The Math Club held its second monthly meeting this November, and it was met with enthusiasm by students and professors alike.
Keenan Stone, president of the Math Club, now in his second year as president, explained the fun atmosphere at an event that many might expect to be dry and boring.
“Right now it’s kinda like the movie, ‘Splash’, and what we want to make it is a viral video on YouTube,” Stone said. “Basically, we want to take math and say, ‘Hey, it’s not that bad.'”
In other words, according to Stone, the Math Club is designed to provide a way for math students to network with professors, but more importantly to refute stereotypes that portray mathematics as being a tedious and dull discipline. The Math Club’s goal is to show that math is fun.
Kristen Dickerson, a sophomore majoring in business management and minoring in math, attended the Math Club for the first time during the club’s most recent meeting, and she had a lot of fun.
“This is actually my first meeting,” Dickerson said. “My math teacher (Dr. Fitzkee) invited me to come, and I had a blast. I got a lot out of it. I just added a math minor, so I wanted to check it out, and I’m glad I did.”
The math club is not only for math majors, but is open to students of other disciplines, like Dickerson. The club is geared towards all students, even those not in a math class at all, who have an interest for mathematics.
While Stone said that the Math Club does not look to work outside mathematics, other disciplines have not necessarily been excluded. Last spring, the club hosted Debra Walters, a history major, who spoke on the topic of the mathematician, Charles Dodgson, who is more popularly known for his literary contributions.
Dodgson, who wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll, was the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass,” as well as the poem, “The Hunting of the Snark.” The relationship between mathematics and literature for Dodgson was addressed by Walters during her presentation.
The club’s meeting in October focused on mathematics and the arts, and it ended with a homework assignment designed to be fun: each member was asked to try to fold a piece of paper in half more than eight times, and then to explain mathematically why it was impossible to do so.
The most recent meeting featured refreshments ranging from pizza and soft drinks to candy and chocolate truffle coffee. In keeping with demonstrating the fun in math, Dr. James Ramey, professor of mathematics, brought in transparencies and projected Foxtrot comic strips by Bill Amend, who, aside from being a cartoonist, was a physics major in college. One of the strips shown on the transparencies was based on mathematically encoded messages used by one of the characters, Jason, to insult his sister, Paige. In the comic strip, Jason has an avid affinity for mathematics and the sciences.
Jeremy Moore, a sophomore majoring in finance and considering minoring in math, enjoyed the activity and expressed an interest in participating in competitions on campus based around similar problems.
“I love math, for one,” Moore said. “I’ve been doing math since I was little. It’s just something I enjoy. These puzzles, I don’t see these often. It’s fun to get them and get a good challenge.”
The club’s own president, Stone, was also featured as a speaker at November’s meeting. He reported on the Math Club’s trip to the University of North Carolina (UNC) – Greensboro for a conference. The trip was partially funded by the FMU Math Department, and also by UNC Greensboro, who paid for the group’s gas and provided breakfast and lunch.
Stone was very appreciative of the meals provided at the conference.
“If they keep doing that, they can expect us to come back next year, definitely,” Stone said.
In fact, Stone mentioned plans to do just that, and to make the conference an annual trip. He also looked forward to Math Club involvement with an upcoming math conference to be held in the spring at FMU, where members can present. He said he would like to see Walters present again.
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. David Szurley, faculty adviser for the Math Club, expressed hope that the club could help students understand that mathematics is relevant in more areas than only physics courses and that math can be used outside of the classroom – that it can be used by itself to get a job.
“There are many things you can do with just math,” Szurley said. “It’s not just a scruffy old discipline. Math is alive and very well.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Math Club or attending can find locations posted in the Leatherman Science Facility prior to the meetings that are held on the second Tuesday of every month at 2:30 p.m.