Mathematics Awareness Week 1996

April 21-27
Mathematics and Decision Making

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The Joint Policy Board for Mathematics invites you to join in the celebration of the breadth and depth of mathematics during Mathematics Awareness Week, April 21-27, 1996. The theme for Mathematics Awareness Week 1996 is Mathematics and Decision Making, a wide-ranging topic to use as a focus for communicating the power and diversity of mathematics to a wider audience.

We all make many decisions every day: from the clothes we put on according to weather predictions to the routes we choose to run errands. Many more are made for us: by the suppliers of goods and services we use and by the makers of public policies. Mathematics plays an important part in making many decisions. A better understanding of the mathematics involved will help us make better decisions and better understand those that affect us.

Mathematics and decision making includes such ideas as probability, risk, uncertainty, and prediction. Financial decision making incorporates such techniques as portfolio optimization, option processing, and risk management. Operations research -- use of mathematical models to optimize some practical operation -- is widely used in government and industry. Risk assessment and management have significant implications in public policy making -- particularly in health and the environment -- and suggest a broader issue: how to extrapolate from valid studies to extreme situations that can't be easily studied.

Here is an opportunity to expose a wider audience to mathematics -- from the creation and discovery of new mathematics, to its myriad of uses in decision making. We urge you to meet with your colleagues and begin planning for Mathematics Awareness Week 1996 immediately. You can observe Mathematics Awareness Week 1996 with a special program on your campus, in your company, or at a local school. For ideas, look at the accompanying summaries of selected activities held in 1995 to celebrate Mathematics Awareness Week.

The following items are among those that will be available under the Mathematics Awareness Week heading on the "gopher" of the Mathematical Association of America:

  • A sample proclamation to use in working with local officials in preparing a proclamation for your state or locality;

  • Suggestions for conveying the importance of mathematics to public policy leaders;

  • A list of available information on Careers in the Mathematical Sciences;

  • A summary of mathematical resources, including reports on the improvement of mathematics education and other policy issues and items on Mathematics and Decision Making;

  • Information about videos in mathematics to use during your MAW event;

  • More examples of 1995 MAW activities.
The above items and links to more examples of Mathematics and Decision Making can be found on the MAW World Wide Web home page,


Early next year we will mail a MAW 1996 poster depicting Mathematics and Decision Making to a list of individuals in the mathematics community. We will also enclose and electronically post:

  • A sample news release, which you can adapt and mail to local media outlets;

  • Articles on the theme, Mathematics and Decision Making.
Last year, based on calls received, there were hundreds of radio and television spots and articles and editorials in local and institutional newspapers covering MAW activities. We encourage you to use this opportunity to write an editorial on mathematics, or to generate a news release about your special MAW event. Be sure to talk with your institution's Public Information Office about your ideas and activities. The staff there might offer additional suggestions for using Mathematics Awareness Week to increase public understanding about mathematics.

Back to Math Awareness Week 1996

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