Mathematics Awareness Week 1996

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University of Massachusetts at Amherst

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

In celebration of Mathematics Awareness Week at U. Mass., Professor Joseph Horowitz gave a lecture entitled "Mathematics and Hard Decisions." The talk drew an audience of over a hundred people, including most of the graduate students, many faculty members, a number of undergraduates, various people from outside the department (including the Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics), and several guests. Judging from the comments after the lecture, it was very well received. Following is a press release issued for the event.

Public Lecture on "Mathematics and Hard Decisions" at U. Mass.
to Celebrate Mathematics Awareness Week (April 21-27)

Mathematics and Decision Making is the theme for this year's Mathematics Awareness Week, which is observed nationwide during April 21-27. Celebrations and activities will take place at colleges, universities, and research facilities all across the country. Special events will include public lectures, mathematical games and competitions, and visits by high school students to college campuses.

At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics will present a public lecture entitled "Mathematics and Hard Decisions" by one of its faculty members, Professor Joseph Horowitz.

Decision analysis is a mathematical subject that can help in making hard decisions in virtually any field. It has been used by businesses to make decisions about launching new products, by government agencies in deciding where to site nuclear waste facilities, and by doctors in making diagnostic and treatment decisions. Decision analysis can also be used for personal decisions, for example, personal investment or medical decisions. In recent years there has been rapid development of computerized decision support systems that open up the possibility of the widespread use of decision analysis for business, professional, and personal decisions on a more or less routine basis.

Decision analysis shows how to account for the decision maker's attitude toward risk, the uncertainty in the situation, and the often conflicting values attached to different outcomes. It gives a framework for understanding difficult decision situations more clearly and for making decisions that incorporate all the available information in the best possible way.

Professor Horowitz's lecture will include a survey of decision analysis, with discussion of how to quantify the seemingly unquantifiable, how to be precise about uncertainty, and what it means for a decision to be "rational". He will then consider examples in various areas, and look at some of the current "technology" of decision analysis and its use in medical decision making. The lecture is intended for a general audience and members of the public are invited to attend.

Mathematics Awareness Week is sponsored each year by the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics for the purpose of informing the general public about the importance of mathematics in science and society and to encourage young people to consider study and careers in mathematics and related fields.

For more information, please contact:

Professor Joseph Horowitz
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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.