Department Colloquium

The Department of Mathematics at Western Michigan University presents colloquiua.

Time: 4 p.m. (time may vary)
Place: 6625 Everett Tower
Fall Semester 2017
Sept. 14: Igor Dolgachev, University of Michigan, algebraic geometry
Sept. 28: James Hiebert, University of Delaware, mathematics education
Oct. 12: David Webb, University of Colorado, mathematics education
Oct. 13: John Kusku, Oakland Schools, mathematics and physics
Oct. 26: Rob Corless, Western University (Ontario), applied mathematics
Dec. 14: Haw-Yaw Shy, National Changhua U. (Taiwan), mathematics education
Spring Semester 2018
Feb. 1: Shira Zerbib, University of Michigan, combinatorics
Mar. 1: George Yin, Wayne State University, control theory and optimization
Mar. 22: Rida Farouki, University of California Davis, applied mathematics
Apr. 12: Emmy Murphy, Northwestern University, geometric topology

Fall 2017

Thursday, Oct. 26

Gamma and factorial in the Monthly presented by Rob Corless, Western University (Ontario)

Refreshments served at 3:50 p.m.

Abstract: Since its inception in the 19th century, the American Mathematical Monthly has published over fifty papers on the Gamma function or equivalently the factorial function. Over half of these were on Stirling's formula. We survey these papers, which include a Chauvenet prizewinning paper by Philip J. Davis and a paper by the Fields medalist Manjul Bhargava, and highlight some features in common. We also identify some surprising gaps and attempt to fill them, especially on the "inverse Gamma function". This is joint work with the late Jonathan M. Borwein.


Friday, oct. 13

Road to Rio, a tale of teaching, athletics and disability presented by John Kusku, Oakland Schools

Abstract: John Kusko, Distinguished Department of Mathematics Alumni, a 2016 Paralympic silver medalist, will share the story of his life as a Paralympic athlete and a teacher of mathematics. In addition to discussing the Olympics and Paralympics and his sport, goalball, Kusku will also examine the everyday challenges and affordances of having a visual impairment as an athlete, teacher, father, musician, and student. Specifically, he will address teaching mathematics as a person who is blind, concentrating on topics including career-focused education, accessible technology, and teaching children who are blind. Kusku is grateful to be returning to his Alma Mater to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Mathematics. He graduated from Western Michigan University in 2007 and 2009 with his Bachelor's and Master's degrees, respectively, and often thinks fondly on his time spent in Everett and Rood.

Special time: 3 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 12

Strategies for greater integration of active learning in undergraduate calculus courses presented by David Webb, Ph.D., University of Colorado

Refreshments served at 3:50 p.m.

Abstract: We survey active learning strategies in play at various universities in pre-calculus through calculus 2 (P2C2) courses. Research has demonstrated how students involved in active learning techniques can learn more effectively in their classes, resulting in lower DFW rates, increased persistence in subsequent courses, and improved dispositions towards mathematics. By integrating more active learning into instruction, students are encouraged to articulate conjectures and communicate their reasoning in the process of solving mathematics problems. From these exemplars we will discuss related design principles for active learning, and strategies for infusing active learning into P2C2 courses.


Thursday, Sept. 28

Designing systems for continuously improving university mathematics courses presented by James Hiebert, Ph.D., University of Delaware

Refreshments served at 3:50 p.m.

Abstract: There are no quick fixes to improving the quality of mathematics teaching. With the hindsight of 15 years of steady work, the mathematics education group at the University of Delaware can identify several (difficult) decisions that have been critical to improving its mathematics courses for preservice teachers. A number of these decisions were not predicted based on the research literature or the culture of teaching in the U.S. This talk will explicate these decisions and show the long-term benefits of relentlessly pursuing incremental, evidence-based improvements in mathematics instruction. Small improvements that last can accumulate to yield significant changes over time.


thursday, SEPT. 14

The Petersen graph and the Icosahedron presented by Igor Dolgachev, Ph.D., University of Michigan

Refreshments served at 3:50 p.m.

Abstract: This talk will discuss relationships between two fascinating objects: the regular Icosahedron and the Petersen graph. The Icosahedron has been known since antiquity. The Petersen graph is familiar as a useful example in graph theory; it is less known that it is realized in projective geometry via a Desargues configuration of 10 lines and 10 points, and as such it is related to the theory of algebraic surfaces and Cremona transformations. Each has a large symmetry group: the symmetric group S5 in the case of the Petersen graph and the alternating group A5 in the case of the Icasahedron. The same symmetry of other objects in algebraic and hyperbolic geometry relates them to the Petersen graph and the Icosahedron.