Faculty Corner – Todd Abel

This fall Todd Abel joined the mathematics department as an assistant professor in mathematics education.

(1) Please tell us a little about yourself
I’m from North Carolina and recently spent time at Application State University before coming to my new home here at the University of Central Arkansas. My wife and three kids have been getting settled over the past few months and have really enjoyed the outdoor life in Arkansas. We’ve gotten to camp, hike, and float already and look forward to continuing to explore.

(2) Tell us a little about your research interests.
My research focuses on two areas. One is on the classroom implementation of mathematical modeling, and the other focuses on mathematical digital literacy: how to use digital tools for doing mathematics. Both of these are important topics for us to consider because the ways students use math is changing – it is essential to have creative and flexible thinking. And with many available tools, students need to be able to recognize what tools are useful for solving problems.

(3) Tell us about the courses you teach.
Right now I’m teaching three courses. Foundations of Mathematics is a graduate class for our M.A. program, which is targeted at preservice and inservice teachers. We look at mathematical reasoning, logic, set theory, number theory, the nature or mathematical work, and have a particular emphasis on what proofs are and how they work.
The undergraduate courses I’m teaching are History of Math, which covers a broad spectrum of topics from throughout time, and Project-Based Instruction. The latter course I am co-teaching with a faculty member from the STEMTeach program. This is a course in which students gain field experience in local schools before their fulltime internship.

(4) What is your favorite part of your position here at UCA?
I really enjoy facilitating students engaging with challenging math problems. It’s great to see students encounter meaningful problems to overcome and to watch them grow as they take on tougher and tougher challenges.

(5) What is the most challenging part of your position here at UCA?
There are a lot of programs and structures to learn, so figuring out what all the policies and procedures are has definitely been the most challenging part so far.

(6) Who has influenced your most in your life?
My family – my parents, brother, sister, and now my wife and kids. My parents taught me to appreciate learning; my teachers and Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Karen Graham, also influenced me professionally by helping guide me through my schooling and into my career.

(7) How do you like to spend your free time?
When not here I’m with my family at home, at church or somewhere in the woods.

2017 Spring Math Graduates.

Thirteen applied mathematics majors , two pure mathematics majors,  and a graduate student in  MS Applied mathematics received their degrees at the 2017 Spring Commencement. Among the undergraduate majors, three received teacher certification through UCA’s STEM Teach Program. Congratulations to all. Not all gradautes are seen in the picture shown below.


2017 Student Awards

2017 O. L. Hughes Award    Cyrus Koch, a BS STEMteach Pure Mathematics student received the 2017 O.L. Hughes Award. The award is annually presented to an outstanding senior mathematics major IMG_1286based on their math achievement, GPA, and leadership. It is given in memory of late Professor O.L. Hughes, who was the chair of the Math Department at UCA from 1945 to 1967. Cyrus will graduate at the 2017 Spring Commencement. Cyrus has accepted a teaching position at North Garland High School in Garland, TX and will also be assistant coach for the school’s competitive math team. He plans to attend UT-Dallas to work on a MS in pure mathematics so that he can be involved in teaching and curriculum development for the school’s ultra fast-track math program.

2017 Dorothy Long Award Andrea Weaver, a BS STEMteach Applied Mathematics student received the 2017 Dorothy Long Award, annually presented to an outstanding female junior. IMG_1281The award is given in honor of late Professor Dorothy Long, who was a mathematics faculty member and the Dean of Women at UCA in the 60’s. Andrea received a Noyce Scholarship last year and presented “Nonlinear Elliptical PDEs” at the 2017 AMS/MAA Joint Mathematics Meeting. She attended the 2017 Oklahoma-Arkansas MAA Section Meeting and participated in the Math Jeopardy Contest. Also, Andrea is a recipient of a SURF grant and will begin research on “Nonclassical Symmetries of Dispersion Equations,” this summer with Dr. Danny Arrigo.

2017 Outstanding Graduate Student Award  Katie Burden, an MA Mathematics Education student, received the 2017 Outstanding Graduate Student Award by the unanimous recommendation of the IMG_1280Department of Mathematics faculty. She has worked in collaboration with Dr. Jason Martin on her thesis “Case Studies of Virtual Manipulative and Static Derivative Images” and presented her research at the 2017 Oklahoma-Arkansas MAA Section Meeting. Beginning in fall 2017, Katie will teach at Little Rock Central High School.

Journal Paper By A Math Graduate Student

A paper co-authored by Ms. Kaiyi Chen (a former masters’ student at UCA in applied mathematics), Dr. Ling He (Carmichael Professor Finance), and Dr. R. B. Lenin (Associate Professor of Mathematics) has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Risk Finance.  The paper is based on Chen’s thesis “Time Variation Paths of Risk Sensitivities of Bank Stocks in Past Two Decades.”  Dr. Lenin was the principle thesis advisor.

This paper incorporates the Flexible Least Squares (FLS) approach with a free statistical computing and graphics software R to estimate the three-factor model developed by He and Reichert in 2003 to trace time variation paths in risk sensitivities of bank stock returns during 1990-2014, one of the most serious financial crises period in the U.S. history. The results of the paper show that interest rate sensitivity of bank stock returns coincides with the   dramatic changes in the bond market. It was significantly positive before the 2006 subprime mortgage crisis, reduced to insignificant between 2006 and 2008, and turned into significantly negative between 2008 to 2014. Further, the results of this study found that bank stocks negatively respond to changes in housing prices between1990-1994 and after that the sensitivity turns into significantly positive. The significant shifts in risk sensitivities of banks stock returns coincide alterations in long-term interest rates and monetary policy, especially, the enormously stimulative monetary policy after the financial crisis in 2008.

Ms. Chen is currently pursuing a master’s in statistics at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she plans to complete her  Ph.D. in statistics.



Calculus Tournament

On November 19,  the Department  hosted the  second annual calculus tournament.  It was organized by Dr. Jeff Beyerl, Dr. Long Le, Rebecca Stage, and James Palmer, assisted by various other mathematics faculty members and graduate teaching assistants.   Seven teams of three students each competed against each other to solve problems as quickly as possible. The problems ranged through a variety of material that students in calculus learn: fundamentals, limits, derivatives, integrals, applications, and a dash of history.

The winning team, calling itself CAL, consisted of three students from Dr. Long Le’s calculus I course: Lindsey Hazeslip, Connor Wilson and Azaryah Wilson.

IMG_0939 IMG_0953

UCA offers PD in Computer Science for High School Teachers

Several professional development workshops in computer science for high schools teachers were organized by UCA STEM Institute in collaboration with the Departments of Mathematics and Computer Science. They were held during June 9-11 and 16-18, 2015 from 12pm to 4pm on UCA campus.  Dr. R.B. Lenin, Associate professor of Mathematics, was the lead instructor. Teachers from Alma, Little Rock, Mayflower, and Vilonia School Districts attended the workshop.

Comp Sci PD Summer 2015-2

In this workshop, Dr. Lenin covered basic computer programming topics such as expressions, functions, simple control and looping statements using the user-friendly software known as ‘Alice’ during the first half of the workshop. In the second half, he introduced a high-level computer programming language known as ‘Python’ to understand deeper concepts of computer programming. The participants were provided with computers, and  each topic was covered by the instructor through extensive hands-on-experience in computer coding. On the last day of the PD, various topics of the Praxis test were covered by going  over the sample questions of Praxis study companion – Computer Science 5651.

Details about the content of this PD can be obtained by contacting Dr. R.B. Lenin (rblenin@uca.edu). Details about future offerings can be obtained by contacting Dr. Uma Garimella (ugarimel@uca.edu).

Comp Sci PD Summer 2015-1

Some comments from the participants are …

“It was such a pleasure to take your class. I hope I have the opportunity to study with you again.

I never would have thought that this would be a field that I would be so interested in, but it may be just the ticket for me. Thanks so much for making it interesting and fun.

I am excited about the opportunities that this could bring, and I don’t think that I would be thinking in those terms if we didn’t have a knowledgeable, patient, and passionate instructor. Thank you so much for that. ”

This was the best PD I’ve ever attended and most engaging. You made the learning fun yet kept us challenged everyday. Thank you for all of your help and I look forward to seeing you in the future.

I really enjoyed being in your class and am looking into taking more courses.

New Math Resource Lab

In fall 2014 a new Math Resource Lab (MRL), mainly for math tutoring and student group study,  was opened on the first floor the Math & CS building.  Several mathematics faculty members and all graduate teaching assistants provide students with tutoring from college algebra to calculus.   The lab is usually open from 10 AM to 8 PM on the week days and 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday and  2PM to 6 PM on Sunday. The MRL, remodeled from two small classrooms, now provides dry erase walls for students to use, 10 desktop computers with the internet connection,  and two data projectors. There were a total of 2,359 student visits to the  Lab during the 2014-15 academic year.  The total included 631 student visits seeking help in calculus.

Here’s what our students have to say about the Math Resource Lab:

“It’s a great place to hang our and discuss homework in a relaxed environment. Plus there’s ample room to write it out on the white boards.” Erika Sparkman, senior, pure math major.

“Prior to the math resource lab, I had a difficult time organizing study time. Now I have a place to go everyday! It has been the greatest resource for me as a math major!” Jamie Mullins, junior, pure math STEM Teach major.

“The new math resource lab has been a fantastic place to meet in groups as well as work individually on homework and projects. The math faculty has utilized the facility very well in providing assistance with homework and projects.” Perry Claunch, senior, applied math major.

“It’s convenient and the white board space is awesome!” Christina Junkans, senior, pure math major.

Students clearly appreciated having a common place to study and where they can get help if needed. The Mathematics Department is very excited to provide such a great resource to it’s students!


May 2015 Faculty News

Congratulations to Dr. R.B. Lenin for receiving tenure and promotion to the rank of Associate Professor. Also, congratulations are due to Ms. Loi Booher for receiving promotion to Lecturer II.

2015 Summer Student Research in Mathematics

The following students received stipends from the Department of Mathematics to conduct research on various applied mathematics and mathematics education topics  in summer 2015.

Graduate students : Brandon Ashley ( Applied Math) , Seth Bloomberg (Applied Math), Kaiyi Chen (Applied Math), Thomas Deathrage (Applied Math), Jaime Garcia (Applied Math), Haley Lafoon (Math Education) and Rebecca Moody (Applied Math).

Undergraduate Students: Cyrus Koch ( Math Education), Erika Sparkman (Applied Math) and James Palmer (Applied Math).


Computer Coding 2015

Image of binary numbersThis summer the department of mathematics, the department of computer science, and the STEM institute at UCA will jointly host a summer program designed to get our youth involved in programming and problem solving.

For more information, see the registration page on Google docs.