October, 2009 Report

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Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 8:00am

We will be presenting at the Joint Meetings of the AMS/MAA. If you are interested in learning more about our project, please join us:

Thursday January 14, 2010
MAA Session on Mathematics Courses for the Liberal Arts Students, I
Room 2024, 2nd Floor, Moscone
Organizers: Reva Kasman, Salem State College
9:40 a.m.
How to Include More of the Arts in Mathematics for Liberal Arts.
Julian F Fleron*, Westfield State College
Volker Ecke, Westfield State College
Christine von Renessee, Westfield State College
Philip K Hotchkiss, Westfield State College

Abstract: Discovering the Art of Mathematics is an NSF supported effort to develop a library of ten inquiry-based learning guides which seek to emphasize the continuing role of mathematics as a cornerstone of the liberal arts tradition. This focus includes: the role of mathematics as an intellectual pursuit, its continuing impact in shaping history, culture, logic, philosophy, and knowledge, its status as humanistic and aesthetic discipline, and its extensive contemporary growth. Following a brief description of our project, the audience will sample several different curricular segments and activities which have been developed. The samples will illustrate the meaningful mathematical connections with the visual arts, philosophy, literature, logic, music, dance, culture, and other areas which compel increased interest for our liberal arts students. We will close by providing references for resources that can used selectively to supplement an existing course or can used for the basis of an entire course.
(Received September 22, 2009)

1:20 p.m.
Games and Critical Thinking.
Volker Ecke*, Westfield State College
Christine von Renesse, Westfield State College
Julian Fleron, Westfield State College
Philip Hotchkiss, Westfield State College
Abstract: The investigation of games can provide worthwhile material for an inquiry-based Mathematics for Liberal Arts course. For many students, exploring strategies and thinking critically about good moves is naturally motivated by their desire to play well and win (yet, we also make sure the competitive aspect does not turn off others). In addition, the absence of common triggers for math anxiety (such as formulas) allows students to give mathematical investigations a fresh second look. We have successfully used so-called connection games (such as Hex, ConHex, Stymie) in our "Explorations of Mathematics" courses. In class, we use small group and whole class discussions to consider, clarify and refine the various ideas students develop. Questions such as: Is that always the case? Will your suggestion always work, no matter what your opponent does? can lead the class into proof territory. Beyond these investigations into strategy, the class also explores mathematical connections to large numbers, complexity, geometric tessellations, and computational tractability. In this talk, we will share some of our materials, pedagogical considerations, and our experiences in the classroom.
(Received September 22, 2009)