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SMURCHOM: Providing Opportunities for Undergraduate Research in the History of Mathematics - SMURCHOM Over Time

Author(s): 
Sloan Evans Despeaux (Western Carolina University)

Since 2005, I have organized five SMURCHOMs (after 2008, this conference shifted to being held on a biannual, rather than annual basis).  While the core of our student and faculty participants come from the Southeast, specifically from the Carolinas, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and Maryland, we have also welcomed participants from Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, California, and British Columbia.  Faculty encouragement is essential to making SMURCHOM a success.  For example, Danny Otero of Xavier Univerity encouraged his student, Fabiola Arce, to give a talk on her research on El Sumario Compendioso, the first mathematics book published in the New World.  Betty Mayfield has twice travelled to SMURCHOM with her Hood College students, who presented posters on notable women from the history of mathematics.

Besides committed faculty, a constant for SMURCHOM has been the keynote address.  The speakers, Adrian Rice of Randolph-Macon College, Della Fenster of the University of Richmond, Deborah Kent of Hillsdale College, and Patti Hunter of Westmont College, have exposed SMURCHOM participants to current research in history of mathematics, provided excellent models for how to present this research, and shared their journeys as historians of mathematics. 

Adrian Rice 

Adrian Rice (Randolph-Macon College) delivering the keynote at SMURCHOM V (photo credit: Sloan Evans Despeaux).

In addition to the keynote address, the first SMURCHOM included two sessions of student talks. SMURCHOM II added a student poster session, which gave more opportunities and another format for students to share their research.  SMURCHOM III extended the conference’s mission to presenting research in mathematics informed by its history.  These expansions have resulted in marked growth in student presenters to the conference (Table 1): while six students presented in 2005, thirty-four presented in 2010.  Parallel sessions allow student participants more choices, and numerous coffee breaks encourage students to socialize and network.

Table 1: SMURCHOM over time

 

2010 

2008

2007

2006

2005

Number of Attending Schools

15

14

7

11

7

Number of Student Presenters

34

30

17

23

6

Total Attendance

97

79

43

53

40*

Total Undergraduate Student Attendance

68

49

24

31

25*

Total Undergraduate Student Attendance External to Host School

24

17

10

16

15*

(* means number is an estimate)

 

In response to students’ requests for activities that are both thought-provoking and dynamic, past SMURCHOMs have included an Internet scavenger hunt, a picnic lunch, and even a disc golf championship, in which the number of discs given to a team depended on the number of correct answers to a history of mathematics quiz.  SMURCHOM V was held in conjunction with the first Sonia Kovalevsky Mathematics Day at Western Carolina University, and several activities (such as a career panel and the poster session) were open to both groups.

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