The 2009 Annual Meeting of the Illinois Section of the MAA

This year's ISMAA annual meeting will be held April 3-4 at Bradley University in Peoria.  Plenary speakers include Gail Burrill, past President of NCTM, from Michigan State University; Sunil Chebolu from Illinois State University; Ivars Peterson, Director of Publications for Journals and Communications at the MAA; and Laura Taalman from James Madison University. 

Are you interested in speaking at a concurrent session?  The Program Committee welcomes talk proposals from mathematicians at any career stage who wish to share with others their mathematical work.  Mentors and their undergraduate students are encouraged to check details for the student session and for the newly-created OUR award.   If interested in speaking, use the electronic submission form ( or by e-mail the Program Committee Chair (Pat Kiihne,  Abstracts should be in by March 15.

Meeting Links


Meeting Schedule and Abstracts

Student Math Contest

Project NExT

Communicating Mathematics Workshop

Registration Information

Schedule of Plenary Speakers

Schedule of Speakers


Student Speakers

Undergraduate Travel Awards

Lodging, Transportation, and Parking

ISMAA- OUR Awards Announcement


The Illinois Section of the Mathematical Association of America (ISMAA) invites submissions for the 2009 Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research in Mathematics. The awards will be given to the best three research papers authored and presented by undergraduate students in any field of mathematics.  For this award student participants are encouraged to produce complete research projects including, but not limited to focusing on interesting mathematical problems, the process of writing manuscripts, creating professional presentations and speaking at professional meetings. Faculty mentors will encourage their students to work on problems with more research emphasis. In addition to helping outstanding students fund their travels to ISMAA Meetings, we believe this award will help introduce selected students gain experience in conducting, writing, presenting and funding research projects.

Working in collaboration with a faculty advisor, undergraduate students who wish to apply for one of these awards should submit the following materials electronically (either as a PDF or MS Word document) to the Awards Committee.

Please include "OUR-Award-Submission" in the subject heading. Papers need not have been submitted for publication in a professional journal at the time of consideration for this award but they have to be complete scientific manuscripts.

The awards will be given to the projects that have the three highest combined scores for both the scientific paper and the presentation This year the  awards for the top three ranked winners will be $250, $150 and $100.  The deadline for OUR Award applications is March 15, 2009.

Questions? Email .

Student Math Contest

You have a deck of 10 cards and on each card there is a single digit between 0 and 9, inclusive.  The digit on the top card equals the number of cards which have a zero on them, and so forth until the digit on the last card is the number of cards with a nine on them. What are the digits, in order from top to bottom, on the cards?

Is this the sort of  problem that intrigues you?  Then you should consider competing in our Thirteenth Annual Student Mathematics Contest which will be held on the afternoon of Friday April 3, 2009 during the Annual Meeting of the Illinois Section of the MAA at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. The Contest is likely to have a minimum of four problems for the teams to consider. A team from a particular college is to consist of up to 3 undergraduate students. A college or university may enter more than one team. Team members may work together in solving the problems and will submit one team solution for each. Electronic computational devices (and slide rules and log tables and abacii) are not allowed. Competitors will have their conference registration fee waived.

For more samples of the kinds of problems to expect, see the problems from past contests. (You might also look at the Challenge of the Week problems from the Department of Mathematics at Eastern Illinois University.)

Teams need not register until the day of the Contest, but if you intend to participate in the contest, it would be helpful if you would inform Paul McCombs at This will help us to adjust plans accommodate for the participants

The participating teams will receive the results of the contest as soon as they become available. The Contest results will also be posted on the ISMAA website.

For additional information on the contest, please contact Paul McCombs at the above e-mail address or Pat Kiihne at

If you are planning to participate in student talks abstracts should be sent to Pat Kiihne.


ISMAA Project NExT Program

Project NExT (New Experiences in Teaching) is a professional development program of the MAA, with major funding provided by the Exxon Education Foundation, and additional funding from several other sources. This program is designed to support new college faculty in their teaching, scholarly, and professional activities and and to help these new faculty members to get involved in the mathematical community beyond their own institutions.

The success of Project NExT on the national level has prompted a number of MAA sections to organize their own local versions of this program. The Tenth Annual ISMAA Project NExT Program will be held in conjunction with the ISMAA annual meeting at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, April 3, 2009- April 4, 2009. Up to nine 2009 ISMAA Project NExT Fellows will be selected. Anyone within their first four years of teaching mathematics (after finishing a master's or doctoral degree) at any two or four-year college or university in Illinois is eligible, as well as any graduate students at universities in Illinois who are completing their PhD this year and have a position in Illinois for the 2009-2010 academic year. 2009 ISMAA Project NExT Fellows' meeting registration, pre-conference workshop registration, opening banquet fees, and Friday and Saturday lunches at the annual meeting will be paid for by the ISMAA Project NExT for the 2009 and 2010 ISMAA Annual Meetings.

The 2009 Program will begin on the morning of Friday, April 3, 2009 with Dr. Ivars Peterson, Director of Publications for Journals and Communication at the Mathematical Association of America, presenting the conference workshop on Communicating Mathmeatics.  The workshop is followed by an opening lunch at which new ISMAA NExT fellows will have an opportunity to get to know one another as well as other sectional Fellows and national NExT Fellows. The ISMAA Project NExT program will conclude on the afternoon of Saturday, April 4, 2009, following the closing address of the ISMAA meeting. After a brief box lunch, the group will reconvene for a session devoted to professional development opportunities in the ISMAA and the MAA. This year we will match new ISMAA NExT Fellows with a Mentor at the meeting. It is expected that each Mentor-Fellow pair will continue to communicate about professional development issues throughout the following academic year.


Application materials for 2009 ISMAA Project NExT Fellows can be accessed via the ISMAA website at The registration deadline for the 2009 ISMAA Project NExT Fellows is March 2, 2009.  For further information, please contact the Coordinator of the ISMAA Project NExT Program, Timothy D. Comar at



Meeting Schedule and Abstracts

Pre-conference workshop

8:30-11:30 a.m. Friday April 3


Communicating Mathematics

Ivars Peterson, Mathematical Association of America


Abstract:  The importance of communicating mathematics clearly and effectively is evident in the many ways in which mathematicians must write, whether to produce technical reports, expository articles, book reviews, essays, referee's reports, grant proposals, research papers, evaluations, or slides for oral presentations. With a focus on exposition, this workshop offers tips for improving writing skills, from grammar and usage to organization and manuscript or slide preparation. It also provides insights into how news media cover mathematics and science and suggests how participants can contribute to the public understanding of mathematics.

Biographical sketch: Ivars Peterson is Director of Publications for Journals and Communications at the Mathematical Association of America in Washington, D.C. As an award-winning mathematics writer, he previously worked at Science News for more than 25 years and served as editor of Science News Online and Science News for Kids. His books include The Mathematical Tourist, Islands of Truth, Newton's Clock, The Jungles of Randomness, and Fragments of Infinity: A Kaleidoscope of Math and Art.


Registration Information

Workshop:  $15 (includes deli lunch) (Pre-registration by March 25, 2009 required)

The workshop will be held on Friday, April 3, 8:30-11:30 a.m..


Conference Registration: Online Registration (until March 25) is is available at


                                            Plenary Speaker Schedule and Abstracts

Friday, April 3 2009

Opening Talk (12:50 - 2:00 PM)

Sudoku: Questions, Variations and Research
Laura Taalman, James Madison University


Abstract: Sudoku puzzles and their variants are linked to many mathematical problems involving combinatorics, Latin squares, magic squares, polyominos, symmetries, computer algorithms, the rook problem, graph colorings, and permutation group theory. In this talk we will explore variations of Sudoku and the many open problems and new results in this new field of recreational mathematics. Many of the problems we will discuss are suitable for undergraduate research projects. Puzzle handouts will be available for all to enjoy!

Biographical Sketch: Laura Taalman is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at James Madison University. She received her Ph.D in mathematics from Duke University, and her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. Her research includes singular algebraic geometry, knot theory, and the mathematics of puzzles. She is the author of a textbook that combines calculus, pre-calculus, and algebra into one course, one of the organizers of the Shenandoah Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics (SUMS) Conference at JMU, and a recipient of the MAA Trevor Evans award and the MAA Alder Award.  As part of Brainfreeze Puzzles, she is an author of the puzzle book Color Sudoku.


Banquet address (follows 6:30 p.m. banquet, Friday April 3)

Knotty Tales: From Vortex Atoms to DNA Tangles

Ivars Peterson, Mathematical Association of America

The unexpected discovery more than two decades ago of several new ways to distinguish mathematical knots precipitated a surge of interest in knot theory. Today, intriguing links between knots and physics and illuminating biological applications testify to the new importance of a mathematical pursuit that began in the 19th century with the search for a new atomic theory

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Opening Talk (8:30AM-9:30AM)

The Mathematical Education of Teachers: The Role of Mathematics Departments

Gail Burrill, Michigan State University


Abstract: The preparation of mathematics teachers is a critical element in ensuring that high quality mathematics is being taught in our schools. What mathematical understandings should beginning teachers have? What is the relation between the mathematics they will teach and the mathematics they have learned? What mathematical habits of mind should they bring to their classrooms? By thinking hard about these questions, mathematics departments have the opportunity to make a real difference in preparing teachers who have a fundamental understanding of what math is about and why it is important.

Biographical Sketch (from the Michigan State University website):  Gail Burrill earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics at Marquette University and her masters in mathematics at Loyola University of Chicago. She was a secondary teacher and department chair in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin for over 25 years and spent time as an associate researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While on leave from Wisconsin, she served as President of the National Council of Teacher of Mathematics. She was Director of the Mathematical Sciences Education Board at the National Research Council and is now on the faculty at Michigan State University. As an instructor for Teachers Teaching with Technology, she does workshops around the country on using technology in the classroom. Burrill received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and the Wisconsin Distinguished Educator Award. She was elected a fellow of the American Statistical Association and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She was on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and director of the senior high school component of the Park City Mathematics Institute. The author of numerous books and articles on statistics and mathematics education, she has spoken nationally and internationally on issues in teaching and learning mathematics.

Closing Talk (12:00PM-1:00PM)

Cohomology with stones and sticks

Sunil Chebolu, Illinois State University


Abstract: An important and magnificent theory that evolved in the 20th century is group cohomology. While scads of brilliant theorems have been proved about group cohomology since its inception, the fundamental problem of computing group cohomology remained a mystery. Therefore it is natural to investigate different methods for computing group cohomology. In this talk I  will present a diagrammatic approach (using stones and sticks!) for computing the cohomology of some finite groups.  In the cases where it is applicable, this method has the advantage  that it reveals some incredibly beautiful connections between  representation theory and cohomology of finite groups.

Biographical Sketch:  Sunil Chebolu is Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Illinois State University.  He has a Ph.D. from the University of Washington.  His research interests are homotopy theory, modular and geometric representation theory, support varieties, affine group schemes, spectra, triangulated categories, derived categories, Galois cohomology, Quadratic forms, Bloch-Kato conjecture, and K-theory.

Undergraduate Travel Awards Available


Travel funds are available to support undergraduate attendance at the ISMAA meeting.  Up to $50 per student is available for institutions to use in support of student travel.  Limited funds are available.  We ask that institutions which already provide full support not request these funds.  Travel funds are not available to the hosting institution.


The travel form is available here:

Undergraduate Travel Award Application (MS Word)

Undergraduate Travel Award Application (pdf)    

Please send completed forms electronically to Pat Kiihne (

For additional information on the program, please contact:

Pat Kiihne
Mathematics Department
Illinois College