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MAA Iowa Section Newsletter
Spring 2015

This is the web edition of the Iowa Section Newsletter. To receive a printed copy of the newsletter or to make suggestions/comments, please contact the editor, Joy Becker,


Section Governor's Report

The Board of Governor’s Meeting in San Antonio was an interesting time. The morning was primarily focused on reports and action items and the afternoon was spent on governance issues and the new CUPM guide.

While most reports and action items were routine, one was not. The routine ones involved noting that the MAA will need to have at least one more year with a deficit budget but hopefully be positive by 2016. Motion was heading this way but some hiccups came along. While book sales have been down in the past year, they are expected to rise soon with the new ones coming down the pipe. It is also anticipated that 2015 MathFest will generate some revenue. We approved the recipients for the Meritorious Service Awards for six different sections, approved award nominees, approved several committees being restructured and charges to several councils. Lastly, among the straightforward actions, we approved the proposed membership dues, which did not change at all or significantly, depending on one’s choice or payment plan.

The one item that we did spend some time, and with which there was not a uniform opinion, had to do with a restructuring of the approach for departmental membership. It was formerly based on a fixed fee plus so much for each student and then (one) print version of the journals was provided. The proposal was to have it be tiered based on student population and whether it was doctorate-granting institution or not and then ALL students could have memberships (and thus view the electronic journals - but no printed versions). The discount for using WebWork would still be present. There were a number of concerns by both smaller college faculty and larger doctorate-granting type. There was a motion to postpone the action, which was narrowly defeated. The proposal did eventually pass by a slim margin.

The first part of the afternoon was spent discussing some key considerations when thinking about what is important for governance for the MAA. The three future formats can be quickly summarized as (a) status quo, (b) radically alter by reducing the number of those involved in the BoG, (c) find a middle ground. The three key considerations were 1. Strategic planning; 2. Checks and balances; 3. Communication and representation. After being divided into groups, each group discussed their assigned topic for 45 minutes, came back for 10 minute reports and then another 15 minutes for general discussion. It was a productive exercise. While there is no definitive time-table yet, there may be a tentative proposal for the MathFest in DC.

Following this, there was a presentation about the new CUPM guidelines, and opportunities for reports from other officers and staff. It would be a good idea to review the new CUPM program at Finally, there was a description of the myriad of plans for the Centennial celebration at MathFest 2015 in Washington, DC this coming August. I most strongly urge each of you make plans to come to this celebration. There is an excellent program planned and you will not regret having participated in this historic event.

Submitted by Section Governor Al Hibbard
Central College

Section Chair's Report

Iowa MAA t-shirts have been printed and are being delivered to those who ordered shirts. If you missed out and would like to order a shirt, contact Brian Birgen. If there is enough demand, more shirts will be ordered.

A committee has been established to help plan the centennial for the Iowa Section of the MAA, which was founded in 1916. The committee includes Jason Smith, Jon White, Joel Haack, and Lynn Olson. If you would like to offer suggestions or help in planning the centennial festivities, please contact one of them.

Submitted by Section Chair Brian Birgen
Wartburg College

Section Vice-Chair's Report

no report submitted

Section Treasurer's Report

no report submitted

Section Officers' Meeting Report

As information director for the Iowa Section of the MAA, I attended the section officers' meeting at the Joint Math Meetings in San Antonio, January 2015. We heard briefly from three sections (Pacific NW, Florida, and Ohio) about things they do during their section meetings and a bit about how they are organized. We are encouraged to collaborate with neighboring sections, as we have been doing.

MAA will be asking for photos of section meetings for a slide show during the centennial MathFest 2015. Since we have a fall meeting rather than a spring meeting, that means we probably need to see if anyone has decent photos from past meetings. Also, they will have new banners, as we discussed at our section meeting, but they will not have a parade of sections because the new banners are not designed for that. Instead, the banners will be displayed in one of the main rooms and during key events. A few sections are following through with the t-shirt designs for the centennial.

Submitted by Section Information Director Joy Becker
Wartburg College

Iowa Section NExT Announcement

As usual, the MAA's Iowa section will be holding activities for our Iowa-NExT group on the Friday before the sectional meeting. Iowa NExT fellows are invited to join us for our informal workshops and lunch before the section meeting on Friday. All pre-tenure faculty and senior grad students can apply to be Iowa-NExT fellows. Download the application from Iowa-NExT part of this site. If you know of such people in your department, please encourage them to apply.

2014 Iowa Section Teaching Award

Dan Alexander of Drake University was awarded the 2014 MAA Iowa Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

Nominations for the 2015 MAA Iowa Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics are now being accepted and are due by June 12, 2015. For more information, please see the call for teaching award nominations. Please send any questions to Section Secretary, Susan Crook,

2014 Iowa Collegiate Mathematics Competition

The 21st annual Iowa Collegiate Math Competition was held on Saturday, February 21, 2015, at ISU. The problems and solutions can be found on the competition web site. There were 24 teams from 12 different Iowa Colleges and Universities. Here are the 2015 winners:

1st place: "UNI" with 2 students from UNI and 1 student from ISU (82 points)
2nd place: "Iowa Mathletes" from U of Iowa (78 points)
3rd place: "The Mandelbros" from ISU (68 points)

Congratulations to all participants! Details on other teams and scores received for individual problems can be seen at: contest results. The winner gets to host the next competition, so ICMS 2016 will take place at UNI. The date for February or March of 2016 will be announced at the Iowa MAA section meeting this fall, in the business meeting when the trophy is presented to UNI.

See the contest page for further information. For questions or comments, contact:

Ruth Berger
Luther College

Dates of Importance

August 5-8, 2015 - MathFest 2015 Centennial Celebration, Washington, D.C.

October 2-3, 2015 - Annual Meeting of the Iowa Section, Graceland University, Lamoni, Iowa.

January 6-9, 2016 - Joint Mathematics Meetings, Seattle, Washinton.

Departmental News

The following items have been submitted by the liaisons for the corresponding departments. If your department has news that is not included, please contact your liaison so that it can be included and have them e-mail the editor, Joy Becker,

Clarke University
Amanda Matson

Clarke University is excited to work with colleagues at Loras College and local middle schools to start a Math Teachers’ Circle in Dubuque! The MTC will start this summer and continue over the next academic year. We are also pleased to congratulate Dr. Judy Munshower who was promoted to Professor this past academic year.

Central College
Russ Goodman

Iowa State University
Elgin Johnston

A Tribute to Stephen Willson:
After an outstanding and productive forty-year career as a mathematician, Professor Stephen Willson is retiring from Iowa State University. With Steve’s retirement, the ISU Mathematics Department is losing an outstanding researcher, an inspiring teacher, and a strong agent for positive change.

Steve started his research career in topology, but over the years his interests changed as he worked in cellular automata, fractals and chaotic dynamics, game theory, and, for the last several years, mathematical biology. He has done outstanding work in each of these areas and especially in his recent work in computational biology. About 18 years ago, Steve became very interested in evolution and the study of evolutionary relationships between organisms, many and often most of which may be extinct. A phylogenetic tree is a branching diagram used to depict those relationships. Often, because of incomplete data there may be many (thousands of) candidate trees that might explain the data; Steve looked for conditions that would reduce this ambiguity. Also, it may happen that two animal groups separate at a given time and hundreds of thousands of years later merge, so that two branches of the tree merge. The resulting structure is no longer a tree, but rather a more complex structure called a network. Steve was one of the early researchers into evolutionary networks.

Steve has always been one of the very best instructors in the ISU Mathematics Department. He has also responded to student needs by redesigning some of our courses and developing and teaching new courses. The fractals course that Steve designed is one of the most popular upper level Mathematics courses at ISU. Steve was recognized as an outstanding educator with an AMOCO Teaching Award in 1983, and by the ISU graduate students as an outstanding graduate teacher in 2007.

Steve’s outstanding contributions in all areas were further recognized when he was named the Janson Professor of Mathematics in 2009 and awarded the title of University Professor in 2010.

Steve has long been an active member of the Iowa MAA. We look forward to his continued presence and more of his always interesting and enjoyable talks at future Section meetings.

Luther College
Ruth Berger

Charles Ashbacher

Charlie Ashbacher has edited and published three books. “Topics in Recreational Mathematics: 1/2015,” “Topics in Recreational Mathematics 2/2015” and “Alphametics as Expressed in Recreational Mathematics Magazine.” The books are a continuation of the publication of topics in recreational mathematics after “Journal of Recreational Mathematics” ceased publication in December, 2014. Ashbacher is the owner of Charles Ashbacher Technologies and an adjunct instructor at Upper Iowa University. He has also published the book Ten Year Cumulative Index to the Journal OF Recreational Mathematics, which is actually a republication. A fourth book is currently being developed and a fifth book is in the initial planning stages. Therefore, he is interested in additional submissions, especially undergraduate research.