Saturday, April 21, 2012

Entertainment for the "Math"es

Last weekend, Stevenson hosted the Spring Meeting of the MD-DC-VA Section of the Mathematical Association of America.  Translation:  about 150 faculty and students from colleges and universities throughout the region descended upon the Owings Mills Campus for food, drink, quantitative enlightenment, and the renewal of old and/or continuing professional ties.  The visitors included my old colleague from Virginia State University, Dr. Dawit Haile, seen below on my left.  


... And, yes, that's the familiar profile of Nicky standing by the table.  She helped us out registering attendees before the Friday-night banquet and also with the book sale during Saturday's meeting.

This meeting was originally proposed by both myself and Dr. Susan Slattery as a way of "introducing" SU's Math Department, not to mention the school itself, to the wider mathematical community.  No such meeting had ever been held on our campus before.  Dr. Slattery's death in August 2010 left me to chair the planning committee and to try to draw together the many dozens of logistical threads that bind together a successful enterprise of this type.  With the help of other faculty, staff, and students, I think that we pulled it off quite well indeed.  The comments from our visitors were uniformly positive.  Well... some wished that they had been allowed to park directly in front of the School of Business and Leadership Building, where most of the events of Saturday morning and afternoon took place.  That night, unfortunately, was THE game of the year on the SU sports calendar: the men's lacrosse match with Salisbury.  Even the honored guests had to take a back seat to the tailgaters who had long since claimed the parking field by the SOBL for their pregame activities.  We wound up having the visitors park in the Mustang Stadium parking lot and take shuttle buses up the hill to the main campus.

So, how do mathematicians spend their time at these meetings?  Well, eating and drinking (the latter very much including extensive consumption of coffee, of course), attending talks by faculty and students, buying books at the book sale... and, as is traditional at our Section's Spring Meetings, mounting "just for students" contests.  "Radical Dash" is our version of The Amazing Race, with teams of students being given different quantitative tasks to complete over the span of the meeting.  These included figuring out how to move water in large containers from one place to another, using smaller containers.  It's not as simple as it sounds, which may explain why students seem to have perpetual trouble with those pesky "mixture" word problems you find in algebra texts. 

And what would a gathering of enlightened wits such as ourselves be without a smokin' hot game of Jeopardy!  Only in this case, the categories include such "audience-targeted" fare as "Hey, Baby, What's Your Sine?".  We held this event in the SOBL's Pugh Courtroom, a space normally used for mock trials by Paralegal and Forensics students, which allowed the judges to really get into the judgmental spirit by sitting where "Your Honor" would normally sit.  Imagine Alex Trebek as Judge Judy...

I felt a great deal of satisfaction at the end of the meeting.  Best of all, perhaps, I felt that Susan Slattery would have been proud.

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