Department News

Faculty Corner – Dr. Kansas Conrady

Last fall Kansas Conrady joined the mathematics department as an assistant professor in mathematics education. She received her doctorate from Oklahoma State University and was previously working at the University of Oklahoma.

 

(1) Please tell us a little about yourself
I’m from Oklahoma where I was at the University of Oklahoma. Before that I taught middle and high school in the Fort Worth area. When I’m not working, I enjoy long distance cycling, Crossfit, and weightlifting.

(2) Tell us a little about your research interests.
I’m most interested in the mathematics teacher education pipeline. That is, identifying and preparing students that eventually decide they want to teach and pursue a career in teaching. More specifically I study informal learning experiences in teacher education that provide long term support for the transition that comes in early career experiences. Moreover, mathematical thinking is messy and rarely a simple polished process – I enjoy speaking and writing about how people actually think when they’re doing and learning mathematics, such as metacognition and discourse in mathematics classrooms.

(3) Why is your research topic important?
There is a high turnover rate in secondary mathematics teachers! When a teacher decides teaching isn’t for them, they must find a new career and society must train a new teacher. The first couple years in the classroom are not easy, and many times teachers enter “survival mode” to make it through the first few years to navigate the environment and established norms. My research can help teachers be true to their identity and not abandon the ideas and skill they’ve learned.

(4) When did you start becoming interested in teacher education?
I watched many new teachers, including myself and close friends, struggle with assimilation and survival in our first years. Through continued study I have looked for ways to make progress toward making it better.

Once I came to understand that there was a lot of messy thinking that happens inside the mathematicians head, I was better able to understand that it was not only okay, but normal, to have to work through problems and not just know them right away. Then as I continued to make sense of sharing rough draft thinking and started incorporating this in my teaching I saw changes to student attitudes, beliefs, and practices in regards to both teaching and the learning of mathematics. Thus I like to share understandings about the impact of this to others.

(5) Tell me about how you teach your courses.
Each course is very different, but with one common thread: they aren’t like many mathematics courses students have experienced before. I like to answer questions with questions that promote thinking and understanding. Rather than telling the student a specific step-by-step list of procedures to follow, I like to help students develop an understanding that will have a lasting effect.

I love to encourage thinking and talking and thus there is a great deal of collaborative work that is done in class: we all learn from each other and gain insights from the thinking of others.

(6) Who has influenced you most in life?
I can’t point to any one person – but more so my communities and networks. I always take in information about everything around me and process that information to learn more about not only myself and the people around me, but also the systems that are always at play around us.

(7) What is your favorite part of your position here at UCA?
The student, faculty, and staff are so incredibly friendly and helpful! With just a few questions I have filled both my recreational calendar as well as find places to eat out for the next several months. The physical campus is also a great place to be: the luscious trees across campus make for a wonderful atmosphere.

(8) What is the most challenging part of your job?
I would have to say balancing personal and professional life, but I’m pretty sure everyone has that challenge. So more specifically I’ll say that it is trying to grow relationships with the area schools while also being available and present on campus. Also, I’ve met so many people in the past two months, and I need to keep them all straight!

 

2017 Calculus Tournament

Winning Team

The fourth annual Calculus Tournament was held in the afternoon of November 16, 2017 in the Math Resource Center in the Math and Science Building. The tournament was open to students currently enrolled in either Calculus I , II or III. Seven teams, with a total of 19 students, participated in the contest. The winning team is consisting of Presley Mullins (currently enrolled in Dr. Jeff Beyerl’s Calculus I), Alexia Ramick (enrolled this fall in Dr. Weijiu Liu’s Calculus III), and Anna Wolff (enrolled in Dr. George Bratton’s Calculus II) . Congratulations to all three students.

Dr. Jeff Beyerl organized the tournament. Many mathematics graduate students and faculty members provided support. Each member of the winning team will receive a gift card for $15. Also, the winning team will represent UCA at the Math Jeopardy competition at the OK-AR Sectional Meetings of the American Mathematical Society Spring meetings to be held in April 2018 at the Arkansas Tech University

 

Teams in Action

 

Faculty Corner – Dr. Yinlin Dong

This fall Dr. Yinlin Dong joined the mathematics department as an assistant professor in applied mathematics. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Arlington.

(1) Please tell us a little about yourself.
I did my undergraduate in China, where I worked in industry for two years. After that I came to the States and have been at the University of Alabama, University of Central Florida, and the University of Texas at Arlington. I live with my wife and two sons, Charles and Allen, and am now excited to join the family here at UCA!

(2) Tell us a little about your research.
I study numerical methods and grid generation. For example, there are methods for discretizing partial differential equations and solving them numerically. This discretization requires working on a grid of some sort, and I study how these grids should be constructed. A good grid allows solution methods to adapt to complex structures: the grid is fine in regions of large variation to enhance accuracy, but can be coarse where the solution has little variation in order to achieve efficiency.

(3) Can you give us an example of an application of this research?
One great example is in airfoils. NASA designs many of these, and they need to determine exactly how to shape them. In order to find the best shape, they need to solve physics problems and use numerical methods. My research applies to identifying the appropriate numerical method and corresponding grid generation approach to these problems.

(4) When did you become interested in your research?
Throughout school I knew I was going to focus on some kind of science or math. I had a particular high school teacher that really helped inspire me; ultimately it was my Ph.D. advisor that helped guide me into the field of numerical methods.

(5) Tell us about the courses you teach.
I teach both numerical analysis and numerical methods. Though sometimes confused with each other, numerical analysis is more theoretical and focuses on why methods work, while numerical methods focuses more on how such methods work. Right now being my first semester I’ve tried to keep my courses straightforward. In the future I hope to be able to get students involved more in projects and presentations.

(6) What is your favorite part of your position here at UCA?
Teaching is one of the best parts! I enjoy the moments of sharing the beauty of math with students. The environment here is quite flexible, and I’m still exploring the surrounding area.

(7) What is the most challenging part of your position here at UCA?
I have high expectation in student learning in upper level courses. But some students do not turn in assignments on time and are reluctant to ask questions. How do they expect to learn without putting their skills to practice? I am learning our students and our course settings. I will figure it out as the semester goes.

 

Faculty Corner – Dr. Todd Abel

This fall Dr. Todd Abel joined the mathematics department as an assistant professor in mathematics education. He received his Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire.

(1) Please tell us a little about yourself
I’m from North Carolina and recently spent time at Appalachian 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.

 

Teacher Workshops On Blending Mathematics and Science in Middle Grades

Twenty-one middle grades mathematics and science teachers representing seven  schools in central Arkansas participated in two one-week workshops during June and July on UCA Campus. Teams of one mathematics and one science teacher were engaged in activity-based lessons that were designed to reflect content from both the mathematics and science frameworks as adopted by the Arkansas State Board of Education. The sessions were designed and led by Dr. Charles Watson, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Mr. Jerry Mimms, Master Science Teacher in the Biology Department. As a culminating activity, each team was required to design and teach a lesson using principles learned during the workshop. At the close of each day, the staff was joined by a staff member from the College of Education who worked with the class in creating their own 5-E lesson plans. Those plans were shared with the participants so that each team goes back to their school with 10 lesson plans. During the upcoming  fall semester, a project staff member will visit each school and observe teachers implementing the concepts learned during the summer sessions. Additionally, the participants will convent on two Saturdays to share new lessons and reflect on lessons learned.

The workshops were part of a  $57,780 No Child Left Behind grant  through the Arkansas Department of Education titled  Blending Mathematics and Science in Middle Grades.  UCA STEM Institute Director Dr. Uma Garimella is the PI for the grant.

 

2017 Summer Mathematics and Science Program @ UCA

The tenth annual 2017 Summer Mathematics and Science Program  @ UCA was held from June 12 to June 30 on the UCA campus. Twenty middle and high school students from Conway participated in this three-week program. This year, the program had five activities: Algebra I, Algebra II, Biology, Physics and Robotics and Computer Coding. The Algebra I activity was presented Ms. Cara Cates, Math Specialist at the UCA STEM Institute, whereas Algebra II session was taught by Ms. Katie Burden, a graduate student in the Math MA Program. Biology faculty member Dr. Krista Peppers and physics faculty members Dr. Debra Burris conducted activities in biology and physics respectively. Biology activity include a field trip to the Jewel Moore Natural Reserve on UCA campus for plant identification.   Another physics faculty member, Ms. Nancy Getson, conducted robotics activity. Dr. Mark Doderer of the Computer Science Department taught computer coding. Contents of all activities were designed to stimulate and enhance students’ interests in math and sciences with several hands on experiments. Dr. Ramesh Garimella, Chair of Mathematics Department and Dr. Umadevi Garimella, Director of the UCA STEM INSTITUTE organized the summer program. For information about future Math and Science Summer programs, please Contact Ramesh Garimella at 501-450-3147 or rameshg@uca.edu.

 

Student Talks: Undergraduate and Graduate Theses

AndrewOn Friday three of our students gave presentations right here at UCA. Andrew Jensen (pictured with his committee members) and Diana Morales gave talks in the student center to defend their undergraduate honors theses. Graduate student Edward Tawiah gave his talk in the math department to defend his thesis in our M.S. program.

“Comparing Efficiency of Roundabouts to Traffic Lights in Conway, Arkansas – A probabilistic and Simulation Approach”
Andrew Jensen (Under R.B. Lenin and George Bratton)

“Mathematical Modeling of an Epidemic with Exposed Group and Diffusion”
Diana Morales (Under Long Le and Danny Arrigo)

“Factors Contributing to the Success of Small Businesses Using Structural Equation Modeling – A Statistical Framework”
Edward Tawiah (Under R.B. Lenin)

STEM Night: Partnering with local school

pic2On April 6th, in a joint effort with Carl Stuart Middle School and Dr. Fetterly’s class (MATH 4335 Concepts of Advanced Mathematics), the two joined forces to involve parents and their children in activities that focused on math. The evening was based on a “50’s” theme Rockin Around the Clock. Carl Stuart faculty and UCA students dressed up for a blast from the past. Hands-on and conceptual activities were presented to some 100 families. Parents and children experienced mathematical activities that emphasized algebraic thinking and proportional reasoning.

pic3pic1

 

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.