What is Math Awareness Week?
Mathematics Awareness Week
is held in late April each year to
increase public understanding of and appreciation for mathematics.
It began in 1986 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 the first year, Mathematics Awareness Week 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.
Activities for Mathematics Awareness Week 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.
Each year, numerous proclamations for Mathematics Awareness Week
are issued by elected officials, frequently in connection with
special meetings and events arranged to observe the week. Media
coverage has been consistent and positive.
The number and breadth of activities increases annually. For
example, one college has now sponsored a high school mathematics
day for seven years to encourage women to continue their studies in
mathematics. Participation and support has increased each year.
At one university in 1991, two departments - mathematics and
architecture - cooperated to plan and produce an interactive
traveling exhibit that provides hands-on experience for such topics
as codes, tilings, chaos, geometry, graphs, and computer science.
That exhibit was used as a model for a new mathematics exhibit at
the Baltimore Museum of Science and Industry. High schools are
increasingly involved in Mathematics Awareness Week activities.
One school held daily contests including a scavenger hunt and
trivia quizzes. Other high school classes have appreciated
lectures given by mathematics faculty from nearby institutions.
Each year a national theme is selected and theme materials are
developed and distributed, in recent years using electronic
vehicles. Summaries and results about each year's activities are
collected each spring. New approaches and materials are considered
To focus efforts and encourage participation, AMS, MAA and SIAM
leaders, department chairs, selected high school teachers, public
policy representatives, and leaders of related associations are
sent Mathematics Awareness Week packets each year. Materials
include visuals - a color poster and/or postcard, resource lists of
materials available to supplement local activities, and media
announcements which can be tailored to specific MAW events.
The results of Mathematics Awareness Week, as measured by available
information, indicate that this observance reaches thousands of
faculty, teachers, students of all ages, parents, and other
community members, public policy leaders, and business persons.
Themes of Mathematics Awareness Week
- 1986 - Mathematics - The Foundation Discipline
- 1987 - The Beauty and Challenge of Mathematics
- 1988 - 100 Years of American Mathematics
- 1989 - Discovering Patterns
- 1990 - Communicating Mathematics
- 1991 - Mathematics - IT'S Fundamental
- 1992 - Mathematics and the Environment
- 1993 - Mathematics and Manufacturing
- 1994 - Mathematics and Medicine
- 1995 - Mathematics and Symmetry
- 1996 - Mathematics and Decision Making
- 1997 - Mathematics and the Internet
- 1998 - Mathematics and Imaging