2011 meeting of the Michigan MAA & MichMATYC

May 6-7, 2011
Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI)

Program information - Plenary speakers


Erik Demaine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Algorithms Meet Art, Puzzles, and Magic"
When I was six years old, my father Martin Demaine and I designed and made puzzles as the Erik and Dad Puzzle Company, which distributed to toy stores across Canada. So began our journey into the interactions between algorithms and the arts (here, puzzle design). More and more, we find that our mathematical research and artistic projects converge, with the artistic side inspiring the mathematical side and vice versa. Mathematics itself is an art form, and through other media such as sculpture, puzzles, and magic, the beauty of mathematics can be brought to a wider audience. These artistic endeavors also provide us with deeper insights into the underlying mathematics, by providing physical realizations of objects under consideration, by pointing to interesting special cases and directions to explore, and by suggesting new problems to solve (such as the metapuzzle of how to solve a puzzle). This talk will give several examples in each category, from how our first font design led to building transforming robots, to how studying curved creases in origami led to sculptures at MoMA. The audience will be expected to participate in some live magic demonstrations.

Erik Demaine is Associate Professor and Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Professor in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Demaine's research interests range throughout algorithms, from data structures for improving web searches to the geometry of understanding how proteins fold to the computational difficulty of playing games. He received a MacArthur Fellowship (2003) as a "computational geometer tackling and solving difficult problems related to folding and bending - moving readily between the theoretical and the playful, with a keen eye to revealing the former in the latter." Recently, Demaine published a book about folding, together with Joseph O'Rourke, called Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra, (Cambridge University Press, 2007). He has also co-edited Tribute to a Mathemagician (A K Peters, 2003), in honor of the influential mathemagician Martin Gardner.


Michael Dorff, Brigham Young University

"Moving through dimensions: shortest paths, soap bubbles, and when does the derivative of the area equal perimeter?"
In high school geometry we learn that the shortest path between two points is a line. In this talk we will explore this idea in several different settings. First, we will apply this idea to finding the shortest path connecting four points. Then we will move this idea up a dimension and look at a few equivalent ideas in terms of surfaces in 3-dimensional space. Surprisingly, these first two settings are connected through soap films that result when a wire frame is dipped into soap solution. We will use a hands-on approach to look at the geometry of some specific soap films or "minimal surfaces". As we explore this idea of moving through dimensions, we note that the derivative of the area of a circle with respect to its radius equals its circumference. This leads to the question "for what geometric shapes does the derivative of its area equal its perimeter?" We will end with some interesting examples of this and some open questions.

Michael Dorff is associate chair in the Mathematics Department at Brigham Young University (BYU). After teaching high school for 4 years, he earned an MS degree at the Univ. of New Hampshire and in 1997 a PhD from the Univ. of Kentucky in complex analysis. He taught at the Univ. of Missouri-Rolla before accepting a position in 2000 at BYU. In 2005 he founded the BYU mathematics REU. In 2005-2006 he was a Fulbright Scholar in Poland. In 2007 he founded CURM, the Center of Undergraduate Research in Mathematics partially supported by a $1.3 million NSF grant. He is married with 5 daughters. His interests include reading (Dostoyevsky and Dickens through Stegner and Saramago), traveling (invite him to visit you!), running (even at 3 am on the streets in Utah), music (classical, Norah Jones), and soccer.


Dan LaDue, Michigan Department of Education

"Common Core State Standards Initiative for Mathematics in Michigan"
Many states, including Michigan, have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn" in K-12 mathematics (www.corestandards.org). Michigan districts are now beginning the transition to the CCSS from Michigan's Grade Level Content Expectations (GLCE) and High School Content Expectations (HSCE). This transition and eventual shift to the CCSS is destined to impact the core interests of the Michigan Mathematical Association. This talk is designed to provide specific details on implementation of the CCSS in Michigan as well as present a K-12 perspective on the impacts and opportunities for the learning of mathematical sciences at all levels.

Dan is an Education Consultant with the Michigan Department of Education with responsibilities specific to high school mathematics. Additionally, he is a doctoral student in Michigan State University's Measurement & Quantitative Methods PhD program. He spent 14 years as a building level educator serving as a high school assistant principal, mathematics department chair, and classroom teacher. He earned his MA in K-12 Administration from Michigan State University and his BS in Education from Western Michigan University. He has been happily married for 14 years and is the proud parent of two boys ages 13 and 9.

Ivars Peterson, Mathematical Association of America

"Möbius Madness"
Since its discovery in the 19th century, the astonishing one-sided, one-edged Möbius strip has confounded and fascinated generations of people, inspiring stories, magic tricks, patents, artworks, cartoons, playground equipment, and much else. Learn more than you ever thought possible about how a mathematical object conquered the modern world. Bibliography

Ivars Peterson is Director of Publications and Communications at the Mathematical Association of America. As an award-winning mathematics writer, he previously worked at Science News for more than 25 years and served as editor of Science News Online and Science News for Kids. His books include The Mathematical Tourist, Islands of Truth, Newton's Clock, The Jungles of Randomness, and Fragments of Infinity: A Kaleidoscope of Math and Art. In 1991, Ivars Peterson received the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award recognizing him for his "exceptional ability and sustained effort in communicating mathematics to a general audience." During the spring semester of 2008, Ivars Peterson served as the Basler Chair of Excellence for the Integration of the Arts, Rhetoric, and Science at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City.


Paul Zorn, St. Olaf College

"Extreme Calculus"
There is more to elementary calculus than may first meet the eye, especially to those of us who teach it again and again. Well-worn calculus techniques and topics---polynomials, optimization, root-finding, methods of integration, and more---often point to deeper, more general, more interesting, and sometimes surprising mathematical ideas and techniques. I'll illustrate my thesis with figures, examples, and calculation, and give references to MAA publications and resources that can support taking elementary calculus to its extremes.

Paul Zorn is a professor of mathematics at Saint Olaf College and President of the MAA. Born and raised in India, Zorn moved to the U.S. to attend Washington University in Saint Louis, majoring in mathematics and English. He did his PhD, in several complex variables, at the University of Washington, Seattle, under the direction of Edgar Lee Stout. In 1981 he joined the faculty of St. Olaf, where he chaired the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science. He has also taught at Purdue University. Zorn's professional interests include complex analysis, mathematical exposition, textbook writing, and the role of mathematics among the liberal arts. He is also interested in using computer graphics and computer algebra systems to help students learn, explore, and "own" mathematical ideas. Zorn has served on many MAA committees and programs over the years. From 1996 to 2000, he was Editor of MAA's expository journal Mathematics Magazine. His latest textbook, Understanding Real Analysis, was published by AK Peters in 2010.