Integration Bee day!

Happy Math Awareness Month!  (Were you aware of that?) It’s Integration Bee day here at Norwich!  I look forward to this all year.

Integration is something learned in Calculus I courses and really worked on in Calculus II.  Integration means to compute an integral, a generalization of area, and one of the difficult parts of early Calculus courses.   Students will tell you, though, that there’s nothing like the feeling of making it through one alive.

This is the 9th year we’ve done this here, and the turnout keeps growing.  Right now we have nearly 70 students signed up to have some fun doing integrals — a big increase from the 20 we got in 2003!  Even if only 2/3 of the folks show up, this will be our biggest field ever.

We got the idea to do this from an article in the MAA FOCUS magazine back in 2002 and I have to tell you, this was a good move on our part.  Just to see students — math majors, engineers, technical majors — coming and actually having fun with calculus is a great thing.  There’s lots of excitement, thrill of victory, agony of defeat, commiseration, cheering.

We’ve also had a lot of great supporters over the years.  Wolfram Research has helped us out every year we’ve done this, and their donations of Mathematica licenses and other goodies has been a real enticement.  Former Dean of the David Crawford School of Engineering, Dennis Tyner, and his wife Patti, were big supporters from the get-go, especially because their daughters competed in all the earliest bees.  The Tyners now donate money toward a prize for the “most spirited” competitors in the Integration Bee.

Many other institutions and businesses, on- and off-campus, have donated prizes throughout the years.

If you’re in or around Northfield tonight at 7:30, come on by Cabot Science 085 to watch the Integration Bee!

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Things that drive mathematicians nuts (one of a series…)

Public perception of what mathematicians are like generally isn’t accurate — but the typical portrait definitely has some truth, as my wife would tell you.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing that Norwich University makes me wear a uniform, but I never wore a bow tie or black socks with sandals — ever — before coming to Norwich.

Occasionally, someone pushes the stereotype a little too far.  Burger King … you’re now on my list …

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Math quote of the day

From a poster found at Wal-Mart:

The square root of Chuck Norris is pain.  Don’t try to square Chuck Norris;  the result is death.

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Candidate visits are hard on the diet

We have two open positions here in the Mathematics Department, one for an open specialty and one for a math education specialty.  We’ve been taking applications and winnowing down the field since last semester and these past two weeks, we’ve had candidates for the positions visiting campus.

I’d almost forgotten how many hoops interviewees have to jump through in just a short time period.  In most cases, they have to fly in the day before, get to their lodging here in town late and mentally prepare.  Then, on interview day, they’re seen by a lot of different administrators, the dean, the department chair, the search committee, Human Resources, students, and they have to give a 50-minute talk that they hope is pitched just right.

One of the ways, though, they get to spend a lot of time with department members is with food and drink.  Usually the chair and a colleague meet the candidate for breakfast at the B&B here in Northfield.  At some point in the morning there might be coffee.  Then there’s lunch with much of the department.  During the colloquium talk and the final meeting with the whole department, there’s often cookies.  Usually there’s a really nice dinner until late — and then, for the department members, the process could repeat the next day.

A candidate was in yesterday and I was on breakfast and lunch duty.  I also went to coffee mid-morning and, to top it off, my wife is home during February break week and cooking excellent dinners.  I ran 6 miles and still gained 1-1/2 pounds on the day.

The scale and I hope we make an offer to a candidate soon!

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A new semester …

Well, we’re back to work, a new semester has started!  Three days in and everything seems … calm.  Only one advisee has come to add or drop a course, and there’s not too much movement in or out of my own classes (yet).

This term I’m teaching two sections of MA102 – Mathematics as a Liberal Art.  This course is a kind of smorgasbord for non-math majors who have to take a math course to fulfill general education requirements.  Oddly, in 12 years here, this is the first time I’m teaching the course.  But the subject matter is cool:  Voting Theory, Apportionment, Fair Division, a little Graph Theory, and some Statistics.  I hope that the students will find some of the stuff useful, and some of the stuff cool.

I’m also teaching the modeling course, MA241, again.  At this point, several years in, I’ve opted to do without a text book (never found one that’s good all the way through), but to pick and choose projects from several different books.

I also get to teach MA304, the second half of the analysis course.  This makes me ecstatic because analysis is my specialty.  A lot of good, hard-working students in that class.

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Back from New Orleans (or … where’s the syllabus?)

I made it back from the Joint Math Meetings in New Orleans theoretically to have a week to prep for classes. It didn’t quite work out that way.

First, let me note that the conference was fantastic. I got to see a lot of great talks, the weather was mostly good (60′s in January is never bad), and a lot of good friends from around the Northeast were in attendance.

The first sign of trouble came the last day of the conference. That morning, my roommate and I went out for our morning run and it was cloudy and very windy. The wind picked up all morning and by the time the van to go to the airport, it was blowing and raining hard.

This was the storm that turned into the big blizzard in southern New England. I got home without delay, but spent the next week in comic relief either going to various doctor’s appointments for me or my younger son, while it snowed and iced every time I had time open to go to the office.

I finally came in on Saturday afternoon for my semi-annual office cleaning and syllabus writing, but left early because — you guessed it — another snow storm started.

… and there’s why your syllabus was started and finished Monday morning. Any questions?

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Conference in beautiful New Orleans

One of the nice things about academia is the ability to go to professional conferences.  Every January, the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) hold a simultaneous national meeting, the Joint Mathematical Meetings.  It’s a great chance to see a lot of good math, get together with friends you haven’t seen in awhile, and, since it’s New Orleans, eat a lot of good food.  Not a bad way to spend four days!

I attended a minicourse on a Java applet called CalcPlot3D, which allows visualization and exploration for a lot of concepts in our Calculus III course.  It looks really useful and like a real timesaver for teaching.  The geek in me really loves stuff like this!

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My life in general …

Here is a video that sums up my life.  The song is “Stress” by Jim’s Big Ego.

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Welcome to my blog!

This is the new way that Norwich faculty get to meet and greet the outside world. Hi! I’m Rob Poodiack, an associate professor of mathematics here at Norwich, and welcome to my blog! I’ve been here at Norwich since 1999 and I really enjoy teaching students from various majors about the beauty of mathematics. From engineers learning calculus to liberal-arts majors learning to broaden their horizons, teaching math is a lot of fun!

As I learn more about how WordPress works, I’ll try and post some cool and neat things about the wonderful worlds of mathematics and teaching at Norwich University!

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