2009 Meeting Program

2009 Annual Meeting
Sunday, May 3, 2009

Webb Institute, Glen Cove, NY

8:00 - 9:00

Registration, refreshments, book exhibits

9:00 - 9:15

Welcoming remarks:

  Admiral Robert Olsen, President of Webb Institute
  Roger H. Compton, Dean of Webb Institute
  Dan King, Chair, Metropolitan New York Section of the MAA

9:15 - 10:15

Ramanujan, the Lost Notebook, and Related Incidents

  George E. Andrews, The Pennsylvania State University

10:15 - 10:30


10:30 - 11:30

How Always to Win at Limbo, or You can sum some of the series some of the time, and some of the series none of the time... but can you sum some of the series ALL of the time?

  Edward B. Burger, Williams College
11:30 - 12:15 Awards ceremony, raffles and section business
12:15 - 1:15 Lunch (with time to visit the exhibits)
1:30 - 3:30 Contributed papers and poster sessions
2:00 - 5:00 Math-art exhibit
  Coordinator: Anne Burns, Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus
2:30 - 3:30 Snacks and refreshments
3:30 - 4:30 Guest presentation: Straight from the Source's Mouth: Teaching Discrete Mathematics via Primary Historical Sources
  Janet H. Barnett, Colorado State University
3:30 - 5:00 Special presentation: Mathematics Jeopardy!
  Emcees: Abe Mantell, Henry Ricardo, and David Seppala-Holtzman
3:30 - 5:00 Workshop: Communicating Mathematics
  Ivars Peterson, Director of Publications, MAA

Ramanujan, the Lost Notebook, and Related Incidents
George E. Andrews, The Pennsylvania State University

Abstract: In 1976 quite by accident, I stumbled across a collection of about 100 sheets of mathematics in Ramanujan's handwriting; they were stored in a box in the Trinity College Library in Cambridge. I titled this collection "Ramanujan's Lost Notebook" to distinguish it from the famous notebooks that he had prepared earlier in his life. On and off for the past 33 years, I have studied these wild and confusing pages. Some of the weirder results have yielded entirely new lines of research. I will try to provide a gentle account of where these efforts have led. I will conclude with a couple of stories about associated TV and film projects that arose because of this discovery.

Speaker Biography: George E. Andrews is Evan Pugh Professor of Mathematics at Penn State and an elected member of the National Academy of Science. He lists 264 research articles. While his interests center on partition theory, he has pursued this topic in many different directions, establishing ties to number theory and asymptotic analysis, to special functions and q-hypergeometric series, to statistical mechanics and the study of exactly solved models, to representation theory and its generating functions, to computer algebra systems and automated methods of finding and proving series identities and transformation formulas. He is known as the person who discovered Ramanjujan's "lost notebook," and he is one of the leading Ramanujan scholars today. He has published twelve articles in the American Mathematical Monthly, and frequently speaks to a wide range of audiences.

How Always to Win at Limbo, or You can sum some of the series some of the time, and some of the series none of the time... but can you sum some of the series ALL of the time?
Edward B. Burger, Williams College

Abstract: Remember in your days of first-love how you would dream about that special someone and wonder to yourself: "How close are we?" This presentation will answer that question by answering: What does it mean for two things to be close to one another? We'll take a strange look at infinite series, dare to mention a calculus student's fantasy, and momentarily engage in transcendental meditation. In fact, we'll even attempt to build some very exotic series that can be used if you ever have to flee the country in a hurry: we'll either succeed or fail... you'll have to come to the lecture to find out. Will you be at the edge of your seats? Perhaps; but if not, then you'll probably fall asleep and either way, after the talk, you'll feel refreshed. No matter what, you'll learn a sneaky way to always win at Limbo. This presentation is open to all math fans--young and old alike. A familiarity with infinite series is helpful. If you've ever head of the words "triangle inequality," then this is the address for you!

Speaker Biography: Edward Burger is Professor of Mathematics at Williams College. His research interests are in number theory, and he is the author of over 30 research articles and 12 books including The Heart of Mathematics: An invitation to effective thinking (winner of a 2001 Robert W. Hamilton Book Award). Burger was awarded the 2000 Northeastern Section of the MAA Award for Distinguished Teaching and 2001 MAA Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo National Award for Distinguished Teaching of Mathematics. The MAA named him the 2001-2003 Polya Lecturer. In 2002-2003 he was the Ulam Visiting Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was awarded the 2003 Residence Life Teaching Award. In 2004 he was awarded Mathematical Association of America's Chauvenet Prize and in 2006 he was a recipient of the Lester R. Ford Prize. In 2007 and 2008 he received two awards for his video work. In 2007 Williams College awarded him the Nelson Bushnell Prize for Scholarship and Teaching and this year the College named him the Gaudino Scholar. Burger is an associate editor of the American Mathematical Monthly and a trustee of the Educational Advancement Foundation. In 2006, Reader's Digest listed Burger in their annual "100 Best of America" as America's Best Math Teacher.

Straight from the Source's Mouth: Teaching Discrete Mathematics via Primary Historical Sources
Janet H. Barnett, Colorado State University

Abstract: As mathematics instructors, it is natural for us to try to provide students with clear and precise presentations, both in our teaching and in the textbooks we select. But just as water filtration, intended to remove impurities, can remove healthy minerals and interesting tastes, efforts to remove potential impediments to learning can strip a subject of its context, motivation and direction. One means of restoring these ingredients is to go back to the source from which the subject originally sprang. This talk describes student projects based on this idea which focus on topics in discrete mathematics. Designed to capture the spark of discovery and motivate subsequent lines of inquiry, each project is built around excerpts from primary sources close to or representing the discovery of a key concept. Through guided reading and activities, students explore the mathematics of the original discovery and develop their own understanding of the subject. To place the source in context, a project also provides biographical information about its author, and historical background about the problem with which the author was concerned. In addition to an overview of how these projects can be used and the rationale for their use, participants will be provided an opportunity to examine several of the 20+ projects developed to date by a team of mathematicians and computer scientists at Colorado State University–Pueblo and New Mexico State University, with support from the NSF. Original source authors represented in these projects include Archimedes, Boole, Cantor, Euler, Leibniz, Pascal, Turing, Veblen, and von Neumann, writing on topics such as mathematical induction, logic, finite sums of powers, graph theory, transfinite arithmetic, binary arithmetic, Boolean algebra, combinatorics, computability, and decidability. All projects are available at http://www.math.nmsu.edu/hist_projects/discrete-projects.pdf, along with further detail about our pedagogical approach.

Speaker Biography: Janet Heine Barnett holds a B.S. in Mathematics and Humanities from Colorado State University - Fort Collins, and an M.A. and Ph. D in Set Theory from the University of Colorado - Boulder. She is a Professor of Mathematics at the Colorado State University - Pueblo where she has taught since 1990. In 2006, she was awarded the University Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her teaching experience also includes two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Central African Republic. A 1995 -1996 fellow at the MAA Institute for History of Mathematics and Its Use in Teaching (funded by the NSF), her scholarly interests have long included mathematics history and its use both to promote mathematical understanding and as a vehicle for promoting teacher reflection on pedagogical issues. In addition to her current collaboration with faculty at New Mexico State University in the development of original source projects for the teaching of discrete mathematics, recent projects have included a study of the historical relation of mathematics and war, a history of the hyperbolic functions in the eighteenth century, and the mathematical history of Paris (jointly with her dance & travel partner/husband George Heine). An active member of the MAA since 1989, she was awarded the Rocky Mountain Section Certificate of Meritorious Service in 2007.

Communicating Mathematics (Workshop)
Ivars Peterson, Director of Publications, MAA

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. Workshop bibliography is available at http://ivarspeterson.googlepages.com/workshop1.

Speaker Biography: Ivars Peterson is Director of Publications for Journals and Communications at the Mathematical Association of America in Washington, D.C. For more than 25 years previously, he was a writer at Science News. He also served as editor of Science News for Kids and Science News Online and wrote the weekly online column Ivars Peterson's MathTrek. Ivars Peterson received his education from the University of Toronto, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree (majoring in physics and chemistry) and a Bachelor of Education degree. He taught high school science and mathematics for eight years. In 1980, he left teaching to obtain a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. He served as an intern at Science News in Washington, D. C., then joined the weekly magazine's staff. Peterson has written several books including The Mathematical Tourist: Snapshots of Modern Mathematics, The Jungles of Randomness: A Mathematical Safari and Mathematical Treks: From Surreal Numbers to Magic Circles. In 1991, Ivars Peterson received the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award recognizing him for his "exceptional ability and sustained effort in communicating mathematics to a general audience." During the spring semester of 2008, Ivars Peterson served as the Basler Chair of Excellence for the Integration of the Arts, Rhetoric, and Science at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, where he taught a course on "Communicating Mathematics." He lives in Washington, D.C., with his family.

Contributed papers: schedule and abstracts (Word format)