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Sessions for Undergraduate Students

The MAA endeavors to ensure that all the mathematical sessions at MathFest are accessible to a broad audience and undergraduate students are invited and encouraged to attend any of them. In addition, the MAA provides the following sessions that are aimed specifically at the interests of undergraduate students. Full descriptions of some events are found elsewhere in the program.

Invited Address

Pi Mu Epsilon J. Sutherland Frame Lecture

The Singular Uniformity of Large Random Systems

Wednesday, August 1, 8:00 p.m. - 8:50 p.m.

Peter Winkler, Dartmouth College


A random structure could be anything, yet somehow, when that structure is composed of many small parts, it often turns out to be shockingly predictable---at least, in a probabilistic sense. A random graph on a million vertices, for example, has a long list of characteristics each with high probability.

In an attempt to understand this phenomenon, we'll take a little tour from zero-one laws to variational principles, contrasting graphs and permutations along the way.


Social Event

MAA-PME Student Reception

Wednesday, August 1, 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.


Undergraduate students are invited to come for refreshments and a welcome to MathFest.


Math Jeopardy

Wednesday, August 1, 5:30 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.


Answer: A fun undergraduate mathematics contest to lead off MathFest.
Question: What is Mathematics Jeopardy?

Four teams of students will provide the questions to go with the mathematical answers in many categories. All interested students in the audience can enter their names to be chosen to play on one of the four teams of four players. There will be prizes for all the participants.

Come cheer for your favorite team. The session will be emceed by Michael Berry.

Robert W. Vallin, Lamar University
Michael W. Berry, University of Tennessee


Undergraduate Student Paper Session

MAA Student Paper Sessions

Thursday, August 2, 8:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. – 6:05 p.m.
Friday, August 3, 8:30 a.m. – 12:05 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. – 6:05 p.m.

The MAA Student Paper Sessions abstract portal is now live! Please click here to submit an abstract. MAA offers student travel grants to help offset the cost of conference registration and travel. Apply for funding by June 8.

Eric Ruggieri, College of the Holy Cross
Chasen Smith, Georgia Southern University


Undergraduate Student paper Session

Pi Mu Epsilon Student Paper Sessions

PME Student members who wish to represent their chapters as student speakers or official delegates should visit the PME website at for more information.

Thursday, August 2, 8:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. – 6:05 p.m.
Friday, August 3, 8:30 a.m. – 12:05 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. – 6:05 p.m.

Darci Kracht, Kent State University


MAA Chan Stanek Lecture for Students

FAIL: A Mathematician's Apology

Thursday, August 2, 1:30 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.

Laura Taalman, James Madison University


The job of being a mathematician primarily consists of long periods of failure punctuated by short bursts of success which later seem to be somewhat obvious...but that’s what we love about it! And, as it turns out, 3D printing kind of works the same way. In this talk we’ll take a journey through many mathematical and 3D printing failures and try to laugh about it the best we can.

About the Speaker


Laura Taalman is a Professor of Mathematics at James Madison University whose research has included algebraic geometry, knot theory, and games. Dr. Taalman also publishes Calculus textbooks and Sudoku puzzle books, blogs at Hacktastic and Shapeways, and designs and shares hundreds of models with the 3D printing community, where she is known as “mathgrrl”. She consults for 3D printing companies as an “expert amateur”, a completely real thing which here means “a person who is good at doing things that they aren’t particularly good at.” Dr. Taalman is a Project NExT Fellow, a recipient of the Alder Award, Trevor Evans Award, and SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award, and has been featured on Thingiverse, Adafruit, and Science Friday.


Undergraduate Student Activity

The Case of the Missing Vertex

Friday, August 3, 1:30 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.


A vertex has gone missing in an un-labeled graph and taken all of its edges with it. Can we reconstruct the original graph, or at least some of its properties? What if we have the vertex-deleted graph for each of the vertices? Come join this mathematical investigation of the Graph Reconstruction Problem. This fanciful activity provides an introduction to Graph Theory and leads to an open question in the research. Bring a friend and writing utensil.

About the Speaker

Suzanne Dorée is Professor of Mathematics and chair of the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science at Augsburg University in Minneapolis where she has taught since 1989. She earned her Ph.D. in Character Theory from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests include curriculum and materials development and directing undergraduate research in graph theory. She enjoys teaching mathematics at all levels using pedagogies that support active and inquiry-based learning. An avid gardener, cook, and designer, she appreciates the importance of getting her hands dirty, and not just in mathematics.

Suzanne Dorée, Augsburg University


Panel Session

Nonacademic Career Paths for Undergraduate Mathematics Majors

Friday, August 3, 3:00 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.


You’re about to earn a degree in mathematics. Now what? You may be surprised to know that teaching isn’t your only option; in the “real world,” mathematical knowledge is a valued commodity, and there are many interesting job opportunities for mathematicians in nonacademic settings. Whether you are a mathematics student looking for a job once you graduate or an advisor looking for advice to give to future job-seeking students, this session will help you gain new perspectives on nonacademic career experiences and what employers value in their employees. Panelists will share their paths to their current positions and offer advice to others looking for employment in similar venues.

Pamela Richardson, Westminster College
Violeta Vasilevska, Utah Valley University

Erin Valenti Bawa, Monticello Associates
Stephanie Fitchett, Transamerica
Emilie Purvine, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Tyler Rust, Fast Enterprises

Sponsor: MAA Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities (CUSA)



Thursday, August 2, 4:30 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.


They're called Fermi problems...

How heavy is the Eiffel Tower?
How many prime numbers have distinct digits?
How many calories would you be eating if you had "one of everything" at the Cheesecake Factory?

If you're looking for a mindbending mixture of math and trivia, look no further! Jane Street Capital presents The Estimathon contest: teams will have 30 minutes to work on 13 problems, ranging from totally trivial to positively Putnamesque. Can your team beat the all-time best score?? The top teams will receive prizes!

As in past years, we will run 2 contests. Feel free to show up to either one!

(Please show up 15 minutes before the start time of the contest you want to join.)

Our target schedule is as follows:

3:30 p.m. Welcome, overview of rules and scoring
3:45 p.m. Estimathon contest #1
4:30 p.m. Estimathon contest #2

Andy Niedermaier, Jane Street Capital


Social Event

Pi Mu Epsilon Banquet

Friday, August 3, 6:00 p.m. - 7:45 p.m.


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


Social Event

MAA Ice Cream Social

Friday, August 3, 9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.


Besides cake and ice cream, we will recognize all students who gave talks in the MAA Student Paper Sessions, and award prizes for the best of them. All are invited.


MAA Mathematical Competition in Modeling (MCM) Winners

Saturday, August 4, 9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.


About 20,000 teams, each consisting of three undergraduates, entered the 2018 Mathematical Contest in Modeling in February. Teams chose one of two real-world problems. Teams have four days to deal with the MCM challenge and may use or access any inanimate source – computers, libraries, the Web, etc. MAA judges choose a winner for each problem. The two MAA winning teams of students will present their results of the MCM four-day challenge.

Ben Fusaro, Florida State University


Student Problem Solving Competition

Saturday, August 4, 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.


This event 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 a contestant. Each contestant will be required to solve a series of mathematical problems. Based on the outcome, a champion along with 2nd through 6th place winners will be named.

Richard Neal, American Society for the Communication of Mathematics


Graduate Student Paper Session

Great Talks for a General Audience: Coached Presentations by Graduate Students

Saturday, August 4, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.


In this session graduate students give talks aimed at an undergraduate audience. Both the talks and abstracts should be designed to excite a wide range of undergraduates about mathematics.

Jim H. Freeman, Cornell College
May Mei, Denison University
Ranjan Rohatgi, Saint Mary's College
Aliza Steurer, Dominican University

Sponsor: MAA Committee on Graduate Students