Students see math in different light at University of Maine at Presque Isle

Posted April 02, 2010, at 10:36 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:31 a.m.
Presque Isle: Dr. David Hiebeler, an associate professor with the University of Maine's Mathematics and Statistics department, makes a presentation to students and teachers from Aroostook County who attended the second annual Imagine Math Day at the University of Maine at Presque Isle Friday. The event was organized by professors with UMPI's Math Program to expose participants to some new mathematical concepts. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JEN LYNDS
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Presque Isle: Dr. David Hiebeler, an associate professor with the University of Maine's Mathematics and Statistics department, makes a presentation to students and teachers from Aroostook County who attended the second annual Imagine Math Day at the University of Maine at Presque Isle Friday. The event was organized by professors with UMPI's Math Program to expose participants to some new mathematical concepts. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JEN LYNDS

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A group of Aroostook County youth on Friday learned in high-tech fashion how math is more than figures and equations on paper.

Approximately 50 students and their teachers from a number of Aroostook County high schools took part in the second annual Imagine Math Day at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. The daylong event was organized by professors with UMPI’s math program to expose participants to new mathematical concepts.

Dr. David Hiebeler, an associate professor with the University of Maine’s mathematics and statistics department, was a key presenter at the event.

“I think that we had a good crowd,” Hiebeler said Friday. “This event helps increase awareness about math and mathematical concepts and how math is used in everyday life and in other subjects. Those who attended today saw that we weren’t just talking about math — it was math, science, biology and other subjects.”

During one session, Hiebeler took students on a guided exploration of mathematical models in population ecology, a field in which he is an active researcher. Students who attended Friday’s event saw computer simulations he has developed related to the subject.

During the afternoon session, students from Ashland High School worked at laptops as Hiebeler walked them through simulations projected on an overhead screen.

Kaitelynn Orcutt, 17, a junior at Ashland High School, attended the event and said she enjoyed the experience.

“I learned a lot, things about how invasive species work, and how we can learn things from programs that math helps create,” she said. “It was interactive and interesting.”

Students also learned how math is involved in such tasks as tracking computer viruses and controlling agricultural crop spreads.

Hiebeler said approximately half of the students who attended the event were girls, which he said he was glad to see.

“I think that programs like this show girls another side of math,” he said. “I certainly hope it helps draw more females into the field.”

Imagine Math Day was held in April to celebrate Mathematics Awareness Month.

Shawn Robinson, assistant professor of mathematics at UMPI, helped organize the event.

“Imagine Math Day was conceived six years ago at Harvey Mudd College with the intent of providing high school students with an experience developing mathematical concepts through experimentation and conjecture in a collaborative framework, the way working mathematicians and scientists do,” said Robinson.

The event was not a competition, and students did not need to have any coursework beyond basic algebra to take part.

Hiebeler gave a more advanced seminar to UMPI students and faculty late in the afternoon.

He said Friday that he intends to make Imagine Math Day an annual event and continue to work on ways to make the sessions more interactive.

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