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Department of Mathematical Sciences will host MAA sectional meeting

The answer: Math Jeopardy.

The question: What do you get when you take the basic premise of a popular TV game show, give it a mathematical slant, and invite some of the region’s brightest college students to compete against each other?

Teams representing 16 colleges and universities will descend upon the campus of Georgia Southern University this week to do battle in Math Jeopardy.

The event is part of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Southeastern Section’s 86th Annual Meeting that will be held from Thursday, March 15, through Saturday, March 17.

Hosted by Georgia Southern’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, the meeting is expected to attract more than 400 faculty and students from five states. All of the activities will be held in the College of Information Technology Building.

‘The meeting is very student-centered,” said Martha Abell, the chair of the University’s math department. ‘Undergraduate students will present their work, and they will also have an opportunity to meet with representatives of graduate programs from throughout the Southeast.”

The MAA is the largest professional society in the U.S. that focuses on mathematics at the undergraduate level. The membership includes university, college and high school teachers; graduate and undergraduate students; pure and applied mathematicians; computer scientists; statisticians; and other professionals in academia, government, business and industry.

The Southeastern Section of the MAA is comprised of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

While much of the meeting will be devoted to research presentations, Math Jeopardy has become a popular institution in the Southeastern Section.

Unlike traditional Jeopardy, which pits individuals against each other, Math Jeopardy is a team event. Groups of three or four students try to solve problems in categories such as Calculus, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra and Computer Science. Team members can collaborate with one another, and they can use pen and paper, but no calculators are allowed.

Yan Wu, an associate professor in Georgia Southern’s math department, is the coach of the team that will represent the University in Math Jeopardy. The players are members of the math team, which competes in a variety of tournaments throughout the school year. Georgia Southern finished among the top four teams in Math Jeopardy at the Southeastern Section meetings in both 2005 and 2006.

‘I run a practice session every Wednesday night,” Wu said. ‘We do not specifically practice for Math Jeopardy, but we solve challenging problems from a broad spectrum of mathematical disciplines.”

The preliminary rounds of Math Jeopardy will be held on Friday from 8 a.m. until noon in Room 1005. There will be four rounds, with four teams competing in each round.

At the conclusion of the preliminary rounds, the four teams with the highest point totals will advance to the final round, which will be held on Saturday at 12:10 p.m.

Math Jeopardy is free and open to the public. In addition to Georgia Southern, the competition will include teams from Augusta State University, Belmont University, Berry College, The Citadel, Coastal Carolina University, Columbus State University, Davidson College, East Tennessee State University, Furman University, Georgia College and State University, LaGrange College, Methodist University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the University of Tennessee at Martin, and Western Carolina University.

Another highlight of the meeting will be invited addresses by national MAA president Joe Gallian, Davidson College professor John Swallow and University of the South professor William M. Priestley.

Gallian, a professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, will discuss ‘Using Groups and Graphs to Create Symmetry Patterns” on Friday at 12:40 p.m. ‘Circular Irrationalities: From Galois to Kummer and Back Again” will be the topic of Swallow’s presentation, which will be held on Friday at 4:10 p.m. Priestley’s talk, titled ‘Surprises,” is scheduled for Saturday at 8:45 a.m. All of the addresses will be given in Room 1004.

The meeting will feature short courses on Inquiry-Based Learning in the Mathematics Classroom; Active Learning Strategies for the College ‘Liberal Arts Mathematics Course;” Codes, Cards and Cryptography; and Undergraduate Research for All.

The meeting will also include sessions on Optimization; Graduate Content for the Mathematical Education of Secondary and Middle School Teachers; the Mathematical Heritage of Leonhard Euler; Linear Algebra; Statistics, Probability and Number Theory; Dynamics, Differential Equations, Analysis and Topology; Algebra and Logic; Mathematical Pedagogy and Curriculum; Issues in Mathematics Education; Mathematical Modeling; Geometry; and History, Games, Combinatorics and Graph Theory.

In addition, the meeting will allow undergraduate students to display their research. The best student presentations will be recognized with the inaugural Patterson Prize. Established by Walt and Susan Patterson, two long-time supporters of the Southeastern Section, the $500 award will be shared by as many as 10 undergraduate students who make outstanding presentations at the meeting.

For more information on the MAA Southeastern Section meeting at Georgia Southern, visit http://math.georgiasouthern.edu/~phumphre/MAA07, email maase07@georgiasouthern.edu or call (912) 681-5390. –

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