Texas A&M University is marking the month of April in style, joining other institutions and corporations across the country in the nationwide annual observance of Math Awareness Month (MAM) with a series of events throughout April to increase public understanding and appreciation for mathematics.

For the ninth consecutive year, the Texas A&M Department of Mathematics will offer a variety of events -- including two contests and a mini fair -- in celebration of the 2012 MAM theme, "Mathematics, Statistics, and the Data Deluge."

Dr. Jean Marie Linhart, Texas A&M lecturer of mathematics and event organizer, says the events are designed to promote mathematics understanding as well as a greater awareness of the subject's overall day-to-day significance.

"Math is not the unpleasant a subject that it's often perceived to be, but rather a major foundation of many basic life skills -- things like budgeting a car or a home," she says. "Math also explains many interesting phenomena in nature, like the patters in a pinecone."

Celebratory activities will kick off today (Thursday, Apr. 12) with Texas A&M's Freshman/Sophomore Math Contest, to be held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in Room 317 of Milner Hall. The examination-style challenge is open to all regularly enrolled undergraduate students across all majors who are in their first or second year of study. Problems are based on Engineering Calculus 151/152/251 and Differential Equations 308. The six highest-scoring students will receive cash prizes ranging from $75 to $200.

Two weeks later, all Texas A&M students are invited to take part in a second math challenge, the sixth annual Integral Bee, scheduled for Thursday, Apr. 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Room 166 of the John R. Blocker Building. This event will determine who can compute integrals at the levels of Math 152/172 or Calculus BC the fastest. Participants will have a specified amount of time to solve an integral, then enter their answer choices using an assigned clicker. Each participant with a correct answer and solution will receive a point. At the end of five or six rounds, participants who score above a predetermined cutoff will compete against one another as finalists to determine an ultimate winner.

The flagship event in the month-long celebration is the Math Mini Fair, set for Saturday, Apr. 21 from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Blocker Building. Free and open to all ages, the festivities begin with a problem-solving contest for grades K-4, 5-7 and 8-12, followed by a mathematical art competition in which students can create their own masterpieces using various geometric functions. Attendees are invited to channel their inner mathematicians as they play themed games and explore exhibits that will be on hand. Those with an artistic flair can get an in-depth look at the role math plays in video and computer graphics and enjoy a presentation of the animated film, "Flatland: The Movie." The fair also will feature a presentation by Dr. Janice Epstein, Texas A&M senior lecturer of mathematics, entitled, "Determining the Number of Congressional Representatives Each State Gets Then and Now: How Our Founding Fathers Dealt with a Fraction of a Representative."

"Math is like strength training for your brain," Linhart adds. "Strength training is tough if your muscles are weak, but it is the best way to get your muscles strong. Likewise, math practice builds strong brain muscles and an ability to think logically through problems. The Mini Fair is an opportunity for those of us who do math to try to reach out to kids and adults and show them the cool side of our discipline."

Sponsored by the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JPBM), MAM began in 1986 when then-United States President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation establishing National Mathematics Awareness Week. Activities for MAM generally are organized on local, state and regional levels by college and university departments, institutional public information offices, student groups, and related associations and interest groups.

The JPBM is a collaborative effort of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the American Statistical Association (ASA), the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).

To learn more about Math Awareness Month and related activities on tap at Texas A&M, go to http://www.math.tamu.edu/outreach/mam/.

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(EPILOGUE: Dr. Emil R. Straube, professor and head, Department of Mathematics)

"The Math Mini Fair this past Saturday was a resounding success, with 120-plus in attendance. The kids worked hard on the problem-solving contests, as did some parents once the contest was over. It was nice to see young and old (including yours truly) brooding over gadgets in the Mathematical Games and Exhibits room. The newly included Mathematical Art Room and the Mathematical Art Competition proved to be a great addition to the fair. I, along with many others, also thoroughly enjoyed the short videos, from the funny to the thought provoking (sometimes both). Judging from their 'Ahs' and 'Wows,' the movie 'Flatland' made a tremendous impression on the young audience. Finally, everyone learned that apportioning congressional seats based on population is not as straightforward as one might think (even leaving politics aside). Not to forget lunch: Pizza is sure to be a hit when the median age is somewhere between grade and middle schools.

"On behalf of the department, I want to thank everybody who helped make this event such a success: faculty, staff, students, and volunteers. I am very grateful for the work you do."


Contact: Chris Jarvis, (979) 845-7246 or cjarvis@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Jean Marie Linhart, (979) 693-9424 or jmlinhart@math.tamu.edu

Jarvis Chris

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