Updated: Feb 21, 2020
By Lyndsey Peace, Editor-in-Chief
The Mathematical Association of America will be having their annual spring meeting for the Texas Region on March 27 through March 29. This year the meeting is in Denton at the University of North Texas, and Dr. Andrew Potter, professor of mathematics and head of the department of mathematics, will be taking a group of students to participate.
Hardin-Simmons University is an institutional member of the MAA and has a long history of students and professors attending the meetings. The late Dr. Charles Robinson, who served as department head 25 years ago and was a student at HSU in the 1950’s, was the secretary/treasurer for the Texas section of the MAA for six years.
The current secretary/treasurer of the Texas section is Dr. David Hendricks, professor of mathematics at Abilene Christian University. HSU, ACU and McMurry University are all actively involved in the MAA and have even discussed co-hosting the annual spring meeting in the future.
Students and professors from HSU generally attend the spring meeting every year. The meeting lasts from Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon and will have several keynote speakers and presentations that students and professors are welcome to attend.
One special event that HSU students participate in is called Math Bowl (formerly Calculus Bowl). Each university enters a team of about four or five students who have a minute to answer a question over calculus, math or history and points are awarded for correct answers. The competition is interactive rather than the lectures and presentations students normally sit through. Although some universities actively practice for the Math Bowl, Dr. Potter simply wants his students to enjoy the experience without worrying about practicing.
“I’m more about students having fun with the competition than I am about whether we win or not,” Dr. Potter said.
The students who attend the meeting have the opportunity to engage with students who share the same passion for math. “The conference is about enjoying being around other math people. Even at larger universities the math department is typically kind of small so it’s a time you can let your ‘nerditude’ be on display and be around people who really love math,” Dr. Potter said.
The event also gives students a chance to learn about potential jobs in their field. Students who major in math are sometimes left wondering what they can do in the future aside from teaching. A few years ago, Dr. Potter took several students to an MAA meeting where they heard a speaker present a paper over a branch of mathematics called operations research. Two of his students in particular decided to pursue operations research after that day and both of them went on to graduate school and are still working in that area today.
Even if students are not interested in graduate school, attending the conference and having the chance to present is beneficial for future careers. “It is very good to present mathematics because no matter what you do in your life with a math degree at some point you have to present it. Either to students or to a committee or to your boss and you have to know how to give a good presentation,” Dr. Potter said.
The meeting also gives students ideas for events and activities that HSU could implement in the future. “It’s a chance for us to see what other schools are doing and maybe see if we can do things that might be more fun,” Dr. Potter said.
Dr. Potter emphasized that the meeting allows students to feel accepted as a math geek and lets students celebrate their major around others who truly understand the value of mathematics.