March 18th, 2007

math: do it sans limit

MAA-SE 2007: My experience

All right, it's time for The Mathcon UpdateTM.

Melissa picked me up at ten-ish Thursday morning, and we headed to Agnes, where we met Nicole and Mira, and we started our drive down to Statesboro. Driving down I-75 was fine (until we hit Atlanta, in Melissa's and my case), if you've never done it. However, the drive down I-16 was the most boring drive ever and made me appreciate my roots. Seriously, I saw a house consisting of nothing more than four walls and a door every few minutes. And I thought I was from the middle of nowhere.

We stopped at Applebee's on the way there, and we noticed a sandwich and either soup or salad offer for lunch. "Over 60 combinations!" the menu advertised. Being the math majors that we are, we wondered exactly how many combinations there were, so we got to work. (There were 66, if you were wondering--12 choose 2.) The waitress just stood there and watched us. It was great.

We also played The Game, which consisted of staying on cruise control as long as we could. It was pretty easy on 16 because it was, after all, the middle of nowhere. But every now and then we'd see a car, and we'd say, "No! You're making us lose The Game!" And I'd laugh to myself because I lost The Game a long time ago.

Finally, finally! we got there. Statesboro really is in the middle of nowhere, just to let you know. We found our hotel and hung out for awhile before going to the math treasure hunt at the Georgia Southern campus. Walking sounded like a good idea, we thought. After all, the campus was practically across the road. We did just that and started to look for a map to pick out the Information Technology Building out of the 234324 buildings on that campus. If tiny Agnes has a map, then certainly huge Georgia Southern has a map somewhere, right?


We couldn't find a map of the campus anywhere, and we wandered a lot. Finally we found some people (I think it was spring break at Southern, too, hence the deadness) and asked them. The first people treated us like we knew the way around and weren't very helpful, so we wound up wandering until we found some other people while we continued to get lost. They told us to pass the library that was being constructed upon (yes, they really used that wording; it cracked me up) and keep going. Their directions were much more helpful, especially since we did find the library that was being constructed upon.

The math treasure hunt was a lot of fun. We got into groups of three based on the letter on our name tag (mine was H, which was funny since my last name starts with H). My group consisted of a girl from Berry who actually graduated from LFO and another person whose name I didn't catch. We then had to go from room to room and do different tasks, like solve a huge Sudoku, graph functions with a feather boa (graphing r=theta with a feather boa is awesome, just to let you know), and explore Conway's Game of Life. We'd receive a piece of information after completing each task, and finally we got the phone number to call. We called. And we called. And we called. And all we got were voice mail. Grah. We finally got outside the door we were supposed to be at, and we called again. Mira's group was there (I later heard they were the first group, making us second) and already knocking. We called and got the code (Euler); then we ran to the computer lab and looked it up in Morse Code. Finally we were knocking on the door. The door opened. A man was standing there, a small box in his hand. He opened it. Candy was inside.

Yes, all that for candy. At least I got dark chocolate and caramel. Mmmm.

Friday was taken up by two general sessions, six talks, and the social event. I want to take abstract algebra now. Seriously. I know I'll be taking it in the fall anyway, but I'm a very impatient person. I feel like I've been deprived for all this time.

Then the social event. It was at the wildlife place on Southern's campus, complete with a reception. My camera went dead while I was exploring, so I didn't get pictures of everything, which made me sad. I didn't even get a decent warning. *sigh* Oh well. We also got to see owls and hawks fly all over the amphitheatre and snakes and bugs on people. It was so cool.

So the weather was gorgeous on Thursday and Friday. Because of this, we realized that we were only an hour from the coast, so why not stop by the beach Saturday afternoon after the conference? This didn't sound like a bad idea, so we planned on that.

Then it turned cold yesterday. By cold, I mean windy; otherwise it would have been gorgeous. We missed the opening general session and the first two talks (shame, I wanted to hear the chicken and egg talk), but we still got four talks in. It was a good thing Nicole's talk was the last session. (It was awesome, by the way; she talked about what she did last summer.)

The Math Jeopardy finals were after that. We were going to get a team, but when we signed up, all the slots were filled. Oh well. It was so much fun to watch, though. Those questions required real math--I'm talking actual calculus and linear algebra here. We're definitely putting a team together next year. The final Jeopardy category? "Mary Had a Little Lambda." Everyone say it with me. Awww. (It was a multivariable question, if you're curious.)

Then Mira found out that her boyfriend's ultimate frisbee tournament was in Statesboro, and she wanted to stay with him, so we found out where they were playing and staying, and we dropped her off with them. And off we went back to Agnes (we decided it was too cold and would take too much time for the beach).

I stayed in Melissa's apartment last night, crashing on her couch after dinner and a movie and finally catching up on my friends list, and this morning we ate breakfast, waited around for awhile until the dorms opened again, and I returned here. Yay.

So have some numbers to summarize my experience:
-Math talks attended: 12
-Math talks completely understood: 2 (stats and language development in hearing-impaired, and lessons learned in developmental education--Dr. Lewin had told us to look for that person, so Mira and I went to that talk. It was a lot of fun, too.)
-Math talks partially understood from previous background or following along: 5
-Math talks partially understood only from knowing that the speaker was talking about that topic: 5
-Number theory tests owned: 1 (95. Oh yeah. I refused to check my grade because I didn't want to know that I bombed it like I did the last one. I shouldn't have worried too much.)
-Probability tests not owned: 1 (This one, on the other hand, is what I should have worried about, considering I got a 74 on it. I know I messed up in several places, and I know that when I turned it in. I just didn't know I messed up that much.)
-Snakes held: 1 (It was huge, too. It took half the front row at the social event to hold it, and then it started to wiggle. It was awesome.)
-Games lost: ...I lost The Game again. At least I tried.

So there you have it: my first math conference experience, which was amazing. I recommend it for everyone.