|Off on a Tangent
|A Fortnightly Electronic
Newsletter from the Hope
College Department of Mathematics
Annual Root Beer Floats Extravaganza Tomorrow
Mathematics Faculty and Students
Thursday, September 4
walkway outside the west wing of VanderWerf Hall
Join us tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. on the
covered walkway on the west wing of VanderWerf (outside the lecture
halls) for a hearty helping of root beer floats and
fellowship. Our annual fall social is a great way to meet fellow
math students and professors. Hope to see you there!
Calling all math
people! Whether you are a math major/minor,
considering a math major/minor, or just plain love math, we have a club
for you. Come join us for our first
math club meeting of the year at 7:00 p.m. on
Thursday, September 11th in VanZoren 274 to see what we're all
Things we have planned for this year include Problem of the Fortnight
solving sessions, intramural sports teams, Relay for Life, T-shirts,
trips to math conferences, community service opportunities, and much
There will be a sign up sheet passed around at the Root Beer
Kegger on 9/4 at 4:00 pm outside of Vander Werf Hall, or you are
welcome to just show up for the first meeting on next Thursday. This is
a great way to get to know your peers that you will be in math classes
with for your remaining years at Hope. If you can not make the first
meeting or the Root Beer Kegger, please feel free to contact Professor
Pearson (email@example.com) or Kim Klask (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we will add
you to the email list. Hope to see you at our first meeting!
Students Shine at MathFest
A Hope College team of four
mathematics students won the Jeopardy
contest at the national Mathfest Conference in Madison, Wisconsin on
Wednesday, July 30, 2008. The team, consisting of Daniel Lithio,
Gordon, Blair Williams, and Zachary Mitchell defeated teams from
Lafayette College, Texas A&M, and Mount Union College.
Questions tested knowledge of mathematics - both in problem
The team overcame several incorrect
answers by Lithio to go into
final Jeopardy with the most points. They then answered the final
question correctly to take the victory.
Ryan Johnson, a fellow mathematics
student from Hope College, was
a member on the Texax A&M team where he participated in a summer
research program this summer. The accompanying photo shows the
four Hope students
(in blue), their vanquished comrade in red along with Professors
Pennings and Edwards in front.
other activity during the conference, Lithio gave a talk, "How to serve
a volleyball - mathematical modeling of volleyball dynamics." He
was one of 12 students who won a Pi Mu Epsilon award for his
talk. (Pi Mu Epsilon is the
National Mathematics Honorary Society.) Dan's prize also came
with a check
In even more Mathfest student activity, Zachary Mitchell,
competed in the U.S. Collegiate Problem Solving competition and earned
5th place overall!
In still even more Mathfest student activity, Blair Williams
finished in third place in the 5K race held during the
conference. Combining running and answering mathematical
questions sure sounds like a possible Olympic event to us here at Off on a Tangent. Perhaps we
will see this in London in 2012.
wins Polya Award
An article co-written by Dr. Tim Pennings
concerning the way that his Welsh Corgi Elvis
demonstrates mathematical principles has received national recognition
from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) for its
effectiveness in teaching about calculus.
The MAA is presented Pennings and his
co-author Dr. Roland Minton
of Roanoke College with its George Polya Award for their article "Do
Dogs Know Bifurcations?" They received the recognition during the
association's annual summer meeting, MathFest, held in Madison,
Wis., early last month. Prof. Pennings and Elvis also presented
the paper during the meeting.
The George Polya Award is given for
articles of expository
excellence published in the "College Mathematics Journal," and includes
a prize of up to $500. Published in the journal's November 2007
edition, the article by Pennings and Minton, who is author of a popular
calculus textbook, considers how Elvis responds in retrieving a ball
when he is in the water and the ball is thrown into the water down
shore. The citation that the MAA has prepared in conjunction with
award praises the article for its accessible presentation of calculus
Pennings appreciates that the award is
named in honor of Dr. George
Polya (1887-1985), who he noted is renowned among mathematicians for
thinking about the creative discovery process and trying to help
students learn how to do mathematics.
"I am grateful and honored to
receive an award bearing the name of
George Polya. Professor Polya spent his career not only doing
mathematics, but also thinking about how we do mathematics," he
"Thus, there is a pleasant irony in the fact that Elvis shows that even
dogs have instinctive creativity and problem-solving skills."
of Study in Actuarial Science has getting off the ground
Prof. Nathan Tintle has put
series of courses to help students get into the field of actuarial
science. Actuaries use mathematical models to put a present
dollar value on future risky events. Historically, most actuaries
have worked in the insurance and pensions industries.
To become an actuary, students need
to pass a series of certification
exams. Recent Hope mathematics graduate Dan
Emmendorfer '08 passed the second of these exams this past May.
For more information about our
program of study for pre-actuaries visit
Problem of the Fortnight
An old woman goes to the Holland Farmer's
Market and a truck runs over her basket of eggs and crushes them.
The driver offers to pay for the damages and asks her how many eggs she
brought. She doesn't remember the exact number, but when she had
taken them out two at a time, there was one egg left. The same
happened when she picked them out three, four, five and six at a
time. But when she took them out seven at a time, they came out
even (no eggs left) What is the smallest number of eggs she could
your solution to an old egg carton and drop it by Dr.
Pearson's office (VWF 212) by noon
on Friday, September 12.
As always, be sure
to write your name, the name(s) of your
professor(s), and your math class(es) on your solution (e.g.
Egg Zactly, Prof. Van der Number, Math 345).
Good luck, and have
were three new arrivals in the mathematics department this
summer: Maya, daughter of Stephanie Edwards and Darren Parker,
Levi, son of Nathan and
Lisa Tintle, and Anna, daughter of Mark and Karen Pearson. Match
the babies with their parent in Hope College mathematics
department. Stay tuned for the answers in the next issue of Off
on a Tangent.
If you don't know where you are going, any
road will take you there.
Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll)