RC Students + MAA Conference = Crazy Fun!

by rahmoeller on April 22, 2016

The weekend of April 15, five Roanoke College students and three faculty members traveled to Germantown, MD to attend the Spring MAA Sectional Meeting, which was held at Montgomery College. This conference attracts a wide variety of mathematicians from MD, DC, and VA. Some are more applied mathematicians, some are more pure mathematicians, most are researchers, most are educators- all are fun, interesting people!

Our students were highly involved in this conference! Three of the students- Justin Giguere, Anderson Lidz, and Taylor Ferebee- formed the Roanoke College Jeopardy Team!


They certainly brought a competitive edge to the game!! They also might have had the loudest fan section…

This was Anderson’s first time attending an MAA Sectional Meeting. He says,

“Generally, I am not someone who likes to work on teams. However, Math Jeopardy provides an opportunity to see where you and the school stand competing against other institutions. The questions were interesting and generally challenging. It is certainly a worthwhile experience that I would be glad to do again.”

Taylor, for which this was her second MAA Sectional Meeting, says,

“Jeopardy is always a favorite of mine. It is fun testing mathematical knowledge, especially when there is a surprise of a cubed root in the form of an infamous rapper.”

She’s referring to one surprising category in their Jeopardy game- Common Math Terms. For each level in this category, images would pop up on the screen and the students had to figure out which common math term was being described by these images. For example, imagine an image of the rapper Ice Cube and immediately after a picture of a root. Put them together and you get…cube root! Clever!!

Another big part of this conference was the Radical Dash- a mathematical, mini Amazing Race. At each station, each team is faced with a challenge- some are physical and most are mental.

Four of the students in attendance- Taylor Ferebee, Anderson Lidz, Beckie Muolo, and Jason Karaffa- formed the Roanoke College Radical Dash Team.MAAConf3MAAConf4

Taylor mentions the activities in the competition-

“Radical dash this year was quite the challenge. We completed tesslagrams, queens takeover, and played a round of 24! I really enjoyed the game of 24. Even though arithmetic is not my strong suit, it was fun being able to manipulate it in order to create 24.”

Anderson really enjoyed the Radical Dash because “the problems were more abstract and introspective, allowing you to work alone, together. We were introduced to the three queens problem, which I have still been unable to solve but is very interesting, probably for this very reason. We also had problems relating to counting and geometry.”

Scattered in-between these friendly competitions were math talks, given by both faculty and students. Saturday morning’s Invited Address speaker was our very own Dr. David Taylor, speaking about A Potpourri of Mathematics in Popular Games. 

The students enjoyed the talks, saying:

Taylor- “My favorite talk was from an applied mathematician, who was researching the movement of bacteria. Being a mathematics and physics major, it was great to be able to understand her talk on multiple levels.”

Anderson- “The talks provide an excellent measurement for where you are and where you would like to be. Most were given to be understood at the undergraduate level, with talks varying in complexity. Some professors were far more lucid than others in their exposition. Topics varied greatly, from algebraic methods of voter manipulations to linear recursion to modeling population biology. Overall, the talks were diverse and passionate, providing a gentle introduction into what some mathematicians researching. The community as a whole provides a positive atmosphere reminds you how much more interesting math there really is to know.

Beckie- “I gained a greater understanding of mathematics and the interesting topics that are not typically advertised in math, like rainbows.”

Justin- “I really enjoyed the automata in video games talk. Also…JEFF!!”

We had a great weekend- full of mathematics, humor, and good food!!



Roanoke College Represents at the MAA

by Roland Minton on April 22, 2016


Some people wear many hats; in Dave Taylor’s case, two of them are chairs. Dave, who chairs the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics, is now chair-elect of the Maryland-DC-Virginia section of the Mathematical Association of America. Dave was elected to this position at the section meeting at Montgomery College (Md) April 15-16.

It was a great meeting for Dave, who also gave a keynote talk titled “A Potpourri of Mathematics in Popular Games.” This entertaining and well-received talk focused on the mathematics of Yahtzee, Blackjack, and Monopoly as analyzed in Dave’s book The Mathematics of Games. The Blackjack discussion included the award-winning work done by Jon Marino and Dave, which applies some highly theoretical work on compositions to the world of Blackjack.

The student team of Taylor Ferebee, Justin Giguere, and Anderson Lidz finished a strong fourth in the Math Jeopardy competition. Other attendees were students Jason Karaffa and Beckie Muolo and faculty Maggie Rahmoeller and Roland Minton, who gave a talk on “Modeling March Madness.”

Roanoke College has an important presence in the MAA, which is the primary national mathematics organization focused on undergraduate mathematics. Along with Chair-elect Dave Taylor, Karin Saoub is the newsletter editor and Roland Minton and Maggie Rahmoeller serve on the teaching award committee.

Next up is the MathFest meeting in August in Columbus, Ohio. This will be the ninth year in a row that a Roanoke College student will present research at MathFest!



The members of the Physics Group often advertise that “physics goes with anything.”  More formally, we maintain that there is no academic endeavor where the creative problem-solving approaches introduced in physics are detrimental.  In ten years of physics majors at Roanoke, we can list the following double majors: biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, math, music, philosophy, psychology, and spanish.  Some of those are expected, but others on that list leave us impressed with the giftedness of our aspiring physics majors.  Ok, how about Theater Arts?

Physics majors Luke Poore (Junior) and April Raab (Sophomore) held major roles in the College’s recent presentation entitled “Nightfall with Edgar Allen Poe.”  As a dramatization of some of Edgar Allen Poe’s most famous works, Luke was a lead actor while April was the stage manager.  When asked about how the performance went, Luke responded, “it received raving reviews.”  They both have participated in other theater events the College has hosted, and they both enjoy the balance that theater work provides to the physics curriculum.  This summer, Luke is planning to complete an engineering internship locally at Dressler-Rand, while April is planning to complete a summer research fellowship (REU) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

As a twenty-something a “few” years ago, Dr. Fleenor was locked into an engineering program with little academic opportunity to explore. He often looked with longing at the “green grass” on the other side of campus (for me, that was philosophy, history, and religion).  The liberal arts perspective afforded by Roanoke College makes the “physics and …” mindset quite doable.  Granted, the physics curriculum is difficult and time-consuming – we often say “it is a seven-course meal and not fast-food.”  We are constantly thankful that our physics majors are academic pioneers, that they are ever-creative.


Money: Students Present Sports Analytics Research

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Taylor Ferebee and David Moreau presented research posters at the Carolina Sports Analytics Meeting, which included representatives from the Charlotte Bobcats and ESPN: The Magazine. Taylor’s work on graphical representations and metrics of soccer effectiveness focused on passing statistics. David’s work on the relationship between golf consistency and effectiveness in different aspects of the game […]

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Physics students present science experiments to local Girl Scout troop

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  According to our students, a major (possibly, “the major”) goal of undergraduate studies is to discover one will be doing for ‘the rest of my life’.  This especially true in the sciences, where a high value is placed on finding the right answer within a problem-solving context, and then it is assumed that this […]

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Physics students write welcoming cards

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April is probably the busiest month for both physics students and their professors.  On top of the culmination of classes, we are also in the midst of planning our honor society banquet and hiring a new visiting professor.  So, when the admissions department asked us to write personal letters to all accepted and deposited students, […]

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Beware the Pi’s of March!

March 23, 2016

Last week was a busy week for the MCSP department at Roanoke College. March 14 is known as Pi Day to many people, and it is a day celebrating the number Pi = π ≈ 3.14159… π cannot be written as a fraction, which is part of the reason why it is so intriguing. People spend […]

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Math Club- Getting Competitive

February 11, 2016

Tuesday, Feb 9 began as a normal day. It was cold, as a day in February should be. But things got a little heated in Trexler around noon, when the Math Club held its first annual Integration Bowl. What on Earth is an Integration Bowl? Well, the Math Club members were divided into three teams- […]

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MCSP’s Bowl Game

December 31, 2015

In the college football bowl season, Dr. Maggie Rahmoeller offers the following alternative bowling experience.. Math Club got a little crazy one Friday night in December. Oh, it started out normal enough- I mean, how crazy can bowling be? Well, when you get a seasoned Math faculty member to bowl like this, I’d say things […]

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Holiday Greetings From MCSP!

December 23, 2015

The Palm Pipe Orchestra of Jan Minton’s Honors 301 class sends greetings from the class and the MCSP department for a wonderful holiday season.

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