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Highlights of the 2005 Joint Mathematics Meetings

AMS President David Eisenbud, AMS Executive Director John Ewing,  MAA Secretary Martha Siegel, MAA Associate Secretary Jim Tattersall, MAA Executive Director Tina Straley, MAA President Ron Graham and AMS President-Elect James Arthur at the JMM Exhibits Grand Opening
Atlanta, Georgia

The 2005 Joint Mathematics Meetings of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and Mathematical Association of America (MAA) were held in Atlanta, Georgia, January 5-8. There were nearly 5,000 participants--mathematicians, exhibitors, employers, and students--who attended invited addresses, special sessions, mini-courses, the prize ceremony, exhibits, contributed paper sessions, and poster sessions. The meetings provided many opportunities for attendees to meet with colleagues old and new, at receptions, meetings and informal gatherings.

Individuals meet Lazarsfeld after his Colloqiuum Lecture
At Robert Lazarsfeld's AMS Colloqiuum Lecture

Below are some of the many highlights:

Is it a Proof Yet? - an AMS Panel Discussion organized by Allyn Jackson. Moderator: Keith Devlin
Panelists: Richard DeMillo, Robin Wilson, Avi Wigderson, Bruce A. Kleiner and Thomas C. Hales

Whose calculations are more trustworthy, yours or a computer's? Computer code is often too cumbersome to check, but computers can function free from the fatigue and careless mistakes that plague humans. Recent proofs of major theorems such as the four-color problem rely on computer-generated results, and their strength has been questioned. According to Robin Wilson, different generations trust results from different sources. Younger generations are more wary of calculations done by hand, while older generations tend to question computer output. Both, however, generally accept a proof because people they trust have accepted it, not because they have checked it themselves.

Confronting the validity of a proof can be a gargantuan task, as explained by Thomas C. Hales, who recently proved the Kepler conjecture. In order to clear up the doubt cast upon his proof, Hales is working to check each piece of logic and computer code. He estimates that the project will take approximately 20 person-years to complete, given that checking a simple equation such as |xy| = |x||y| for quaternions back to axioms requires over 100,000 inferences.

The question and answer portion of the panel provided interesting food for thought on the acceptance of proofs. At this point, we accept a proof as being correct as long as no one is able to find a mistake, but does this mean no mistakes exist? Mathematicians examine the strength of the ?big? proofs, but what about the hundreds of other proofs published each year that don?t make headlines? Based on the attendance at this session and the enthusiasm of the panel, debate on these questions will become increasingly important in the future.
— Lisa DeKeukelaere, AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellow

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Continuum Hypothesis: Alive and Well - "The Continuum Hypothesis Revisited," an AMS-ASL Panel Discussion moderated by Keith Devlin

Paul Cohen The panel discussion organized by Keith Devlin of Stanford University, showed that this longstanding conundrum is still a compelling question for today's mathematicians. The panelists were Paul Cohen of Stanford University, Donald Martin of UCLA, and Hugh Woodin of UC Berkeley. The Continuum Hypothesis (CH) is a statement about the cardinality of infinite sets. Call the cardinality of the set of integers A0 and the cardinality of the set of real numbers A1. Then CH asserts that there is no cardinal number between A0 and A1. Cohen, now 70 years old, received the Fields Medal in 1966 for showing that CH is independent of the Zermelo-Frankel axioms of set theory. CH is therefore undecidable in Zermelo-Frankel set theory. But could additional axioms be added that would allow for a proof of CH? To date, no one has come up with such axioms, but recent work of Woodin seems to move in this direction. If such axioms are found, would they be as simple, clear, and natural as the Zermelo-Frankel axioms?

Some from the audience thought that axioms must be simple and natural; Cohen agreed, while Martin and Woodin disagreed. "I want axioms to be what they are," said Martin, "and I don't know that they'll be simple." Woodin noted that while axioms may be simple, the way in which they reflect reality may not be simple at all--and that what's considered "simple" can vary greatly over time.
— Allyn Jackson, Senior Writer and Deputy Editor of The Notices of the AMS

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Origami, Linkages, and Polyhedra: Folding with Algorithms - an MAA Invited Address by Erik D. Demaine

Demaine began his talk by noting that although many basic problems have been addressed in these areas, many still remain open. After providing some general definitions and constraints, Demaine introduced the topic of linkages: Given that bars (also known as edges or links) cannot cross, and bar lengths are preserved, Demaine focused on what we know and don?t know about the folding and unfolding of open chains of bars, closed chains of bars, and trees, in two-, three-, and four-dimensions. He also discussed three algorithms, including "energy flow," for unfolding two-dimensional closed chains, and presented a short video demonstrating the unfolding of a few different two-dimensional shapes. He completed this part of the talk with a section on applications to protein folding.

Origami action

Demaine then turned his attention to paper folding and unfolding. After showing a few slides of recent origami art, he discussed some work being done in the young field of "origami mathematics." For example, the silhouette problem: Is every two-dimensional shape made of straight sides the silhouette of a flat origami? has been answered (the answer is yes, given a sufficiently large piece of paper) but the question of what is the largest regular tetrahedron (or octahedron, dodecahedron, or icosahedron) that can be folded from a unit square remains open. After discussing different methods of paper folding, Demaine next talked about paper cutting, demonstrating--and entertaining the audience--by folding a piece of paper, making a complete straight cut in it, and displaying the resulting cut-out shapes (including a star and a butterfly). He followed this with a discussion of map folding and concluded his talk with the subject of polyhedron unfolding, demonstrating with a video how a folded Latin cross could be made into various three-dimensional shapes, in addition to a cube. For further information, go to Erik Demaine?s webpage on folding.
— Claudia Clark, freelance science writer and former AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellow

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How "Hardness" Relates to "Randomness" - "The Power and Weakness of Randomness (when you are short of time)," an AMS Invited Address by Avi Wigderson

In his invited address entitled "The Power and Weakness of Randomness (when you are short of time)," Avi Wigderson of the Institute for Advanced Study touched on some of the deepest and most mysterious questions in theoretical computer science today. Efficient algorithms exist to solve many real-world problems on computers. Here an efficient algorithm is one whose running time increases as a polynomial function of the size of the problem. By introducing randomness into the algorithm, one can improve the running time but one must pay the price of a small possible error in the answer. This error can be made as small as one likes. A simple example: Suppose you want to know if a polynomial expression is identically zero. The running time for simplifying the expression could be an exponential function of the size of the expression. So choose a point at random, plug it into the expression, and if you get zero, the expression is probably identically zero. You can improve the accuracy by plugging in more points. Wigderson presented a number of problems in which such probabilistic algorithms work well. He then posed a question: Are there problems for which an efficient probabilistic algorithm can be found, but for which no deterministic algorithm exists? No one knows for sure. Likewise, no one knows the answer to the famous P versus NP problem, which asks, Are there problems for which an exponential-time algorithm exists but no polynomial-time algorithm exists? One of the great achievements of theoretical computer science, Wigderson said, is the surprising fact that the answers to these two questions cannot both be "yes." If there is at least one problem that is truly hard, then efficient probabilistic algorithms, for any problem, can always be replaced by efficient deterministic ones. This achievement requires a new understanding of the age-old notion of "randomness."
— Allyn Jackson, Senior Writer and Deputy Editor of The Notices of the AMS

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Algebraic Statistics - AMS-MAA Invited Address by Bernd Sturmfels

Bernd Sturmfels wants statisticians to know that algebra is useful and algebraists to know that statistics is cool.  Appreciating the work of mathematicians in other disciplines is important, but it can also lead to novel techniques for solving important problems. Algebraic statistics, a term first coined in 2000 by a group of British and Italian scholars, has the potential to become a valuable tool in computational biology.

For example, when studying the human genome, scientists may need to determine whether two strings of DNA are independent. One way to do this is to construct the 4 x 4 matrix of the number of times each base pairing appears, and to estimate the probability that any particular pairing would appear under the independence hypothesis. For three or more DNA sequences, similar statistical models are used to study evolutionary relationships among the sequences. Although the algebra becomes increasingly nasty, this method can be used to estimate biologically meaningful parameters.
— Lisa DeKeukelaere, AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellow

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Taking Hilbert's 10th Problem a Step Further - "Extensions of Hilbert's Tenth Problem," an ASL Invited Address by Bjorn Poonen

David Hilbert Hilbert's 10th problem appeared on the famous list of 23 outstanding mathematics problems proposed by David Hilbert in 1900. The 10th problem was to find a mechanical procedure for deciding the solvability of any Diophantine equation--that is, for deciding whether a polynomial equation with integer coefficients and any number of variables has a solution in integers. That no such procedure exists was proved in 1970 by Yuri Matiyasevich, using work of Julia Robinson, Martin Davis, and Hilary Putnam.

In this lecture Bjorn Poonen of UC Berkeley discussed progress on generalizations of the problem. For instance, what happens if the coefficients in the equation, and the coordinates of a solution, are allowed to be in a ring other than the ring of integers Z? For some rings the answer is obvious, for others a bit of work is required, and for still others nothing is known. One ring for which the question is unresolved is the rational numbers Q. Poonen discussed some approaches to the question, such as seeing whether the "no" answer for Z implies a "no" answer for Q. These approaches, if successful, would also disprove a conjecture of Barry Mazur about the topology of rational points on varieties. Poonen has proven that the answer is "no" for a ring that is in some sense "close to" Q, but it is unclear if the method can be generalized to Q itself.
— Allyn Jackson, Senior Writer and Deputy Editor of The Notices of the AMS

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Poincaré Proof Puzzle - an AMS Invited Address by Bruce A. Kleiner

Has the Poincaré Conjecture been solved? What about the Thurston Geometrization Conjecture? These questions have been circulating around the mathematical community ever since Grigory Perelmanposted a series of remarkable papers on the web two years ago. Perelman is a mathematician in the Laboratory of Mathematical Physics in the St. Petersburg Branch of the Steklov Institute of Mathematics in Russia. As mathematicians have continued to struggle to understand his difficult and challenging papers, the jury is still out on whether the work is 100 percent correct and complete. In his lecture on Perelman's work, Bruce Kleiner of the University of Michigan shied away from giving a simple "yes" or "no" answer about whether Perelman has succeeded. But Kleiner did provide a clear flowchart for how Perelman's proof proceeds and outlined some of the main ideas involved. Essentially, Perelman has carried out a program proposed in the early 1980s by Richard Hamilton. Hamilton suggested that the Thurston Geometrization Conjecture could be solved using a tool called the Ricci flow. The presence of singularities is a major complication in Hamilton's approach. Perelman successfully implemented a surgery process that "clips off" the singular part of the manifold. Kleiner identified three key phases in Perelman's proof: 1) show that the singularities have a standard form; 2) carry out the flow-with-surgery method; and 3) study the long-time behavior of the flow with surgeries. As experts like Kleiner have worked through Perelman's proof, all the small problems that have arisen have been fixed. While these experts would probably be very surprised if the proof turns out to be wrong, no one is yet clamoring to proclaim it as correct.
— Allyn Jackson, Senior Writer and Deputy Editor of The Notices of the AMS

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Tubular Transport - "New Methods in Celestial Mechanics and Mission Design," by Jerrold Marsden

Interplanetary superhighway
The gorgeous, full-color graphics painted a picture of outer space as filled with "tubes" that function as superhighways weaving around the solar system. Jerrold Marsden of Caltech took his audience on a cosmic journey in his lecture "New Methods in Celestial Mechanics and Mission Design," which reported on work by a group of researchers in the United States and Germany. The central mathematical ideas go back to the great nineteenth century mathematician Henri Poincaré, who did monumental work in celestial mechanics. In particular he studied the three-body problem, a dynamical system in which three massive bodies move under mutual gravitational attraction. In such a system, the tangle of gravitational forces creates tubular passageways in the space between the bodies; these passageways are realized geometrically as invariant manifolds of the dynamical system.

(Image concept by Martin Lo, Jet propulsion laboratory; Graphics by Cici Koenig, Caltech.)

The entire solar system is threaded with these tubes, Marsden explained, and they can be used to transport spacecraft from one planet to another with very little energy. What makes this method so efficient is the use of the unstable orbits of the dynamical system, which Marsden noted are actually very easy for the spacecraft to travel on. (Marsden confessed that he never understood why in the field of dynamical systems so much attention is paid to the stable orbits, while the unstable orbits are so useful and interesting.) These interplanetary transport tubes have been used in previous space missions, such as the Genesis craft that collected solar wind data, and will be used in the Jupiter Icy Moons orbit, to be launched a decade from now.

Marsden's lecture was presented in the AMS Special Session on Current Events, organized by David Eisenbud, AMS president and director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. Talks in the session and speakers are below:

  • The Green-Tao Theorem on Primes in Arithmetic Progression: A Dynamical Point of View, Bryna Kra
  • Achieving the Shannon Limit: A Progress Report, Robert McEliece
  • Floer Theory and Low Dimensional Topology, Dusa McDuff
  • New Methods in Celestial Mechanics and Mission Design, Jerrold E. Marsden (Shane D. Ross, co-author)
  • Graph Minors and the Proof of Wagner's Conjecture, László Lovász

A booklet (4 MB, pdf) contains all the talks in the session. — Allyn Jackson, Senior Writer and Deputy Editor of The Notices of the AMS

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The Notices Celebrates a Milestone

The Notices of the AMS held a special reception to mark the 10th anniversary of its 1995 redesign, which encompassed not only a new look for the publication but also a new editorial vision. At a reception held on the final day of the Joint Mathematics Meetings, Notices editors, staff, and friends celebrated 10 successful years of one of the world's most popular magazines for the professional mathematician. See the January 2005 issue for articles about the Notices anniversary.

Notices Editor Andy Magid says a few words at the Notices 10th anniversary reception
Deputy Editor Allyn Jackson and AMS President-Elect James Arthur at the Notices reception


— Allyn Jackson, Senior Writer and Deputy Editor of The Notices of the AMS


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The Graph Theory of Blackwork Embroidery, a presentation by Joshua Holden - AMS Special Session on Mathematics and Mathematics Education in Fiber Arts

What does the clothing of a sixteenth century English king have to do with mathematics? In the eyes of a mathematician, special stitching on the king?s collar is a graph theory problem waiting to be solved. Blackwork embroidery, also known as Spanish stitching, involves tracing a path in one direction, then following the same path in reverse so that stitches appearing above the fabric on the first pass appear below the fabric on the second. Thus, the design is identical on either side. The legend of this technique traces back to Catherine of Aragon, a wife of Henry VIII.

In his talk, Joshua Holden addressed the question of what type of patterns can be stitched using the blackwork technique. The answer? Blackwork stitching is possible on a directed graph that is reversible and has a path passing through all edges; such conditions are met if and only if the graph is connected. (Some of the works on display during the session are pictured here.)

Mathematically inspired fibert arts
Matheamtically inspired fibert arts

— Lisa DeKeukelaere, AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellow

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The Mathematical Sciences Employment Center

Activity at the Employment Center

At the Employment Center

About 120 employers interviewed approximately 550 applicants at the Employment Center; numbers that are similar to those from the previous year. Both the computer-scheduled interview area and employer-scheduled interview area were busy with thousands of interviews being conducted over the three-and-a-half day period the Employment Center was open. A message center helped both groups to communicate about appointments. The Marriott Marquis hotel space used for the Employment Center provided an unusually peaceful and attractive setting, with carpeting and movable walls. Participants appreciated the organizational efforts of AMS staff, led by Colleen Rose.

The Mathematical Sciences Employment Center is held each January at the Joint Mathematics Meetings. The Center provides a service for Ph.D.-level mathematicians seeking employment and for employers, mainly academic, who wish to conduct brief interviews with candidates. Read an Overview of the Employment Center. — Diane Boumenot, Manager of Membership & Programs

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Prizes and Awards

Barry Cipra (right) received the JPBM Communications AwardActivity at the Employment Center

The Prizes and Awards booklet (pdf) includes all the AMS, AMS-MAA-SIAM, AWM, JPBM and MAA prizes presented at the 2005 Joint Mathematics Meetings, with citations, as well as brief biographies of and responses from each winner. Shown here is Barry Cipra (right), who received the Communications Award from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics.
— Annette Emerson, AMS Public Awareness Officer

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Mathematical Art Exhibit - organized by Robert Fathauer (Tesselations Company), Nat Friedman (ISAMA and University at Albany) and Reza Sarhangi (Bridges Conference, Towson University)

This mathematical art exhibit of prints and sculptures--the second held at the Joint Mathematics Meetings--was located in the main Exhibits Hall, and included works by Ergun Akleman, Anne Burns, Jason Cantarella and Michael Piatek, Douglas Dunham, Robert Fathauer, Michael Field, Gwen Fisher, Herbert Franke, Bathsheba Grossman, George Hart, Teja Krasek, Piotr Krawczyk, Robert Krawczyk, Eric Landreneau, Ozan Ozener, Irene Rousseau, Carlo Séquin, Clifford Singer, John Sullivan and Mary Williams.

A mathematically-inspired sculpture in the Art Exhibit

Mathematical artworks on exhibit

Mathematical artworks on exhibit

Mathematical artworks on exhibit has an online exhibit of the works that were on display in Atlanta.
— Annette Emerson, AMS Public Awareness Officer

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A Walk on the Industry Side: A Mathematician Takes on the Seismic Exploration Business by Nicholas Coult - MAA Session on Mathematics Experiences in Business, Industry, and Government

Seismic exploration is a multi-billion dollar industry whose main activity is searching for oil and gas beneath the earth?s surface, and Nicholas Coult has put his math skills to work in helping the industry achieve its goals. In order to locate oil, machines make sound waves that propagate into the crust, then sensors measure the reflections of the waves, and computer programs construct images of the ground beneath our feet. These tests generate large amounts of data, making compression an important problem. Discrete multiwavelet transforms provide a good way to perform the compression, however this method works best for smooth continuously defined data, which is not always available.  To overcome this problem, Nicholas Coult developed an algorithm for eliminating missing data regions by extrapolating the data.

Coult noted that problems presented in industry are often a unique challenge because they are not fully specified, and boundaries and special conditions consume much of the work time. In the end, he found educating and communicating with the client to be among the most important keys to success.
— Lisa DeKeukelaere, AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellow

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Who Wants to be a Mathematician- a game for high school students organized by the AMS Public Awareness Office and Bill Butterworth.

Christopher, Elan, Mitch, David, emcee Mike, Livia, Dragos, Daniel and Thomas
Game action

The AMS gave away more than \$8000 in two games of Who Wants to be a Mathematician at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta. The big winner was David Harris of Vestavia Hills High School (AL) who won \$4000. Close to David in winnings was Mitch Costley of Rockdale Magnet School (GA), who won \$3000 that day.

Game winners with emcee Mike

The games were held on Thursday, January 6. Four students from the Atlanta area played in the first game. The winner of that game, Mitch Costley, then played in a championship game with the winners of four games played during the fall semester in Alabama and Georgia. Contestants in the two games are listed below.

Game One:
Mitch Costley, Rockdale Magnet School
Thomas Harley, Luella High School
Christopher Mize, Grayson High School
Elan Spanjer, North Springs High School

Championship Game:
Mitch Costley
David Harris, Vestavia Hills High School
Dragos Ilas, Oak Ridge High School (TN)
Daniel James, Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School (AL)
Livia Zarnescu, Pope High School (GA)

(Note: Dragos Ilas qualified in November at a game held in Georgia, but now lives in Tennessee.)

Some audience members
Vestavia Hills contigent

Several of the schools were represented by enthusiastic rooting sections, including about 30 students from Vestavia Hills High School, who made the trip to root for David.

Mitch got all the questions correct to win game one. He used his "Help" on the last question and asked his teacher, Dr. Chuck Garner, who supported Mitch?s reasoning and choice. When it was time for Mitch's bonus question, he was on his own, since he had just used his "Help." The bonus question involved properties of an arithmetic operation, and Mitch answered correctly to earn the \$2000 prize. The prizes that each contestant in game one received are below.

Mitch Costley, Maple 9.5 from Maplesoft, and \$2000 from the AMS
Elan Spanjer, TI 89 Titanium graphic calculator from Texas Instruments
Christopher Mize, Calculus and access to the Machina website from John Wiley and Sons
Thomas Harley, What?s Happening in the Mathematical Sciences from the AMS

Then Mitch competed with the four other game winners for a \$2000 first prize and a chance at another bonus question worth \$2000. This game was very close, with all five contestants having a chance at first place going in to the last question. David Harris got the last question right, which kept him in first place and gave him a chance at the bonus question for that game.

The bonus question in the championship game involved probability and logic. David thought for a long time and although he hadn?t used his "Help" yet, he elected not to use it on his bonus question. After David had registered his answer, the audience--composed of mathematicians attending the Joint Mathematics Meetings and knowledgeable students from the participating schools--expressed a clear preference for one of the choices. It turned out that their choice was David?s as well and it was the right choice! Thus, David (but not the audience) earned an additional \$2000. Here are the cash totals from the championship game:

David Harris, \$4000
Mitch Costley, \$1000
Dragos Ilas, Daniel James, and Livia Zarnescu \$500 (each)

(All of the above had won Maple 9.5 from Maplesoft in their earlier games, and four of the five had won \$2000 in those games.)

It was a pleasure to observe the contestants correctly answer many hard questions and to listen to their explanations. Although she didn?t win, Livia Zarnescu did give quite a cogent explanation for one of the questions in game two.

Since many of the audience members were mathematicians, it is to be expected that they would choose the right answer when asked, but what was a bit unexpected--and gratifying--was how other audience members, mostly high school students, knew the right answer when they were polled. Congratulations to all.
Mike Breen, AMS Public Awareness Officer

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Optimizing Distribution of Power During a Cycling Time Trial, by Michael Scott Gordon - MAA Session on Mathematics and Sports

How fast should Lance Armstrong pedal during the downhill stretches of the Tour de France? Michael Scott Gordon presented his answer in a lecture that combined calculus and physics. The power generated by a cyclist traveling at a constant velocity is a function of the drag coefficient, the mass of the rider and the cycle, friction, and the uphill grade. This can be expressed as an equation, the dominating term of which depends on whether the cyclist is traveling uphill or downhill. Thus, it is reasonable to ask whether it is possible to minimize the amount of work required to complete a course in a given amount of time.


Using Lagrange multipliers, one can show that work is minimized if the ascending and descending velocities are equal. However, in order to maintain a good time, even Lance Armstrong would be unable to achieve the power output necessary for the required uphill velocity. A more fruitful approach is to minimize exertion, the rate at which power output changes. This model can also be applied to wind resistance, and Gordon?s upcoming work will address similar strategies for competitive rowing.
— Lisa DeKeukelaere, AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellow

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The Exhibits

Ron Graham hams it up after the ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened the Exhibit Hall

The exhibit hall again provided the sponsoring societies and exhibitors a chance to meet with members, authors and clients, and to display and sell their products and services. Several contributed items for the daily raffles. The hall is also a main gathering place for meeting participants to see colleagues and meet with their publishers. On Wednesday, the opening day of the exhibits, David Eisenbud (AMS president), Bob Daverman (AMS Secretary), John Ewing (AMS Executive Director), Ron Graham (MAA President), Tina Straley (MAA Executive Director), Martha Siegel (MAA Secretary) and Jim Tattersall (MAA Associate Secretary) took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the hall's entrance, after which the meeting attendees streamed in to see the exhibits. This year there were 64 exhibitors: organizations, government agencies, publishers, booksellers, software companies, artists, and gift vendors.

The crowd enters the Exhibit Hall on Opening Day
The AMS exhibit area

The AMS exhibit included books, Mathematical Reviews® and MathSciNet, an online connection to the AMS Bookstore, a meeting place for AMS authors, and the AMS Membership booth, at which people could learn more about the Society and pick up giveaways such as calendars, the Mathematics Awareness Month poster, postcards, and various materials on AMS programs. The Society also hosted a booth for the Mathematics Genealogy Project.

Benoit Mandelbrot signs books at the AMS exhibit
Benoit Mandelbrot signed Fractal Geometry and Applications: A Jubilee of Benoit Mandelbrot: Multifractals, Probability and Statistical Mechanics, Applications (Michel L. Lapidus and Machiel van Frankenhuijsen, editors) in the AMS exhibit area.

The AMS Membership booth
Norman Richert et al in the Matheamtical Reviews area of the AMS exhibit
Geometrically-inspired lamps
An exhibitor draws a crowd

The AMS also hosted a reception for Mathematical Reviews® editors and reviewers, and another for AMS authors. Shown below at the Mathematical Reviews® reception are (left to right) Jane Kister (past Executive Editor of Mathematical Reviews®), David Eisenbud (AMS President) and Carol Hutchins (Head Librarian at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences Library at New York University).

at the MR reception

See many more photographs of the exhibits. — Annette Emerson, AMS Public Awareness Officer

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Using Mathematically Rich Activities to Develop K-12 Curricula, Part I - an MAA Special Presentation

This presentation on mathematics education began with a hands-on exploration of the Road Coloring Problem, introduced by Gregory Budzban of Southern Illinois University. This activity is used by the Algebra Project, an organization that according to its website has "for 20 years . . . worked to increase the proportion of African-American and other students who succeed in college preparatory mathematics. Classroom activities emphasize the development of mathematics concepts out of physical experiences and social interactions of learners," Given a worksheet and a series of questions of gradually increasing complexity, participants in small groups used paper, masking tape and colored pens to indicate buildings and the possible paths between them. Budzban noted that in this way students are introduced to functions, combinatorics, ordered pairs and matrices in a way that engages them.

Robert Moses, founder and president of the Algebra Project, spoke about the work he?s currently doing in Jackson, Mississippi with a group of high school students. These students spend 90 minutes each day in mathematics classes. The current goal of the four-year program is that these students pass the state exams and improve performance on SAT exams, as well as meet college mathematics requirements. He noted the importance of determining how teachers can make students more willing to learn mathematics.

David Henderson, Professor of Mathematics at Cornell University, presented the audience with another "mathematically rich activity," one that he has used with students from second grade through a graduate-level differential geometry course. He asked three questions: "What do we mean by saying something is straight? How can you check that a 'straight' line is straight? How can you be certain to draw a straight line?" After audience members discussed these questions in their small groups, Henderson talked about the different meanings of straightness, depending upon the context. Through these questions, he noted that students get to "deep meanings" in geodesics and differential geometry.

Next, William McCallum of the University of Arizona, presented an expression for the audience to comment upon: P(1 + r/12)12n. After a few minutes of input from the audience, he noted that the audience members were able to start with this "blob," put it into some context, then see it as a meaningful structure. McCallum asked, "How do we get our students to do this? They see it as a blob." One audience member suggested starting with a specific example for students to work on: "You earn one penny every day. What happens if that doubles? . . . "

The final speaker was Ed Dubinsky from Kent State University. He noted that the work he?s been doing for the past 20 years--teaching programming to students--has helped his students learn mathematics. Dubinsky noted that we believe that "the ultimate source of mathematical knowledge is direct human experience. . . . Too many of us assume that the mathematics just 'jumps out' at the students. How do we help kids go from 'mathematically rich experiences' to the rich mathematics?"
— Claudia Clark, freelance science writer and former AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellow

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AMS Banquet

At the AMS Banquet
A chance to meet with friends and colleagues at the AMS banquet

On Saturday night, the annual AMS Banquet was held in the Marquis Ballroom at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel. Those in attendance with more than 25 years of AMS membership were recognized by AMS Executive Director John Ewing, who introduced each decade's list by offering a brief quiz on the AMS Presidents who had served during that decade.

The highlight of the evening was an address by outgoing AMS President David Eisenbud, who spoke of the family of mathematicians that he has come to appreciate over the course of his career, and especially during his term as President. President Eisenbud requested that two former AMS Presidents who were in attendance that evening--Peter Lax (1979-80) and Andrew Gleason (1981-82)--come to the podium as he presented the new AMS President, James Arthur, with a personalized gavel as a symbol of the change in leadership.

Peter Lax The prize for the longest-term AMS member in attendance was won by Peter Lax, Professor Emeritus of New York University-Courant Institute, who has been an AMS member since 1945.

— Diane Boumenot, Manager of Membership & Programs

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Although the AMS and MAA co-sponsored the joint meetings, several other organizations also held meetings, sponsored prizes, and hosted sessions: the Association for Symbolic Logic, the Association for Women in Mathematics, the National Association of Mathematicians, the National Science Foundation, Pi Mu Epsilon, the Rocky Mountain Mathematics Consortium, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the Young Mathematicians Network. See the complete program.

We look forward to seeing you at next year's Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio, Texas, January 12 - 15, 2006. Note that the meetings will be held Thursday through Sunday.

at the MR reception

Photos by Diane Boumenot, Mike Breen, Bill Butterworth, Lisa DeKeukelaere, Annette Emerson, Sandy Frost, Allyn Jackson, Michael Reeves, and Norman Richert.

See also: Highlights of the 2004 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Phoenix, Arizona.