EPaDel Spring 2013 Section Meeting

The spring 2013 meeting was held April 6, 2013 at Dickinson College.

Invited Speakers

New Colleague Speaker Session

Talk schedule (PDF)

Talk abstracts (PDF)

Student Contributed Paper Session

Student talk schedule (PDF)

Student talk abstracts (PDF)

Student Competition

The third-annual EpaDel Undergraduate Math Competition was a success. Ten teams of randomly-assigned students competed, with all teams getting at least two questions correct and two teams answering ten out of the twelve questions correct in the allotted 45 minutes. Ralph Beishline of Bloomsburg University took home the grand prize from the culminating head-to-head mental math competition.

This year's contest problems and solutions

Overview: Randomly assigned teams of three to four students will work on a set of twelve competition-type problems for forty-five minutes. The problems have answers that are easily verified, such as a single word or number. Most problems do not require knowledge beyond freshman-level coursework. Every time a team answers a problem correctly, each team member is given a raffle ticket, which they can either place in the prize bucket or the bonus-round bucket. Students will be allowed to resubmit answers if they are incorrect on their first response. At the end of the forty-five minutes, tickets will be drawn from the prize bucket to give away mathematically-themed prizes and eight names will be drawn from the bonus-round bucket to compete in the bonus-round tournament. The bonus-round will feature mental arithmetic problems. The winner of the bonus-round tournament will win the grand prize.

Governor's Message

Section Governor, William Dunham, Muhlenberg College

January 2013

The MAA Board of Governors met on Tuesday, January 8, 2013, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego. President Paul Zorn was in the chair.

The meeting began with Paul's remembrance of Doug Faires, a gifted teacher, successful textbook author, and devoted supporter of the MAA. Doug passed away last month. In 2011, he and wife Barbara (the MAA's secretary) were inducted into the Icosahedron Society, recognizing financial support of the highest order.

After this, our discussion moved to the 2013 budget. As MAA members know, finances have been a concern over recent years, as the organization has run deficits and drained away cash reserves. Our 2011 deficit was $109,000, and the deficit for 2012 came in around $240,000. At the previous Board Meeting, the governors voted for targeted "investments" in areas that would temporarily increase the deficit but that were meant to reap financial benefits in the not too distant future. See my report of August, 2012, for specifics.

Thus, for 2013, we considered a budget with a projected deficit of $627,000. This, needless to say, is an enormous amount of money, representing 7.6% of the overall $8.2 million annual budget. Prolonged discussion among the governors focused on whether the potential pay-off from the targeted investments was worth the risk of falling so far into debt. The MAA treasurer (Jim Daniel) and associate treasurer (Rick Cleary) addressed many questions on this proposal. They noted, for example, that next year's one-time expenditure of $200,000 -- necessary to change MAA customer service from an out-sourced to an in-house operation -- should quickly pay for itself. Indeed, Jim Daniel said he was optimistic that the MAA's budget, by 2015 at the latest, would be in the black, allowing the organization to rebuild its cash reserves.

When a vote was taken, the Board agreed to this 2013 budget.

Our other major topic was a new, streamlined dues structure for the MAA, to be implemented in 2014. Its key feature is a reduction of membership categories to just five (down from the current situation, where there are scores of different membership permutations). These new categories will be (1) Member, (2) Member Plus, (3) K-12 Teacher, (4) Student Member, and (5) Departmental Member. This should greatly simplify a chaotic situation.

Two striking features of this new dues structure are:

It was noted that this sort of reform had been discussed for many years but had never before been brought to the Board. In a vote, the Governors approved the new fee system. Members should be alert to the transition in dues that will be forthcoming.

Beyond these changes, the Board discussed a few other matters. One was a proposed improvement for selling MAA books at Section Meetings. Of late, such sales have been complicated by tax concerns that have significantly reduced the ease of buying books in these venues. The new system should be in place for our spring meeting at Dickinson. Stay tuned.

As the meeting ended, the Board thanked Paul Zorn for his two years of service as MAA President and welcomed Bob Devaney of Boston University as Paul's successor.

Let me close with two final matters:

At the Prizes and Awards ceremony of the Joint Meetings, three EPaDel colleagues were recognized for their excellent work. One, Yuhou (Susan) Xia of Bryn Mawr College, was a runner-up for the 2013 Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Woman. John Allen Paulos of Temple University received the Communications Award from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics. And Robert Ghrist of the University of Pennsylvania won the MAA's Chauvenet Prize for his paper "Barcodes: The persistent topology of data" that appeared in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society in 2008. Congratulations on these fine honors.

Finally, with this meeting I completed my three-year term as EPaDel Governor. I have certainly enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of the Mathematical Association of America and have appreciated the honor to serve in this capacity.

EPaDel members should be alert to the upcoming election to choose my successor. Please vote!