Changing the Culture 1999: Narrowing the Gap

  • Start Date: 02/19/1999
  • End Date: 02/20/1999

Leah Keshet (UBC)
Doris Schattschneider (Moravian College, Pennsylvania)
Kanwal Neel (BCAMT)
Mike Fellows (UVic)
Jeremy Quastel (U of T)
Klaus Hoechsmann (UBC)
Adrian Lewis (University of Waterloo)
Owen Underhill (SFU)
Doris Schattschneider
Ron Coleborn (BCAMT)




The Second Annual Conference, organized and sponsored by the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences, again brought together mathematics researchers, educators and school teachers from all levels to work towards narrowing the gap between those who enjoy mathematics and those who think they don't.


The programme opened with a plenary talk by Leah Keshet (UBC) -- The Study of Living Things: So, What's Math Got To Do With It?? -- showing an abundance of mathematical models in biology. The first day closed with a public lecture by Doris Schattschneider (Moravian College, Pennsylvania) -- Ingenious mathematical amateurs: M.C. Escher (artist) and Marjorie Rice (homemaker) -- describing how two talented and persevering amateurs made substantial contributions to the field.


The pivotal event on Friday was a 1 and 3/4 hour panel discussion on the question: To what extent is an appreciation of mathematics possible without mathematical training? The three very different positions taken by the panelists Kanwal Neel (BCAMT), Mike Fellows (UVic), and Jeremy Quastel (U of T) elicited a lively exchange with the audience -- including the moderator, Klaus Hoechsmann (UBC).


In the morning, three discussion groups had been formed to ponder the questions: (1) Can biology be a major context for math classes? (2) How do visualization and logic interact in mathematics? (3) Is applied math easier than pure math? They were led by the organizers of the conference: Malgorzata Dubiel (SFU), Pamela Hagen (Westwood Elementary), and Klaus Hoechsmann, with the able assistance of Bob Camfield, Djun Kim, and NataĊĦa Sirotich, respectively. After the panel discussion, they met again and extended their deliberations to the additional common question: (4) Can people be taught to like mathematics?


Saturday's opening talk was given by Adrian Lewis (University of Waterloo) -- Would Pythagoras have liked Mozart? -- showing, among other things, that one of Mozart's last quartets begins with a musical square root of two. It was followed by a panel, moderated by Malgorzata Dubiel, which examined the question: Mathematics and the Arts: where do they meet? Owen Underhill (SFU) spoke about music -- in particular, his opera Star Catalogues -- Doris Schattschneider explained her mathematics course for Fine Arts Majors, and Ron Coleborn (BCAMT) enlivened his plea for a thinned out curriculum by his considerable acting talent.


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