updated version of 101 Careers in Mathematics.

The breakfast concluded with a questionnaire on student clubs, activities, and conferences, as well as resources that the MAA could provide to support involvement of students.

The participants were asked these questions:
  1. What activities do you use to increase participation?
  2. What math organizations do you have?
  3. What do students attend? And what do students get out of it?

The MAA’s Hal Nesbitt summarized the responses, and the statistics given here are of course based only on what the respondents reported. The answers to the first question were varied, and included the following ideas for increasing student participation:
  • 4 schools have game nights
  • 32 schools have talks, seminars, or colloquia
  • 7 schools have lunch meetings with free food
  • 20 schools have a math club
  • 14 schools sponsor math contests
  • 5 schools host undergraduate student conferences or workshops
  • 2 schools have weekly newsletters
  • 5 schools host weekly teas
  • 12 schools have Christmas or pizza parties, barbecues or picnics
  • 4 schools encourage students to take the Putnam exam
  • 4 schools have a mathematics support room or tutoring
  • 2 schools have an Undergraduate Research Program
  • 4 schools have a bulletin board or math lounge listing mathematics opportunities
  • 3 schools have a problem of the week, with prizes
  • 2 schools celebrate pi day
  • 3 schools sponsor field trips
  • 3 schools have departmental awards ceremonies
  • 4 schools have Undergraduate research projects or programs
  • 4 schools have a Problem Solving Group
  • 2 schools host student/faculty meetings
  • 3 schools host movie nights

Other schools mention the following activities to increase the participation of students:
  • Host an ice cream social
  • Provide free copies of Math Horizons
  • Host a bowling contest
  • Sell Pi tattoos
  • Celebrate mathematics awareness day
  • Staff a booth at Homecoming
  • Employ students as supplemental instructors
  • Send group e-mails informing students of opportunities.

Of the schools responding at this breakfast meeting, 30 had either a Math Club or a Student Chapter of the MAA; 26 had a Pi Mu Epsilon chapter; 14 had a Kappa Mu Epsilon Chapter; 5 had some other honorary organization; and 16 had an inactive MAA or PME chapter. There were 48 schools represented that had neither an MAA section nor any honorary chapter.

In response to what activities are attended by students, the responses were:
  • 23 schools had students attend undergraduate conferences
  • 56 had students attend their local MAA Section meeting,
  • 14 had students attend MathFest
  • 15 had students attend the Joint Mathematics Meetings
  • 14 schools had students attend all of the above
  • 18 had students attend none of these events
  • 10 schools said that students were rarely able to attend the above due to lack of funds and/or travel time
  • Some schools also had students attending the NCTM meeting and the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women.

Of the students who attended these conferences,
  • 18 presented talks, posters, or papers
  • 4 schools said that their undergraduates attended to network with other students
  • 3 schools said that their undergraduates attend to see mathematics on a new level.

MAA-NSF Grant for Conferences

The MAA is pleased to announce that the MAA-NSF grant DMS-0241090 to support Undergraduate Regional Conferences in Mathematics has been continued for academic years 2006-2007, 2007-2008, and 2008-2009. During the first three years of this grant, funding was provided to a total of 71 conferences, and the MAA hopes to provide funding to 100 conferences during this continuation period. Proposals are now being solicited for the academic year 2006-2007, with a deadline date of May 15, 2006, for fall 2006 conferences.

Grant DMS-0241090 is designed to provide a convenient way to obtain funding for institutions that want to hold regional conferences for undergraduate students. The overall goal of the program is to provide opportunities for all undergraduate mathematics students to give oral presentations, including research level, expository, and historical presentations

Funding levels will be determined by the PI and Co-PIs of the grant (Colin Adams, Doug Faires, Joe Gallian, Michael Pearson, and Dan Schaal). These decisions will be based on the likelihood that the proposed conference will significantly advance the goal of providing all undergraduate students a presentation opportunity, especially in regions of the country historically lacking these opportunities. Conferences throughout the country will continue to be supported.

Grants are expected to be in the $1000 - $3000 range, although more or less may be awarded in special situations. The grant money is expected to be used to support activities directly related to the objective of the grant, including modest direct student support (meals, travel, and, if appropriate, lodging). Modest expenses for invited speakers may be requested from the grant, but justification is needed to show that these expenses directly enhance the objectives of the grant. No grant money shall be used to support the awarding of prizes or gifts, institutional support, or the support of activities that are not directly related to attracting students to give talks.

New conferences may be funded at a rate higher than those that are continuing in order to provide initiative for broader advertising. Conferences that have been conducted without grant support are invited to apply for funding, but must demonstrate that an award would increase participation in a manner that is consistent with the goals of the grant.

Conferences must not be exclusive or discriminatory in any manner, except that modest reviewing may be done to ensure that presentations are in line with the goal of the grant.

Any questions on the purpose of the grant or on any aspect of a proposal should be addressed to Doug Faires ( or to Michael Pearson (

Call & New Rules for Student Papers

Students who wish to present a paper at MathFest 2006 in Knoxville, Tennessee 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 web form which is available at The deadline for submitted abstracts is June 23, 2006. If you have any questions or concerns please contact Edward C. Keppelmann at the University of Nevada-Reno (775-784-6773)

The MAA Committee for Undergraduate Student Activities has limited funds to support travel to Math Fest by student presenters and the rules have changed significantly this year’please see the accompanying article, ’New Rules and Policies for MAA MathFest Student Papers.â? Funds will be awarded on a first come first serve basis to those with complete applications, so students are encouraged to apply early.

In addition to the MAA student paper sessions at Math Fest there are also sessions sponsored by Pi Mu Epsilon. Pi Mu Epsilon student speakers must be nominated by their chapter advisors. Application forms for PME student speakers can be found on the PME web site at or can be obtained from PME Secretary-Treasurer, Dr. Leo Schneider>. Students making presentations at the Annual Meeting of PME are eligible for partial transportation reimbursement. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is June 23, 2006.

New Rules and Policies for MAA MathFest Student Papers


At their committee meeting in San Antonio, CUSAC adopted the following rules for MathFest student paper presentations. The guiding philosophy behind these new policies and procedures is to provide equal opportunities for students from all schools and to use the travel funds and speaking opportunities for maximum benefit to expose students to all the wonderful opportunities that MathFest has to offer. While we view 2006 as somewhat of a transition year to these new rules, most will go into effect right away.

  1. No two talks can share both the same advisor and the same subject classification. Students who worked together, either at an individual institution or in an REU experience, are welcome to give one joint talk.

  2. Those who receive travel funding must be student MAA members; in addition, preference for speaking slots will be given to MAA members. [Note that you can often get a free 1-year student membership by presenting at your local section meeting if your section has such an opportunity.]

  3. Funding is limited to one student per institution and one student from each REU.

  4. Those who present in the sessions will be expected to attend all three days of student activities at the meeting. No requests for presentations on a particular day can be honored.

  5. Travel compensation will be based on current fares at an online site such as Travelocity or Orbitz. Students may also drive to the meeting but they will receive the lower amount of mileage or airfare. There will be no support for lodging, food, or travel to and from the airport.

  6. In order to enable audience members to attend both MAA and PME student talks, the talks will be scheduled as 15 minutes with 5 minute breaks. [This means we won't attempt to squeeze more talks in by cutting down on the break as we have recently done.]

The decisions of the session organizers on scheduling and funding are final.

Short Course Subsidies

The Environmental Mathematics SIGMAA will provide a $40 subsidy for students in the Knoxville MathFest short course on Environmental Modeling on Tuesday and Wednesday, 8-9 August 2006. There are no forms to be filled out’just a request from each student to Ben Fusaro,

Special information for students can be found at MAA Online at and

What's Next -- in Knoxville

MAA/Pi Mu Epsilon Student Reception
Wednesday, August 9, 4:30 pm-5:30 pm

Invite your undergraduate students to attend this reception, sponsored by the MAA and Pi Mu Epsilon.

Math Jeopardy
John Harris, Furman University
Wednesday, August 9, 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm

This is an undergraduate team competition’a mathematical version of the popular television game show. Come and watch an entertaining round of answers and questions encompassing calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, discrete mathematics, and mathematical events.

Student Hospitality Center
Hosted by Richard and Araceli Neal, American Society for the Communication of Mathematics
Thursday, August 10, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Friday, August 11, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday, August 12, 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.

MAA Student Lecture
Math at Top Speed: Exploring and Breaking Myths in Drag Racing Folklore
Richard Tapia, Rice University
Thursday, August 10, 1:00 pm - 1:50 pm

Either as participant, support individual, or involved spectator, Richard Tapia has been involved throughout his life in drag racing, and has witnessed the birth and growth of many myths concerning dragster speed and acceleration. In this talk, he will use mathematics to identify frameworks for the study of a particular popular belief and then apply mathematics to better understand the belief at hand. Some myths will be explained and validated, while others will be destroyed. Included will be attempts to determine how fast dragsters are really going as well as the maximum acceleration achieved by today's dragsters. He will explain why dragster acceleration is greater than the acceleration due to gravity, an age-old inconsistency. The talk will also include a historical account of the development of the sport of drag racing and lively videos.

MAA Student Paper Sessions
Edward C. Keppelmann, University of Nevada-Reno
J. Lyn Miller, Slippery Rock University
Thursday, August 10, 2:00 pm - 6:15 pm
Friday, August 11, 2:00 pm ’ 5:00 pm

Pi Mu Epsilon Student Paper Sessions
Angela Spalsbury, Youngstown State University
Thursday, August 10, 2:00 pm - 6:15 pm
Friday, August 11, 2:00 pm ’ 5:00 pm

MAA Undergraduate Student Activities Session:
Weird Multiplication and Weird Ways to Multiply
James Tanton, St. Mark’s Institute of Mathematics/St. Mark’s School
Friday, August 11, 1:00 pm ’ 1:50 pm

What’s four times three? Twelve you might think ’ but no more! In a new fun-filled action-packed system of arithmetic worthy of much mathematical investigation, four times three is eighteen, the square root of 100 is six, and two times five is ten. (Hang on. That’s not weird!) Let’s spend an hour working out 5716 x 8945 together five different ways. What could be more fun?

PME-MAA Student Banquet and Awards Ceremony
Friday, August 11, 6:15 pm - 7:45 pm

All undergraduate students and their supporters are welcome. See the registration form for more information on this ticketed event.

Pi Mu Epsilon J. Sutherland Frame Lecture:
Ellipses and Circles? To Understand Voting Problems??!
Donald Saari, University of California at Irvine
Friday, August 11, 8:00 pm ’ 9:00 pm

Why is it that whenever we put forth a carefully considered proposal, somebody can put forth an "improvement"? Sure. Yet, attend any meeting, even the MAA business meetings, and it happens on a regular basis. Why? Insight is possible by using just the geometry of circles. And then, to introduce a new game theoretic solution concept, I will use the geometry of ellipses.

Student Problem Solving Competition
Richard Neal, American Society for the Communication of Mathematics
Saturday, August 12, 1:00 pm ’ 2:15 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.

Math Horizons Special Session
Arthur T. Benjamin, Harvey Mudd College
Jennifer Quinn, Tacoma, Washington
Saturday, August 12, 2:30 pm ’ 3:00 pm

MAA Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM) Winners
Ben Fusaro, Florida State University
Saturday, August 12, 3:15 pm - 4:30 pm

About 450 teams, each consisting of three undergraduates, took part in the 2006 MCM in February. The contest consists of two real(istic) scenarios (one discrete, one continuous) that call for analysis and resolution. The teams have four days to deal with the challenge, during which time they may use or consult anything inanimate’computers, libraries, the Web, etc. MAA judges choose one continuous and one discrete winner from the top contenders. The MAA subsidizes the teams' travel to MathFest, where they will present the results of their four-day challenge.

Credits and Contact Information

Additional Credits

Photographs: Liaisons-Advisors Breakfast and RIT Diversity Initiative group’Darren Narayan; Poster winners and Mario’s service award’Diana Thomas; others’John Holte; Knoxville schedule’Jim Tattersall

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:
Jacqueline Jensen
Dept of Mathematics and Statistics
Sam Houston State University
Box 2206, Huntsville, TX 77341-2206
(936) 294-317