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Snagging incoming Math Students

  1. Sep 27, 2012 #1
    I posted about this much earlier here: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=597112 but October is coming up again and I was hoping to get even more ideas.

    So I will be helping out with welcoming incoming (or possibly incoming) students into our school, trying to convince them that math is cool and they should major in it. Pretty much.

    Basically we are in a large, loud room with lots of activity, sitting at a table. Last semester we were next to the physics table, who had all the "Gee wow!" stuff on their table that brought people over to look at it. They said they might put out candy next year. I said that was playing dirty...

    Anyway, I would like something suitably impressive and attractive for our math table, though our faculty is less imaginative than the physics faculty. Any ideas to bring them over? I thought about having some kind of interactive display on a touchscreen or something...

    -Dave K
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 27, 2012 #2
    Maybe something with the Mandelbrot Set? If you have access to a computer and projector displaying one of the many YouTube videos pertaining to it would probably be pretty enticing and would attract at least a few students.
  4. Sep 27, 2012 #3
    Drawings like the ones by Escher are always nice to show. And they are mathematically very deep!
  5. Sep 27, 2012 #4
    Pretty girls on the table? :)

    Less interesting will be putting some math jokes
  6. Sep 27, 2012 #5


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    I was going to suggest candy :smile:
  7. Sep 27, 2012 #6
    That assumes we are only trying to attract males. ;)

    Heh. "With a bachelor's in math, you might eventually find these funny!"

    -Dave K
  8. Sep 27, 2012 #7
    I wonder if I can have some "Knots" lying around, with a little display about knot theory. Just to pique interest, and one of several displays... Maybe some origami too...
  9. Sep 27, 2012 #8
    Can add one good looking guy too :) If you cannot think of many ways of beating physics people, one straight forward and simple way is to hire some people from arts o:).
  10. Sep 27, 2012 #9
    Well adding one would be overkill, since we have me... ;)

    Actually I might recruit them for something...
  11. Sep 27, 2012 #10
    Hmm, I'm thinking a few different little displays. I think something for knot theory would be intruiging. A little 8.5xll cardboard thing set upright, with a few actual knots just strewn in front of it as examples. It would a list of applications. Students (and the parents that are with them) tend to want to know about applications.

    I could do something similar with origami...

    Then some kind of "careers in math" thingy would be needed somewhere. And possibly a whiteboard with some problems written on it...

    Just brainstorming here and if anybody wants to chime in that'd be great.
  12. Sep 27, 2012 #11
    Build one of these:

  13. Sep 27, 2012 #12


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    No, wait. ...

    ... Knot shaped Doughnuts!
  14. Sep 28, 2012 #13
    I'm reminded of "Flight of the Conchords." The poor little New Zealand booth next to the outstanding Australians.

    I can't really think of a demonstration that isn't more physics or engineering than math. There are lots of amazing visual representations of different math ideas, but a bunch of posters isn't really going to knock anyone's socks off.

    Oh! Get a couple of people from the fencing club/team (if such a thing exists), have some blown up images of Thibault's Academie de l'Espee, and provide a demonstration of his style based on "logic and geometry." Have large diagrams on the floor to illustrate the connection to his manual. Maybe include a poster about Galois and his demise in a duel. Although, on second thought, maybe advertising a grisly end isn't the best way to lure people in.

    Perhaps it's over the top, but if you're going to pander, pander with style. (And stick it to those darn gnomes over at the physics table.)
  15. Sep 28, 2012 #14


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    How about coffee cup shaped donuts?
  16. Sep 28, 2012 #15
    Try the efficiency angle:

    Get next to the physics table again.

    Grab everyone who leaves their table looking interested and convince them that a second degree in math would be only a few extra classes :)

    Honestly, that is what pushed me to study mathematics initially. Turns out I enjoyed it.
  17. Sep 28, 2012 #16


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    I don’t know, but can you do something like this? Something sort of pre-prepared so passers by could participate, changing bits, and so be involved in creating a quite harmonic on-going small sound and light show. It could get attention if it were fairly loud and up-beat with some up to date instrument sounds, and some good looking matching visual displays of the music made.

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  18. Sep 28, 2012 #17
    I think glorifying some of the encryption techniques used in internet and security as well in communication would be really cool. A poster about what people did with stuxnet and flame on the cryptography end explaining how it works and how it enabled access to computers would be really cool. You could include a picture of an exploding centrifuge and link how it was made possible by mathematical work.

    You could also describe in a poster how important this type of mathematics is for new technologies like quantum computing, to show that mathematics can stand on its own merits with relevance and practicality in today's world.

    I would also try to glorify some famous modern proofs like Fermat's last theorem and the prime number research people are doing. One issue I always had with interest in mathematics is that it seemed to be dominated by dead people's work. A sort of a historical picture story of what the problem was and all of the steps, loopholes, and processes that went into solving that problem would be really interesting. The wikipedia articles on Andrew Wiles and that proof are pretty fascinating. It would be important to stress the difficulty, ingenuity, and seemingly unrelated works being pieced together to achieve the proof.

    You could also find some good mathematical videos on youtube and have them play on loop on a flat screen in the background. One could be of the videos traveling into a fractal.

    I can't explain it, but the mystery and sophistication of these fields intrigues me as a spectator and really helps me appreciate mathematics. A lot of people find mathematics mysterious, and if you can entice people in that way they may take a strong interest.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
  19. Sep 28, 2012 #18


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    That's why I became a mathematician- all the free candy!
  20. Sep 28, 2012 #19
    I did mention that quite a bit last time. In fact I told them that for pretty much every major. lol

    Unless it was computer science. Then I said "you'd be better off majoring in math than comp. sci. You won't really learn anything about computers either way, but math will better prepare you for anything and everything else." lol

  21. Sep 28, 2012 #20


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    A pretty girl walking across a table in stilleto heels on a very windy day could do the trick. Taking into consideration the torque created by the wind, her moment of inertia, and the fact that she solves triple integrals in her head quickly enough to maintain her balance is a pretty impressive feat!
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