Mathematics Awareness Week 1996

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MathConn Article

The following article was reprinted from the AWM Newsletter, Volume 27, Number 1, January-February 1996, pp. 24-25.

Article by Regina Baron Brunner
Cedar Crest College
Allentown, PA

Column Editor: Sally I. Lipsey
Chair, AWM Education Committee
70 E. 10th Street, #3A
New York, NY 10003-5106

Mathematics Awareness Week (April 21-27, 1996) will be here before you know it. Have you started to plan? It's time to get ready now.

The theme for 1996 is "Mathematics and Decision Making." The Joint Policy Board for Mathematics selected this all- encompassing theme which includes many exciting subthemes such as forecasting, prediction, uncertainty, probability, and risk assessment and analysis. Think of all the directions possible for events highlighting this theme.

At the planning meeting for MathConn 96 (the eighth mathematics awareness day for seventh and eighth grade girls and their teachers at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA) the advisory board members were inspired and offered many suggestions. Invite a meteorologist from a local TV station to discuss forecasting, prediction, and probability with weather. Students and all of us want to know if it is going to rain or snow, or if there are hurricanes coming. On what basis are weather predictions made?

Consider risk assessment and analysis and think of financial planning, college admissions, insurance companies, and actuaries. Budgeting and investing are important to people of all countries and cultures. Invite a Representative or someone from the Congressional Budget Office. What powerful examples of mathematics in the real world! Invite an actuary, an analyst, or a financial planner to illustrate how their companies make decisions that affect all of us in our daily lives.

Uncertainty leads to fuzzy logic, which is being used in Japan for applications from washing machine design to public transit systems. Students are intrigued by the term "fuzzy logic" and would enjoy learning what it is and how it is used.

In planning MathConn 96, we invited as special presenter Dean Ted Hartz of the College of Business at Kutztown University; he will present a futuristic view into the changes and advances brought about by technology as we enter the twenty-first century. Kirstin Border, Miss Pennsylvania 1994-95, will be the keynote speaker for students. Kirstin uses mathematics to make decisions in the course of her work as an advertising account executive at White, Good and Company where she manages fashion, retail furnishings, and publishing accounts. Carla Schultes, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Salisbury State University, will present the keynote address for teachers about decision-making related to teaching students. Other presenters include the marketing director of the Lehigh Valley Mall, an investment and retirement planner from Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., a senior engineer from the National Security Agency, the director of the Delaware State Police Crime Lab, and many engineers and statisticians from Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.

At MathConn 95, the special presenter was Doris Schattschneider (Moravian College), First Vice President of the MAA and winner of one of the first MAA Awards for Distinguished Teaching of College or University Mathematics. The 1995 MAW theme was "Mathematics and Symmetry," and the logical choice for speaker on this theme was Doris. She sounded the theme throughout the day, beginning with an enthusiastic presentation on "Symmetry: It's All around Us." This included slides illustrating a variety of symmetries which in turn were also demonstrated by Cedar Crest College Dancers to show isometries in three-dimensional space -- truly symmetry in motion. Doris emphasized how symmetry is "a pervasive and powerful mathematical concept that shapes our understanding of all we see and make." Doris then engaged the students in a Symmetry Treasure Hunt to find instances of translation, rotation, glide-rotation, reflection, glide-reflection, and rotary-reflection in the building. At the end of the day, prizes were given to the winning schools in the Symmetry Treasure Hunt. Throughout the day, many presentations included symmetry as a main theme. Some of these were: "Symmetric Construction," "Symmetry around and inside Us," "Architectural Symmetry," and "Statistical Symmetry." But Doris was the symmetry star of the day.

Johanna Miller, a MathConn 89 alumna and senior at Southern Lehigh High School, presented "Beyond Algebra" as a keynote address for students. Dana May Latch, Program Director for the NSF Division of Computer and Computing Research, presented "Opportunities for Junior High School Mathematics and Computer Science Teachers Available through NSF," the keynote address for teachers.

We hope that you enjoy the 1996 Mathematics Awareness theme and bring "Mathematics and Decision Making" alive in your area.

-- Regina Baron Brunner,

Back to MathConn 96

Mathematics Awareness Month is sponsored each year by the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics to recognize the importance of mathematics through written materials and an accompanying poster that highlight mathematical developments and applications in a particular area.