Monthly Archives: January 2017

An icy finish to a warm conference

I call this "Ice, ice, baby." Taken from the Skybridge from the Hyatt to the Marriott. Today, I was thankful for the post-apocalyptic compound properties of our meeting.

Taken from the Skybridge from the Hyatt to the Marriott. Today, I was thankful for the post-apocalyptic compound properties of our meeting venue.

Saturday morning Atlanta was covered (literally) in ice. As the last day of the meetings, this added an extra dose of excitement (OK, stress) to the proceedings. I was at the AWM Special Session in Number Theory, showcasing work from the Women in Numbers – Europe and the Women in Numbers 3 workshops. In between talks (OK, maybe sometimes even during talks), everyone was frantically checking their flight status on their phones . I heard stories from people taking an hour to walk five blocks the previous night, of people stuck at the airport, and of people trying to find a room to crash in, and maybe happier stories of people being able to see talks they were interested in or the movie Hidden Figures as a result of being stuck.

At the airport it was like seeing an extension of the JMM. The gates were full of mathematicians sharing stories about the meetings, running into old friends, and even doing a little more networking. My own flight was delayed so much that I missed my connection (I’m on my way to another conference in Melbourne, Australia), so I write this post from my friends’ couch in LA, who happened to be on my same flight. I’m still seeing posts today about people trying to make their way back home, or celebrating that they’re finally there.

It seems like a strange, cold ending for a conference that was quite the opposite: warm, welcoming, inspiring, and energizing.  We hope everyone is making it safely home or wherever their math adventures take them, and we hope that we have given you a good glimpse into the wonderful, exhausting, and action-packed annual experience that is the Joint Mathematics Meetings, and we hope to see you in San Diego in 2018!

If you’ve liked our writing, make sure to check out our other gigs! You can find Beth at the AMS blog Ph.D. + epsilon, Anna at the AMS Blog on Math Blogs, Kelsey at her PBS YouTube show Infinite Series, and soon you will be able to find me on a new AMS Blog called Inclusion/Exclusion, about diversity and inclusion in mathematics (link forthcoming).

The new editorial board for the AMS Inclusion/Exclusion blog at the AWM reception (left to right): Piper Harron, yours truly, Brian Katz, and Edray Goins (not pictured, Luis Leyva).

The new editorial board for the AMS Inclusion/Exclusion blog at the AWM reception (left to right): Piper Harron, yours truly, Brian Katz, and Edray Goins (not pictured, Luis Leyva).

2017 Art!

I spent even longer than usual at the JMM Mathematical Art Exhibit this year.  In the back left corner of the exhibit hall, there are 107 different pieces by over 70 different artists.  There is “math that is pretty,” “art that looks like math,” and a whole range of pieces that truly hybridize the two disciplines in ways I can’t totally categorize.  I can’t possibly show all the great pieces in one post, but luckily a full catalog of the art can be found here.

Andrew Smith and his Protogons at the art exhibition.

Andrew Smith and his Protogons at the art exhibition.

Andrew Smith, Mathematical Artist and instructor at the University of Waterloo created two lovely pieces using spirals formed by joining an equal-length side from each regular n-gon as n increases. These “protogons” have some magic-eye properties; the design in “Central Protogon” seems to move as a viewer moves closer or farther away.

Clayton Shonkweiler's "My Destination" represents the orbit of a point in hyperbolic space under modular transformations

Clayton Shonkweiler’s “My Destination” represents the orbit of a point in hyperbolic space under modular transformations

Clayton Shonkwiler, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Colorado State University, created the video “Rotation” and the print “My Destination,” illustrating two mathematical explorations in hyperbolic space.

More that I liked:

"Fish" by Umut Isik.

“Fish” by Umut Isik.

"Petersen-Embellished Non-orientable Blanket Square" by sarah-marie belcastro

“Petersen-Embellished Non-orientable Blanket Square” by sarah-marie belcastro

Marie-Renne Laurent's "Implausible Star"

Marie-Renne Laurent’s “Implausible Star”

"Champy" by George Hart

“Champy” by George Hart

The art show includes a prize competition.  Entries were judged based on:

  • Mathematical depth and sophistication,
  • Craftsmanship,
  • Aesthetic appeal,
  • Originality and innovation, and
  • Overall interest.
"Torus" by Jiangmei Wu

“Torus” by Jiangmei Wu

The top entry in the textile, sculpture or other medium category was the stunning “Torus” by Jiangmei Wu.  This sculpture was folded from a single sheet of uncut paper and is lit from within by small lightbulbs.

"AAABBB, two juxtapositions: Dots & Blossoms, Windmills & Pinwheels" by Mary Klotz

“AAABBB, two juxtapositions: Dots & Blossoms, Windmills & Pinwheels” by Mary Klotz

An honorable mention went to Mary Klotz, a Maryland/West Virginia artist, for “AABB, two juxtapositions: Starts and Tadpoles, Dots and Triceratops.”  Her two weavings follow identical patterns with different starting colors.

"Fractal Monarchs" by Doug Dunham and John Shier

“Fractal Monarchs” by Doug Dunham and John Shier

The top photograph, painting or  print was “Fractal Monarchs” by Doug Dunham and John Shier of the University of Minnesota Duluth.  The areas of the butterflies are determined by a formula involving the Hurwitz zeta function.

And We’re Off…

Justin Marks of Gonzaga University, pausing in his run between sessions.

Justin Marks of Gonzaga University, pausing in the skybridge on a run between sessions.

Saturday afternoon was full of running around and saying goodbye.  I ran into Justin Marks, of Gonzaga University, who had literally been running around the conference.  He decided that wearing running clothes and jogging between sessions made the most sense in the sprawling Atlanta meeting.  He also had been jogging in to the meetings in the morning “My hotel is like 10 minutes away–I have to move fast to avoid frostbite!” he says.

Who Wants to be a Mathematician?

Meet Graham O’Donnell, this year’s winner of “Who Wants to be a Mathematician?”

Mathematics as a means for human flourishing

One of the highlights of these meetings for me has been the MAA Retiring Presidential Address by Francis Su on Friday morning, titled “Mathematics for Human Flourishing”.

Francis Su, outgoing President of the MAA, and one of my favorite people.

Francis Su, outgoing President of the MAA, and one of my favorite people. Photo credit: Kate Awtrey, Atlanta Convention Photography

Su started by inviting us to think about who does mathematicsHe told us about Christopher, an inmate who was passionate about learning mathematics and wanted to pursue even given his unfortunate circumstances. The talk was peppered throughout with quotes from Simone Weil, philosopher, mystic, political activist, and sister to famous mathematician Andre Weil. She loved mathematics but felt almost incompetent next to her talented brother. So who does mathematics? Some people, like Christopher and Simone, are repeatedly given the message that they don’t belong and that they will not be successful in mathematics. Su’s charge to the audience is to think about a different question: why should we be encouraging people to do mathematics? 

Francis makes us think. Pictured left to right, (only the people I recognize) Matt deLong, Talithia Washington, and maybe that's Darryl Yong right next to Talithia.

Francis makes us think. Pictured left to right, Matt Boelkins, Matt deLong, Talithia Williams, and maybe that’s Darryl Yong right next to Talithia. Photo credit: Kate Awtrey, Atlanta Convention Photography

The answer is simple: mathematics helps people flourish and the practice of mathematics cultivates virtue. And related to virtue are five essential human desires: play, beauty, truth, justice, and love. All of these can be attained through the practice of mathematics. We can teach students to play by helping them DO mathematics (as in active learning classrooms); we can appreciate the beauty of a proof or result; in an era of post-truth, we have a duty to help people to see the world critically and carefully; we can develop a more just society by including everyone and being mindful of implicit bias and not keeping math an elitist subject; and we can show love for others by supporting and encouraging our peers and students, and creating community.

Su sprinkled stories from his own life, stories shared by others, quotes, and lessons throughout the talk, giving it a deeply emotional and human dimension. His voice broke a couple of times, especially when talking about injustice in mathematics. I think that is where Su’s talent for public speaking lies is in this unique ability to talk about high-level ideas and connecting to them in a deeply personal level. He is really gifted at this, and from the standing ovation he received at the end, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in thinking this.

Justice.To be ever ready to admit that another person is something quite different from what we read when he is there (or when we think about him). Or rather, to read in him that he is certainly something different, perhaps something completely different from what we read in him. Every being cries out silently to be read differently. --- Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

Justice. To be ever ready to admit that another person is something quite different from what we read when he is there (or when we think about him). Or rather, to read in him that he is certainly something different, perhaps something completely different from what we read in him. Every being cries out silently to be read differently. — Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

His final challenge to the audience was this: to find a student who is struggling and become her advocate (I love his constant use of female pronouns as the default).

I’m pretty sure I can’t do this talk the justice it deserves, but I just wanted to share my thoughts for anyone who wasn’t able to be there. If you want to watch a (slightly jumpy, sometimes sideways) video of the talk you can go to the MAA’s facebook page. Francis tells me he will post a transcript of the talk soon on his blog. (Update: There is a transcript now! This is a must read for all.)

A Night of Receptions!

Last night was one of those magical JMM nights of hopping from receptions to repletion. Somehow we made it though this labyrinth of hotels to attend the reception for Mathematical Reviews, something I started doing a few years ago and absolutely love. Next we hit up the poster session and reception for the AWM. And finally, our night ended at the fabulous Project NExT reception, where there was blessedly a great spread bread and cheese. Below are a few photos from the night.

James Ricci (Daemen College) and Justin Sawon (U. of N. Carolina Chapel Hill) chat with Ursula Witcher (AMS) about her work with the AMS Math Reviews.

James Ricci (Daemen College) and Justin Sawon (U. of N. Carolina Chapel Hill) chat with Ursula Witcher (AMS) about her work with the AMS Math Reviews.

Graduate student Alicia Marino (Wesleyan University) presents her results at the AWM poster session last night.

Graduate student Alicia Marino (Wesleyan University) presents her results at the AWM poster session last night.

Francis Su addresses the assembled NExTers at last night's reception. He reminds us "Find someone, and be their advocate!"

Francis Su addresses the assembled NExTers at last night’s reception. He reminds us “Find someone, and be their advocate!”

Green Dot Ben Linowitz (Oberlin College), Brown Dot Lola Thompson (Oberlin College), and Gold Dot Anna Haensch (Duquesne University) catching up at the reception.

Green Dot Ben Linowitz (Oberlin College), Brown Dot Lola Thompson (Oberlin College), and Gold Dot Anna Haensch (Duquesne University) catching up at the reception.

Project NExT Director David Kung (St. Mary's College of Maryland) inspires us from atop a chair.

Project NExT Director David Kung (St. Mary’s College of Maryland) inspires us from atop a chair.

Local max and min at the Project NExT Reception.  Barry Minemyer (The Ohio State University), Bernadette Boyle (Sacred Heart University), and Andrew Lazowski (Sacred Heart University)

Local max and min at the Project NExT Reception. Barry Minemyer (The Ohio State University), Bernadette Boyle (Sacred Heart University), and Andrew Lazowski (Sacred Heart University)

Panel On Math And Creativity

Robert Schneider, Samuel Hansen, Anna Haensch, and Tim Chartier

Robert Schneider, Samuel Hansen, Anna Haensch, and Tim Chartier

This morning I was on a panel about math and creativity with two wonderful panelists. One was Tim Chartier (Davidson College) who spoke about his journey as a mathematical mime. The other was Robert Schneider (Emory University) who talked about his experiences as a musician and composer. I was on the panel in the capacity of podcaster, and I suppose a general mathematical storyteller. The panel was moderated by Samuel Hansen the podcaster behind Relatively Prime.

It was so wonderful to hear Schneider and Chartier talk about their own journeys of mathematical creativity. We all had some goal in common, that Chartier expressed very eloquently. We, as mimes, musicians, and storytellers, are really creating models of mathematical ideas. Not to be confused with mathematical models. But the things we create are meant to represent an idea in math, if not rigorously capture it. As a mathematical communicator this is always somewhat of a delicate issue. Professionally, we know that math is meaningless without rigor, but creatively, we know it’s possible to still capture some of the beauty and excitement of math if we just file down the edges a bit.

What became obvious to me on this panel, was also that each of us seems to be doing what comes naturally to us. Whether making music, miming, or telling stories, it seems like each of us had just found a way to capture and package the mathematical things that we would be doing anyways.

MAA Student Poster Session — Video

Meet twelve of the student groups presenting their research at the MAA Student Poster Session:

 

And read more about the poster session here: http://blogs.ams.org/jmm2017/2017/01/06/maa-undergraduate-poster-session/.

Saturday

Today is starting off with ice on the trees and lots of worries about travel.

Icy Trees on Baker Street in Atlanta, Saturday Morning

Icy Trees on Baker Street in Atlanta, Saturday Morning

Luckily there is math aplenty to take our minds off the ice.  Today the AMS bloggers will be at:

Mathemati-con! is happening at the Hyatt today.  So much fun! Featuring James Tanton, Ingrid Daubches, a Math Wrangle, Arthur Benjamin, and more.
AWM Workshop: Special Session on Number Theory, 8:00 a.m.-11:50 a.m. and 1:30-4:50 p.m. A704, Atrium Level, Marriott Marquis

MAA Panel: Outside the Equation – Exploring Alternative Forms of Mathematical Communication 9:00-10:20 a.m. International 6, International Level, Marriott Marquis. Organized by Samuel Hansen, ACMEScience, featuring our own Anna Haensch,  of Dusquense Univeristy, Robert Schneider of Emory University, Edmund Harriss of University of Arkansas, and Tim Chartier of Davidson College.

Last chance to see "Fish" by Umut Isik!

Last chance to see “Fish” by Umut Isik!

Last chance for the Mathematical Art Exhibit today 9 a.m.-12 p.m. in the Exhibit Hall on the lowest level of the Hyatt Regency.

Who Wants to Be a Mathematician? Also so much fun! 1-2:45 PM today Regency Ballroom VII, Ballroom Level, Hyatt Regency

How to get money to change mathematics education

I actually don’t know how to get money to change math ed. But I still went to the poster session featuring all sorts of projects funded by the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education. The first impression was the strongest: there were so many posters! This means that the NSF DUE really wants to fund innovative teaching projects! The second impression was that many of my friends and acquaintances were funded, which means there are people near me I can learn a lot from (like how to get money to change mathematics education). Below are a few pictures and highlights of the event.

Kristen Roland presents research on how to best train teaching assistants in Statistics courses.

Kristen Roland presents research on how to best train teaching assistants in Statistics courses.

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Ben Galluzzo, winner of one of the 2016 Alder Awards, presents TWO funded projects on inquiry-based math modeling education.

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David Farmer from the American Institute of Mathematics and collaborators worked on a project which curates courses, by tagging concepts in textbooks and linking those with videos on YouTube and other online content.

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Thomas Judson’s project explores how to use open-source software like Sage in the classroom.

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Sandra Laursen (personal hero) is doing extensive and important research on the effectiveness of inquiry-based and active learning.

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MAA’s Deputy Executive Director is very excited about the Guide to Instructional Practices!

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Linda Braddy presents a common vision adopted by all the societies represented at the JMM.

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Marie Snipes’ project explores using imaging as an inquiry-based approach to understanding applications of math.

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Jill Guerra is studying the effectiveness of POGIL (Project Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) in introductory courses in math.