MAA Minicourses

MAA Minicourses are open only to persons who register for the Joint Meetings and pay the Joint Meetings registration fee in addition to the appropriate minicourse fee. The MAA reserves the right to cancel any minicourse that is undersubscribed. Participants should read the descriptions of each minicourse thoroughly as some require participants to bring their own laptops and special software; laptops will not be provided in any minicourse. The enrollment in each minicourse is limited to 50; the cost is US$85.

Minicourse #1. Introductory Proposal Writing for Grant Applications to the NSF EHR/Division of Undergraduate Education, presented by John Haddock and Lee Zia, Division of Undergraduate Education, National Science Foundation; Part A., Friday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., and Part B, Friday, 2:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. The presenters will describe the general NSF grant proposal process and consider particular details relevant to programs in the Division of Undergraduate Education. This course is geared toward those who have not submitted a proposal to NSF and are unfamiliar with the organization. If you believe you have an idea, project, or program worthy of Federal support that will positively impact undergraduate education in mathematics, you should attend this session. This two-part minicourse will provide information on the specific components of a NSF proposal, demonstrate the NSF peer review process, provide access to previously funded proposals, and explicate the NSF merit review criteria by which proposals are reviewed. Participants should leave this course with a draft of a project summary.

N.B. This course is offered on Friday, January 9, the day before the Joint Mathematics Meetings officially begin.

Minicourse #2. Developing Departmental Self-Studies, presented by Donna Beers, Simmons College, and Rick Gillman, Valparaiso University; Part A, Sunday, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m., and Part B, Tuesday, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. Self-study is a critical component of departmental program review. It is retrospective, engaging department members and other interested parties (e.g., other departments and the administration) in examining all aspects of departmental programs. It is also forward-looking, anticipating new areas for growth and contribution. Self-study entails discussion of issues confronting a department; as such, it is both a process of reflection and a report. The goal of this minicourse is to help faculty from mathematical science departments plan and lay the groundwork for undertaking an effective self-study of their departments. It will enable participants to determine how a self-study, an administrative mandate, can be a positive opportunity for departmental renewal.

Minicourse #3. Introduction to Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) in Mathematics Courses, presented by Catherine Beneteau, University of South Florida; Zden˘ka Guadarrama, Rockhurst University; Jill E. Guerra, University of Arkansas Fort Smith; and Laurie Lenz, Marymount University; Part A, Saturday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., and Part B, Monday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. This minicourse will introduce faculty to the guided inquiry instructional method called POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning). Participants will use hands-on activities to learn the crucial elements in a successful guided inquiry classroom. The workshop will provide participants with a basic introduction to facilitation techniques and an opportunity to reflect on how facilitation can enhance or interfere with student learning as well as how facilitation strategies can be critical in the development of student process skills. By the end of the minicourse, participants will be trained to begin implementing guided inquiry activities in their own mathematics classrooms.

Minicourse #4. A Dynamical Systems Approach to the Differential Equations Course, presented by Paul Blanchard, Boston University; Part A, Saturday,4:45 p.m.–6:45 p.m., and Part B. Monday, 3:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m. This minicourse will give an overview of the Boston University Differential Equations Project, originally funded by the National Science Foundation. The BU project involves a complete redesign of the sophomore-level ODE course. It includes more emphasis on qualitative and geometric methods as well as the incorporation of technology and numerical methods throughout. This minicourse will be useful to college instructors wishing to restructure their ODE courses.

Although the minicourse will include technology demonstrations, the BU project is independent of any particular type of technology. Students must have some access to technology, however.

Minicourse #5. Visual Topics Using Undergraduate Complex Analysis, presented by Mike Brilleslyper, U.S. Air Force Academy, and Michael Dorff, Brigham Young University; Part A, Saturday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., and Part B, Monday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. An introduction to two visual topics using complex analysis. The first topic is an overview of minimal surfaces including generating models soap films on wire frames and the mathematics needed for 3D printing of minimal surface models. The second is the dynamics of the set of zeros for a family of polynomials. Using technology, we generate animations that reveal surprising patterns and generate numerous questions concerning the localization of zeros. The goal is to expose participants to these interesting areas, provide ideas and materials for incorporating these topics into various undergraduate courses, and plant the seeds for possible undergraduate research projects.

Participants must bring their own computers with a current version of Mathematica, Maple, Matlab, Sage, or some other CAS.

Minicourse #6. Public- and Private-key Cryptography, presented by Chris Christensen, Northern Kentucky University; Part A, Sunday, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m., and Part B, Tuesday, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. The interesting mathematical aspects of public-key ciphers have sparked interest by mathematics faculty in these ciphers as applications of mathematics that can be presented in undergraduate courses. Often ignored, however, are the modern private-key ciphers, “the workhorses of cryptography.” Modern private-key ciphers are equally mathematically interesting. In this minicourse, we will explore both modern public-key and private-key ciphers and their mathematical foundations. We will also briefly explore the historical evolution of both types of ciphers. No previous experience with these topics is assumed.

Minicourse #7. Teaching Introductory Statistics (for instructors new to teaching statistics), presented by Carolyn Cuff, Westminster College, and Leigh Lunsford Longwood University; Part A, Sunday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., and Part B, Tuesday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. This minicourse is intended for instructors new to teaching statistics or those seeking to move from a lecture-based course to an interactive course. Material for the course is drawn from the big ideas of introductory statistics and the ASA-endorsed Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education (GAISE) report. The course considers ways to engage students in statistical literacy and thinking, and contrasts conceptual and procedural understanding in the first statistics course. Participants will work through many of the classic activities that all statistics instructors should know. Internet sources of real data, activities, and best practices articles will be examined. Participants will find out how they can continue to learn about the best practices for the first course in statistics by becoming involved in statistics education related conferences, newsletters, and groups.

Minicourse #8. Doing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Mathematics, presented by Jackie Dewar, Loyola Marymount University, and Pam Crawford, Jacksonville University; Part A, Sunday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., and Part B, Tuesday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. This course will introduce participants to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) in mathematics and help them begin projects of their own. We describe a taxonomy of SoTL questions, provide examples of SoTL projects in mathematics, and discuss methods for investigation. Participants will learn about collecting and analyzing different types of evidence, conducting literature searches, dealing with human subjects requirements, and selecting venues for presenting or publishing their work. With the presenters’ guidance, participants interactively select and transform a teaching problem of their own into a question for scholarly investigation and identify several types of evidence to gather.

Minicourse #9. Teaching College Mathematics (for instructors new to teaching at the collegiate level and for instructors who prepare GTA’s for their first teaching experience); presented by Ann Humes, Michigan Technological University; Part A, Saturday, 2:15 p.m.–4:15 p.m., and Part B, Monday, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. This minicourse presents a model for a comprehensive program for preparing GTA’s to teach at the collegiate level. Participants will be engaged in a lesson cycle used in the semester-long training. Participants will also learn about how to navigate the blended learning course, handle online management systems, prepare assessments, and deal with student conflicts as required at Michigan Technological University.

Minicourse #10. Humanistic Mathematics, presented by Gizem Karaali, Pomona College, and Eric Marland, Appalachian State University; Part A, Saturday, 2:15 p.m.– 4:15 p.m., and Part B, Monday, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. As a scholarly stance, humanistic mathematics describes an approach to mathematics that views it as a human endeavor and focuses on its aesthetic, cultural, historical, literary, pedagogical, philosophical, psychological, and sociological aspects. As a pedagogical framework, humanistic mathematics explores and builds on the relationship of mathematics with its nontraditional partners in the humanities, the fine arts, and social sciences, providing additional perspective for the role of mathematics in a liberal arts education. This minicourse exposes participants to both facets of humanistic mathematics.

In the first session, participants will learn about the implications of a humanistic approach to teaching and explore how it can contribute to a more sophisticated understanding of mathematics, for all students. Also included will be a discussion of common implementation issues and an overview of a spectrum of materials available to use in the classroom. In the second session, participants will engage with the scholarship of humanistic mathematics, a body of literature that eschews disciplinary jargon in favor of reaching a more diverse audience. After a thorough introduction, participants will, through guided group work, initiate their own scholarly projects. Possible venues of communication, collaboration, and dissemination of work in humanistic mathematics will be discussed.

Minicourse #11. Healthcare Applications and Projects for Introductory College Mathematics Courses, presented by Theresa Laurent, St. Louis College of Pharmacy; Part A, Sunday, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m., and Part B, Tuesday, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. Mathematics teachers continuously face the challenge of getting students to recognize the relevance of the concepts learned in class to “real life” situations. This minicourse provides the background knowledge necessary to introduce healthcare applications into precalculus and introductory calculus courses. Applications and projects will include calculating blood alcohol content, determining proper dosing for drugs, analyzing results of drug trials, comparing different contraceptive methods, analyzing the dosing of Zithromax Z-Pak, and serving as a consultant in a malpractice lawsuit. Participants will leave the minicourse with problems and projects ready to use in the classroom, complete with all background information needed.

Minicourse #12. Introducing Matroids to Undergraduates, presented by Jenny McNulty, University of Montana, and Gary Gordon, Lafayette College; Part A, Saturday, 4:45 p.m.–6:45 p.m., and Part B, Monday, 3:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m. Matroids offer a unique way to incorporate and unify several topics typically studied at the undergraduate level. Matroid Theory is an ideal topic for a capstone-type course; an introduction to the subject includes connections to linear algebra (through bases, independent sets, determinants, etc.), abstract algebra (matroid representations over finite and infinite fields, field extensions), finite geometry (affine and projective planes), graph theory (the prototypical examples of matroids), and combinatorics (matchings in bipartite graphs, counting various classes of subsets). Participants will learn how matroids demonstrate the power of generalization in mathematics: proving one theorem for matroids automatically gives a corresponding result in graph theory, linear algebra, geometry, and matching theory.

Our goal is to share the beauty of matroids and the interconnectedness of mathematics with undergraduate teachers so they in turn can share this with their students. This workshop will be structured in the same manner as our classrooms; interactive sessions with hands-on activities using examples and questions to motivate the concepts. In addition, materials with numerous exercises will be provided for classroom use, including research projects for students.

Minicourse #13. WeBWorK: An Open Source Alternative for Generating and Delivering Online Homework Problems, presented by Paul Pearson, Hope College; Geoff Goehle, Western Carolina University; and Peter Staab, Fitchburg State University; Part A, Saturday, 4:45 p.m.–6:45 p.m., and Part B, Monday, 3:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m. This minicourse introduces participants to the WeBWorK online homework system. Supported by grants from NSF, WeBWorK has been adopted by well over 700 colleges, universities, and secondary schools and is a popular open-source alternative to commercial products. WeBWorK can handle problems in college algebra, calculus, linear algebra, ODEs, and more and comes with an extensive library of over 25,000 problems across the mathematics curriculum. WeBWorK recognizes a multitude of mathematical objects and allows for elegant solution checking. This minicourse will introduce participants to WeBWorK and equip participants with the knowledge and skills to use WeBWorK in a course.

Minicourse #14. Teaching Statistics using R and RStudio, presented by Randall Pruim, Calvin College; and Nicholas Horton, Amherst College; Part A, Saturday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., and Part B, Monday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. R is a freely available language and environment for statistical computing and graphics that has become popular in academia and in many industries. But can it be used with students? This mini-course will introduce participants to teaching applied statistics courses using computing in an integrated way. The presenters have been using R to teach statistics to undergraduates at all levels for the last decade and will share their approach and some of their favorite examples. Topics will include workflow in the RStudio environment, providing novices with a powerful but manageable set of tools, data visualization, basic statistical inference using R, and resampling. Much of this will be facilitated using the mosaic package.

The minicourse is designed to be accessible to those with little or no experience teaching with R, and will provide participants with skills, examples, and resources that they can use in their own teaching.

Minicourse #15. How to Run a Successful Math Circle, presented by Amanda Katharine Serenevy, Riverbend Community Math Center; Philip B. Yasskin, Texas A&M University; and Paul Zeitz, University of San Francisco; Part A, Saturday, 2:15 p.m.–4:15 p.m., and Part B, Monday, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. A math circle brings together K–12 students and professional mathematicians on a regular basis to explore engaging topics. This course will focus on the logistics involved in organizing and sustaining a math circle as well as the fine art of conducting lively sessions. Facilitators will discuss how to adapt a promising topic for math circle use, provide tips for keeping a circle running smoothly, and address issues such as publicity and funding. Participants will craft a math circle lesson plan and take away a variety of materials including sample topics and a list of book and Web resources.

Minicourse #16. Using Games in an Introductory Statistics Course, presented by Rod Sturdivant, Ohio State University, and Shonda Kuiper, Grinnell College. Part A, Sunday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., and Part B, Tuesday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. Participants experience Web-based games and corresponding class activities that effectively teach statistical thinking and the process of scientific inquiry. By grappling with intriguing real-world problems, these labs encourage students to experience the role of research scientist as they conduct hypothesis tests and regression analysis. Our games are designed to 1) engage students, 2) have a low threat of failure early on with optional additional challenges, 3) create realistic, adaptable, and straightforward models representing current research in a variety of disciplines, 4) provide an intrinsic motivation for students to want to learn, and 5) provide teacher instructions for easy, successful implementation.