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MAM...What Are You Doing?

If you missed the headlines in newspapers and evening TV news, April is Math Awareness Month. The sponsor is the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (AMS, ASA, MAA, SIAM), recognizing the importance of mathematics and highlight its applications.

This year's theme is "Unraveling Complex Systems," with the associated poster:

The poster's blurb: "How do epidemics spread, birds flock, and stock markets operate? Many of these answers fall within the realm of mathematics. From natural entities such as living cells, insect colonies and whole ecosystems to man-made inventions like power grids, transportation networks and the World Wide Web, we see complex systems everywhere. Deciphering the mathematics behind such systems can unravel well-structured networks and discernible patterns in natural and artificial structures.... Understanding these complex systems can not only help us manage and improve the reliability of such critical infrastructures of everyday life, but can also allow us to interpret, enhance and better interact with natural systems. Mathematical models can delineate interactions among components of these systems, analyze their spontaneous and emergent behaviors, and thus help prevent undesirable developments while enhancing desirable traits during their adaptation and evolution."

The special MAM website offer four supportive essays (with references), supposedly written for student access:

  • Understanding Complex Systems: Population Interactions Resulting in Disease Transmission
  • Understanding Complex Systems: Economic Impacts from Catastrophic Events
  • Organisms as Complex Systems
  • Cascading Failures: Extreme Properties of Large Blackouts in the Electric Grid
  • Understanding Complex Systems: Infrastructure Impacts
The MAM web site also offers opportunities for people to advertize their community activities related to MAM. Unfortunately, little is being done, but I give special note to Courtney Schrieve (Thurston School District, WA) who has organized a business-linked scavenger hunt. That is, "Local public school students are invited to participate in a math scavenger hunt hosted by local businesses through the Thurston County Chamber during the first two weeks of April. Students will be asked math problems at each business and can qualify for prizes. Business owners will also use the opportunity to discuss how math is used every day in their workplace." Neat idea...that could easily be replicated elsewhere by interested teachers and students. (Hint...Hint...!)