Mathematics Awareness Month is held each year in April. Its goal is to increase public understanding of and appreciation for mathematics. Mathematics Awareness Month began in 1986 as Mathematics Awareness Week with a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan, who said in part:
Despite the increasing importance of mathematics to the progress of our economy and society, enrollment in mathematics programs has been declining at all levels of the American educational system. Yet the application of mathematics is indispensable in such diverse fields as medicine, computer sciences, space exploration, the skilled trades, business, defense, and government. To help encourage the study and utilization of mathematics, it is appropriate that all Americans be reminded of the importance of this basic branch of science to our daily lives.
In 1986 activities concentrated on national-level events, such as opening an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution on mathematics and hosting a Capitol Hill reception. Since that time the focus has shifted to activities at the local, state, and regional levels. Over the years, the general purpose has consistently been to increase the visibility of mathematics as a field of study and to communicate the power and intrigue in mathematics to a larger audience. In 1999, Mathematics Awareness Week became Mathematics Awareness Month.
The JPBM gratefully acknowledges The Math Forum for hosting the Mathematics Awareness Month website until 2005.
Activities for Mathematics Awareness Month are generally organized by college and university departments, institutional public information offices, student groups, and related associations and interest groups. They have included a wide variety of workshops, competitions, exhibits, festivals, lectures, and symposia. Some years elected officials have issued proclamations for Mathematics Awareness Month, frequently in connection with special meetings and events arranged to observe the month.
The number and breadth of activities increase annually. For example, one college has sponsored a high school mathematics day to encourage women to continue their studies in mathematics. At one university, two departments - mathematics and architecture - cooperated to plan and produce an interactive traveling exhibit that provided hands-on experience for such topics as codes, tilings, chaos, geometry, graphs, and computer science. That exhibit was used as a model for a mathematics exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Science and Industry. High schools are also involved in Mathematics Awareness Month activities. One school held daily contests including a scavenger hunt and trivia quizzes, while others have enjoyed lectures given by mathematics faculty from nearby institutions.
Each year a national theme is selected and theme materials are developed and distributed. Summaries and results about each year's activities are collected each spring.
In order to focus efforts and encourage participation, Mathematics Awareness Month packets are sent to AMS, ASA, MAA and SIAM leaders; department chairs; selected high school teachers; public policy representatives; and leaders of related associations. Packets include a color poster and announcement. The website includes a sample press release which can be customized to specific Mathematics Awareness Month events. Mathematics Awareness Month themes provide a focus for the month of April, but the related resources with each year's theme are valuable well beyond April. JPBM welcomes submissions of additional resources, supplemental links, updates, etc. to consider posting on the website. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mathematics Awareness Month information reaches thousands of faculty, teachers, students, parents, public policy leaders, business persons and other community members.