2017 Michigan MAA Section Annual Meeting
  March 31 - April 1, 2017
  Ferris State University


Conference Home



Travel / Lodging


The Department of Mathematics at Ferris State University is excited to host the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Michigan Section of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the Michigan Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (MichMATYC).  The meeting will take place from Friday, March 31 to April 1, 2017 in our sparkling new University Center; the first talk is at 2:15 PM on Friday and the conference concludes at around 5:15 PM on Saturday.  On Saturday, the Michigan Undergraduate Math Conference (MUMC) will be held concurrently with the Michigan Section meeting, featuring talks by and events for undergraduates.

  Conference Location

University Center
Ferris State University
805 Campus Drive
Big Rapids, MI 49307

NOTE:  driving directions to this address obtained electronically may be invalid due to campus construction which has closed part of Campus Drive.
A campus map which indicates the construction area and suggests routes around it can be found here.  For more details, follow the "Travel/Lodging" link above.

  Program Highlights

   For a complete list of speakers and full schedule of talks, follow the "Program" link above.
   For a pdf of the entire conference program with abstracts of talks, click here.

  Plenary Speakers

    Tim Chartier (Davidson College) MAA Visiting Speaker
    Mathematical Celebrity Look-Alikes

         Who is your celebrity look alike? LeBron James? Jackie Chan? Adele? Rihanna? Vector norms enable us to discern what celebrity looks most like a selected individual. Linear algebra allows us to explore what linear combination of celebrity photos best approximates a selected photo. Would you describe yourself as a cross between Ben Stiller and Hugh Jackman, or possibly Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Aniston? In this talk, we learn how to answer this question using linear algebra and on the way get a sense of how math aids in facial recognition.

    J.P. Cossey (Univ. of Akron)
    An algebraist tries to do combinatorics with undergrads, and occasionally doesn't completely fail
          As someone who researches representations of finite groups, there's only so much I can do in that field with even the most talented and ambitious undergraduates.  However, I've managed to find a couple of distinct (semi-related) classes of problems that are interesting, accessible, and virtually limitless, and one of them has all sorts of applications to representations of finite groups.  In this  talk I'll discuss both of these at a somewhat introductory level, in the hopes that others can work with them and improve them.  I will discuss generalizations of Catalan numbers, and partition problems motivated by representations of the symmetric group.

    Ronnie Pavlov (Univ. of Denver)
    Nearest-neighbor tilings in one and two dimensions
          In this talk, I'll introduce some basic ideas from one- and two-dimensional symbolic dynamics. Our setting is simple; we start with a finite set A of unit square tiles and set F of forbidden adjacent pairs of tiles, and define the associated nearest-neighbor tiling system X(A,F) as the set of all bi-infinite sequences (in one dimension) or bi-infinite arrays (in two dimensions) of tiles from A which do not contain the forbidden adjacencies from F
          In one dimension, nearest-neighbor tiling systems are somewhat simple objects; questions about them are often solvable via techniques from linear algebra and/or graph theory, and many of their properties have simple characterizations via definitions from those areas. However, in two (and more) dimensions, nearest-neighbor tiling systems suddenly exhibit incredibly complicated behavior, and their study unavoidably leads to surprising areas such as Turing machines and computability theory. In this talk, I'll describe the contrast between these two worlds and explain how some of these surprising connections arise.

    Chris Rasmussen (Wesleyan Univ.)
    Solving S-unit Equations
The unit equation in its simplest form asks for all the solutions within a ring R to the equation x + y = 1, where both x and y are required to be units.  In many natural contexts, the unit equation is known to have only finitely many solutions, and a common tactic in enumerative number theory problems (such as finding all integral solutions to a Diophantine equation, or finding all number fields with prescribed discriminant) is to reduce the enumeration problem to solving a related unit equation.  However, solving unit equations is extremely computationally expensive in practice.
          In this talk, we explore the connection between the S-unit equation and other problems in number theory, and discuss some of the effective strategies for solving the equation.  We will also describe an effort by several mathematicians to bring S-unit equation solving techniques to the masses through the open-source computer algebra program Sage.

    Matt Wyneken (UM-Flint) MI-AMTE President
    The Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE) - Celebrating 25 Years
          AMTE is the largest professional organization devoted to the improvement of mathematics teacher education.  Professional teacher educators and mathematicians both have key roles in preparing teachers of mathematics for all grade levels.  In particular, I will discuss AMTE's just released "Standards for Preparing Teachers of Mathematics".

  Local Invited Speakers

    Dawn Archey (Univ. of Detroit-Mercy)
    The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and the Mathematicians Who Said Math Was Useful
          For their whole lives, students have heard that math is useful, but they don’t really believe it.  This is largely due to the fact that when math teachers/professors are asked to show how the material will be used, we often provide story problems which are extremely artificial.  Unfortunately, traditional story problems are hard without being meaningful.  Students, justifiably, complain about this.  Meanwhile, employers want to hire people who can take an ambiguously stated problem, decide what mathematical techniques to apply, and present their conclusion in a clear and convincing fashion.*  Traditional story problems do not really help students develop these in demand skills.  One solution to both the students’ complaint and employers’ desire is to create and use Authentic Applied Problems.  For example, a traditional story problem might ask students to compute the percent change in volume of a snowball for a given change in diameter.  In contrast, an Authentic Applied Problem might ask students to compute the percent change in the volume estimate of Pluto based on the more accurate measurement of the diameter of Pluto obtained by the New Horizon’s space craft in its fly-by.   The snowball problem and the Pluto problem use the same mathematical content, but students recognize the Pluto problem as more authentic.  The Pluto problem also gives students a chance to practice the skills employers want like using math to solve real world problems.  For additional examples of Authentic Applied Problems see http://sites.udmercy.edu/archeyde/
          *Based on interviews with employers at a University Career fair.

    Alan Lindsay (Notre Dame)

    Modeling Diffusion and Capture
          Diffusion is a fundamental transport mechanism whereby spatial paths are determined from probabilistic distributions. In examples such as the pollination of a flower or immune response to infection, the arrival of a single particle can initiate a cascade of events. The movement of these particles is driven by random motions, yet these systems function in an ordered and predictable way. The first passage time (FPT) is the random variable describing the duration of a particle’s search for a target and gives key insight into such processes.
          In this talk I will discuss the problem of determining the distribution of arrival times for a random walker to reach an absorbing set. In applications related to microscopic capture problems, the absorbing set has a large number of very small sites. I will present a new homogenized theory which replaces the heterogeneous configuration of boundary conditions with a uniform Robin type condition. This limit is numerically verified with a novel spectral boundary element method for the exterior mixed Neumann-Dirichlet boundary value problem for the harmonic measure. Real life systems feature thousands of absorbing sites and our numerical method can rapidly resolve this realistic limit to high accuracy.

    David Murphy (Hillsdale)   
    It Takes a Community
Professional development programs provide important opportunities for all faculty, both new and "experienced", to grow as teachers and improve how we relate with our students.  Whether it is a network in which we can ask questions and receive feedback from peers, a workshop where we are challenged to learn new things, or a program in which we interact with people at different stages of their careers, we need the give and take of such interactions to continue our lifelong learning that is essential to a lifetime of teaching.  I have benefited directly from several, including Project NExT and PCMI's Undergraduate Faculty Program.  In this talk, I will share some of the lessons I have learned and how these have contributed to my growth as a mathematician and a teacher. Audience contributions will be encouraged as we seek to share still more opportunities with one another and encourage each other in this ongoing endeavor.

    Katrina Piatek-Jimenez (Central Michigan)
    College Students' Stereotypes of Mathematicians
          Stereotypes about mathematicians can affect how individuals view those who enjoy mathematics and those who enter mathematical careers.  These stereotypes can also influence certain students’ mathematics performance, perseverance, and career choice in the field.  It is likely that negative stereotypes more greatly affect women and certain minorities, who are already underrepresented in the field of mathematics.  During this talk, I will discuss some of my work in this area of study.  In particular, I will focus on my most recent study in which we asked 179 college students to “Draw a Mathematician”.  We then conducted four focus group interviews with a total of 12 participants to explore their beliefs more deeply.  During the focus group interviews, we asked the participants to view 16 photos of individual people and asked them to determine whether they believed each person was a mathematician or not and to explain their reasoning.  Through our analysis of the data, we have found that many college students do have specific stereotypes about mathematicians, however, some of their beliefs are different than those found in previous studies with younger children.

  Panel Discussion

   The Ferris State University Quantitative Reasoning Project:  Student Voices
          Mathematics faculty at Ferris State University have been developing inquiry-based, hybrid quantitative reasoning and algebra courses in partnership with faculty from partner disciplines in Business and in Education.  Some sections of these courses are linked with freshman writing courses.  A panel of students will share their experiences, moderated by faculty from math and English.

  Other Speakers

   There will be over 20 other contributed talks, including several by undergraduates as part of the Michigan Undergraduate Mathematics Conference.  For a complete list of speakers, follow the "Program" link above.


   Three meals will be served at the conference: 
          dinner on Friday ($10)
                   Menu:  chicken piccata, wild rice garden blend, candied carrots, cloverleaf rolls, tossed salad, sheet cake
          continental breakfast on Saturday morning (free)
          lunch on Saturday ($10)
                   Menu:  festiva chips, beef and chicken fajitas, fajita toppings, refried beans, fiesta rice, assorted cookies
   Advance registration is required (deadline March 20) for the Friday dinner and Saturday lunch (follow the "Registration" link above). 
   There will be a free pizza lunch for undergraduates on Saturday.
   Other meals are on your own (for information on local restaurants, follow the "Travel/Lodging" link above.

  Other Activities

Ferris State University hosts two museums that archive objects representing intolerance:  the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia and the Ferris Museum of Sexist Objects.  The objects in these museums are used to teach tolerance and promote social justice.  These museums will offer free guided tours during the conference at the following times:

   Jim Crow Museum (located in FLITE library, basement level; across the quad from the University Center):
          Scheduled tours:  Friday 9:30-11:00 AM; Friday 3:30-5:00 PM; Saturday 2:00-3:30 PM
          Walk-in hours:  Friday and Saturday 12:00-5:00 PM

   Museum of Sexist Objects (located in STARR 317; across the street from the University Center):
          Scheduled tours:  Friday 11:00 AM-12:00 PM; Friday 4:00-5:00 PM; Saturday 11:00 AM-12:00 PM; Saturday 3:30 PM-4:30 PM

   Important Deadlines

Deadline to submit abstracts for contributed talks:  Friday, February 24 (abstracts submitted after this date may be accepted if space is available)
Deadline to submit abstracts for undergraduate talks:  Friday, March 10
(abstracts submitted after this date may be accepted if space is available)
Deadline for registration (link), to be included in meal count:  5 PM on Monday, March 20
Conference dates:  Friday, March 31 - Saturday, April 1, 2017

   Program Committee

Laura McLeman (UM-Flint), chair  lauramcl@umflint.edu
David McClendon (Ferris State University)
Erin Militzer (Ferris State University)
Jan Roy (Montcalm Community College)

   Local Organizing Committee

Erin Militzer (Ferris State University), chair  militze@ferris.edu 
David McClendon (Ferris State University)
Victor Piercey (Ferris State University)
Anil Venkatesh (Ferris State University)