2018 SIAM Conference on Applied Mathematics Education

Korana Burke reports on SIAM ED18 meeting


SIAM Conference on Applied Mathematics Education was held jointly with the SIAM Annual Meeting the SIAM Conference on Mathematical Aspects of Materials Science (MS18) and the SIAM Workshop on Network Science (NS18) July 9-11 2018 in Portland, Oregon, USA.

The main themes of the conference were: Modeling across the Curriculum: From Early Grades to Grad School, Successful Transitions from High School to College in Mathematics and Computer Science, Diversity and Inclusion, Preparing Students for Future Challenges: Big Data and Network Science, and Connections to Business, Industry, and Government.

Each of the conference themes included wonderful talks that make me believe the future of applied math education is bright. Rachel Levy gave impressive presentation on including mathematical modeling in classes from kindergarten to undergraduate capstone courses. In her talk she also addressed an issue of talking to general public who tend to report that they don't like math. Her solution was to engage people by asking them "What is your biggest problem?" In her experience this prompted people to actually start thinking in math terms without realizing it.

Two new resources were introduced during the conference. The first one is Math Modeling Hub which is intended to support the community of math modeling educators. Math Modeling Hub is intended to act as a repository about math modeling and as a place for educators to connect, collaborate, and discuss new ideas. The second one is the publication of the Big Jobs Guide book by Rachel Levy, Richard Laugesen, and Fadil Santosa. This book is intended for undergraduates and graduate students looking for internships and industry jobs.

My favorite presentation of the whole conference was given by Robyn Stankiewicz-Van Der Zanden, Pomona USD and IMMERSION teacher. Her talk title was "Opening the Kindergarten Classroom to Mathematics Modeling… And Now No One Has An Excuse." It was impressive to hear about teaching basic tenants of mathematical modeling to five-year-olds. In the same session we also heard presentations about math modeling in elementary and junior high school.

I was very happy to see multiple presentations on diversity and inclusion as well as an impromptu role playing session during the talk "Supporting Mathematics Students and Colleagues: Be An Active Bystander" by Rosalie Belanger-Rioux from Harvard University. After many talks about active learning it was great to have someone actually use active learning in their talk.

It is a common knowledge that many of math undergraduates and graduate students do not go on to pursue a job in academia. Multiple sessions focused on preparing students for industry jobs. This was a focus of the talk by Jeffrey Humpherys from Brigham Young University. He presented the full outline of the Applied and Computational Math Program that was designed to be aligned with mathematical needs of current industry jobs. Along the same lines, Catie Patterson from Austin college gave a talk titled "Writing Projects for Applied Mathematics Courses" which focused on teaching both mathematical modeling and mathematical writing. What made this particular approach interesting was that the students had to learn how to communicate math both to math novices and experts in the field.

Overall the conference was a great place to learn about new and innovative techniques in applied math teaching as well as to build new connections and form new friends. Many great pictures from the conference can be found on SIAM Facebook page and additional great blog posts and articles can be found on SIAM News web site.

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