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EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section 6.2 Activities

During the first 30 annual meetings almost all activity was centered on the invited lectures, most of which dealt with strictly mathematical topics. However, in the period 1956-1978 the section began to sponsor other activities that reflected the broadening of the section’s leadership and interests. Of particular importance was the section’s involvement with high school mathematics contests and standards.
The matter of contests arose at the 1956 meeting when the national MAA’s Committee On High School Contests, formed the year before, sought the views of all sections on their participation in the National Mathematics Contest for High Schools. Our section discussed the issue at the business part of the meeting, at which G. Cuthbert Webber briefly described the examination for high school students given in Delaware in the spring of 1956 under partial sponsorship of the MAA. When the plenary discussion ended, the section adopted the following resolution:
The Philadelphia Section of the Mathematical Association of America agrees in principle with the establishment of a National Contest for High Schools. The Section believes that considerable autonomy should be left with the Sections to determine the particular form of organization most suitable for the Section within the national regulations.
At the meeting held the next year the matter of sectional participation was raised again. This time two actions were taken:
  1. The Philadelphia Section approves in principal [sic] that we participate in the Mathematics Contest for high schools in our region.
  2. The chairman shall appoint a committee to work out details with power to act for the Association. This committee shall plan to hold these contests beginning in March of 1959, and shall decide on methods of administration, publication, and awards. It shall, by March 30, 1958, submit its recommendations by mail to the entire membership for comments.
The section officers appointed a committee to study the matter, with Walter Lawton (of Temple) as chairman, and Truman Koehler (Muhlenberg), G. Cuthbert Webber (Delaware), Donald Western (F & M), and E. R. Mullins, Jr. (a high school teacher) as committee members. The secretary’s report from the 1959 meeting notes only, “Professor Lawton reported on the progress of the High School contest conducted in the Philadelphia area.” No further details were forthcoming. Yet by 1976 the section’s newsletter was informing its readership that 550 students from the Philadelphia area were among the 350,000 students nationwide who took the 80-minute, multiple-choice exam in March of that year.
Another activity from this period concerned teaching standards, an issue that reappeared on the national scene in the 1990s, although standards in the 1950s were much different than standards in the 1990s. Once again the secretary’s report from the 1959 meeting provides precious little information. F. L. Dennis wrote, “Professor Lehr reported on the Professional Standards Conference.” However, Dennis supplied further details in his report from the next meeting, writing, “At the business meeting Professor J. A. Brown reported on the progress of the Committee on Professional Standards.” An elaboration of this statement reveals that the entire afternoon session was devoted to this theme, beginning with a keynote address by Howard Fehr of the Teachers College at Columbia. A panel on “Professional standards for teachers of mathematics in the school” followed. B. H. Bissinger (then at Lebanon Valley) moderated the discussion along with three participants: Albert Filano (West Chester) and two Philadelphia high-school teachers, K. S. Kalman and Joseph Gavin. The panel’s recommendations make fascinating reading almost 50 years later. One can only wonder what the present state of high school and college mathematics might be if the committee’s recommendations had been enacted.
What teachers must know depends upon the subject matter they will teach. What will be taught depends largely on the caliber of scholar that can be attracted to the teaching of high school mathematics. On the assumption that the high school program will eventually be of the standards shown in the SMSG materials, the teachers must have a five-year training period. Entrance to the program should demand four years (9-12) of high school mathematics study as prerequisite. The four year undergraduate program should consist of calculus and analytic geometry, 12 s.h.; algebra (polynomial, linear, abstract), 6 s.h.; geometry (affine, Euclidean, vector, projective, algebraic), 6 s.h.; probability and statistical inference, 6 s.h.; professionalized subject matter, 6 s.h.; methods of teaching and practice teaching, 6 s.h. The fifth year should include a 3 to 41⁄2 s.h. course in each of the following: (a) higher analysis or function theory; (b) theory of numbers; (c) structures, i.e., theory of sets, topology, or vector spaces; (d) logic or non-euclidean geometries; (e) applications, i.e., mathematical physics, econometrics, game theory, statistical analysis, etc.; and (f) history of mathematics. All this should be accompanied by a seminar in mathematical education.
The abbreviation SMSG might not ring a bell for some younger readers. Its meaning can be understood from the title of an address presented at the 1959 meeting by Vincent Haag of Franklin & Marshall College: “Work of the School Mathematics Study Group at Boulder and Ann Arbor”.
Of related interest, the following resolution was adopted at the business part of the 1959 meeting: “Be it resolved that the Philadelphia Section ... direct and empower the Executive Committee to take the necessary steps to institute a Mathematics Newsletter directed primarily toward the secondary schools of the area.” However, the proposed newsletter was not mentioned in any subsequent reports of sectional activities. The section did initiate a newsletter in 1976, but it was (and is) aimed at the entire membership, not some proper subset.
Not all activities that arose in the period 1956-1978 were related to high school mathematics. The entire 1958 meeting was devoted to the topic “Desirable mathematical training for the mathematician who plans to work in industry”. The impetus for the program came from the section’s chairman, I. Edward Block, then at Burroughs Corporation, who was unable to attend the 1958 meeting. Lafayette’s Charles Saalfrank presided in his place. The morning session consisted of three papers, two of which were delivered by speakers from Bell Telephone Laboratories and IBM. The afternoon session consisted of a panel discussion moderated by Mina Rees, then at Hunter College but known today primarily for her work administering grants for mathematicians from the Office of Naval Research. The panelists were Lehigh’s Everett Pitcher and the three speakers from the morning session.
The issue of industrial mathematics gave way to other applications at the 1961 meeting, when two of the three invited speakers lectured on related topics. Both hailed from New Jersey, which was no longer part of the Philadelphia Section. After the eminent Hans Rademacher began the program with a traditional mathematical talk, A. G. Grace of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), then located across the Delaware River in Cherry Hill, NJ, suggested ALGOL 60 as a computer language appropriate for undergraduate mathematics majors. Grace said perceptively, “the dearth of compilers and the lack of suitable educational materials are thought to be vanishing problems.” The well-known mathematician Henry O. Pollak followed him on the program. Pollak, then associated with Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, described the report titled, “Recommendations of the Panel on Physical Science and Engineering, Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics”. The practice of devoting an entire meeting to one specific issue occurred several times in the early 1970s.
Undergraduates appeared on the program at annual meetings for the first time in 1962, when one Swarthmore and two Penn students spoke. They were followed by James Bartoo, then the chairman of the department at Penn State, whose title was “Undergraduate mathematics: Problems posed by large enrollments”. A special session for students featured six 20-minute talks by undergraduates at the meeting held in 1974. Similarly, there were three student speakers in 1975 and four in 1977.
Chapter 5 described the 1954 session on teaching mathematics using television as a prototype for panel discussions. So far this chapter has described panels that were held in 1958 and 1960. Panels became all the rage at annual meetings after that, with one on every program from 1964 to 1970, except 1967 (which had none) and 1970 (which had two). Table 6.2.1 lists all panel discussions conducted during the present period.
Table 6.2.1.
Year Panel
1958 Desirable mathematical training for the mathematician who
plans to work in industry
1960 Professional standards for teachers of mathematics in the schools
1964 The freshman and sophomore mathematics program
1965 Report of Joint Committee on Teacher Certification Standards
1966 The CUPM general curriculum in mathematics for colleges
1968 Two year colleges – CUPM panel
1969 Panel on community colleges
1970 Computers and the first two years of college mathematics
1970 Accreditation and certification in mathematics
1972 Programs for students having difficulties with the transition from
high school mathematics to college mathematics
1975 How do we tell them they need us?
1978 How much is enough?
The 1967 meeting was the first at which the section recognized its top performers on the Putnam Competition. Each was awarded a year’s membership in the MAA. The report from that meeting states that all three winners hailed from Swarthmore, but unfortunately it does not name them. Names of Putnam awardees were provided at every meeting up to 1976, but no such reports appeared thereafter.
The meetings in 1956 and 1968 turned out to be critical for the future governance of the section. The by-laws had to be rewritten in 1956 to account for the loss of New Jersey members, and the section took advantage of the opportunity to change its administration. For one thing, it expanded the duties of the secretary to include treasurer as well. In addition, an Executive Committee was defined as consisting of the chairman, secretary-treasurer, governor, and three members-at-large. Thirdly, the relation of the new committee to the former program committee was described: “The executive committee shall constitute the program committee, the senior member being chairman.”
This governance system worked without interruption for 12 years. However, the unexpected death of section chair Emil Amelotti on March 3, 1968, midway through his second one-year term, showed the need for additional change. Amelotti’s illness had prevented him from presiding over the meeting the previous fall; secretary-treasurer Voris Latshaw presided in his place. S. S. McNeary agreed to fill Amelotti’s remaining term, including presiding at the annual meeting held in November 1968. At the business part of the meeting one amendment to the by-laws provided for a new position of vice-chairman of the section. The vice-chairman would assume the chairmanship should that position become vacant (it has not since then); the vice-chairman’s main duty was to plan the program for the next annual meeting. Another amendment to the by-laws increased the number of Executive Committee members from three to six. Both of these changes are still operative today. The section’s by-laws were amended again in 1971 to bring them “into conformity with the model By-Laws” suggested by the MAA’s Committee on Sections.
The report from the 1972 meeting mentions the MAA dues structure for the first time. It states that at the business meeting, “The Section voted to support a graduated dues structure for the Mathematical Association of America.” Annual dues had been set at \(\$3\) for the MAA’s first year, \(1916\text{,}\) but increased to \(\$4\) five years later. The amount remained at $4 until 1957, leading MAA President Lester Ford to quip that the three most famous mathematical constants were \(e\text{,}\) \(\pi\text{,}\) and \(4\text{.}\) Dues rose to \(\$5\) in 1957 and \(\$6\) in 1968. A graduated dues structure has been in effect since the mid-1970s.
An MAA Committee on the Production of Films met from 1958 to 1962, when the Committee on Educational Media superseded it. The first time a film was shown at one of our section’s meetings was 1966, when George Pólya was featured in “Let us teach guessing”. The following year “Fixed points” with Solomon Lefschetz was shown. The annual meeting in 1974 was special, however, for its screening of “Rotating polyhedral forms: M. C. Escher with a twist”. The film’s producer was, not surprisingly, Doris Schattschneider, the Escher specialist from Moravian College. No program has featured films since that time, although Robert Devaney showed a particularly impressive animated segment as part of his 1987 presentation titled “Computer graphics experiments in complex dynamical systems”.
In addition to the usual business, two matters occupied most of the leadership’s efforts in 1974. One was a questionnaire designed by Eugene Klotz to ascertain “further information about our constituent institutions, and the interests and problems of our colleagues.” The initial response was small so Klotz sent a gentle reminder to each department in the section that did not respond. “The questionnaire was not meant to be a formidable task; casual estimates, guesses, and even occasional blanks are all quite acceptable responses.” Yet the follow-up garnered only a few more responses. Klotz summarized the results from the sample of 25 departments in a brief memo to a committee headed by Dorothy Wolfe called “A possible organization of the local MAA activities suggested by the questionnaire”. The memo stated three activities: a newsletter, special meetings, and special topics at regular meetings. The latter two areas combined to produce spring meetings, which were first held two years later; they are discussed in detail in Chapter 8.
The other area took root even sooner, in 1974, when the section broke new ground with something called “special activities”. The chairpersons of these special activities presented brief reports at the meeting: “applied mathematics” (Wallace Growney, Susquehanna University), “Community colleges” (Louis Hoelzle, Bucks County Community College), “Newsletter” (Dorothy Wolfe, Widener College), and “Visiting lectures” (Jerry King, Lehigh University). Some of these activities reappeared later in the form of Special Interest Groups.
One of the special activities planted in 1974 began to sprout buds the following year, when minutes from an Executive Committee meeting stated, “We agreed to try to get a Newsletter going in the near future. Dorothy Wolfe will make the editing attempt and Phil Bedient will look into the production problem.” A lack of sufficient finances caused a delay in appearance, but the first section newsletter was published in February 1976 with Dorothy Wolfe (Widener) as editor. Since that time the newsletter has become the section’s primary source of communication, especially because, as we will see in Chapter 7, by about 1980 the Monthly discontinued the practice of publishing sectional reports. For now we relate two items about the national MAA that appeared in the second newsletter (published in October 1976). In that issue the section’s governor, David Rosen, wrote, “You will also be interested to know that the 1978 January meeting has been moved to January 6-8 ... the usual late January meeting time has become inconvenient for many schools.”
Rosen’s report also mentioned the search for national headquarters. He wrote, “The Board of Governors authorized the National Executive Committee to move along with plans for acquiring a building in Washington as rapidly as possible. Paying for this new building should not be a hardship on the membership because two members of the Association have pledged substantial amounts of money towards this project.” The MAA purchased a three-building complex at 1529 18 th St. NW in Washington in 1978 that has served as the Association’s headquarters since then.
While David Rosen was assuring the Philadelphia Section membership that no sudden increase in dues would be imminent, his colleague, section chair Gene Klotz, was playing a different tune locally. Klotz wrote, “Our By-Laws prohibit charging more than $1.00 registration fee at our fall meeting. We have recently taken to inviting speakers from outside the section to our fall meeting and special meetings ... It has been recommended that we raise the registration fee (one specific figure mentioned was to $3.00.)” The by-laws were subsequently changed and the registration fee rose to $2.50 at the fall 1977 meeting. For comparison’s sake, that fee had increased to $17 ($15 in advance) at the fall 2000 meeting at Penn State – Abington.
The visiting lecture program was started about 1970 by the Executive Committee, with Phillip Bedient (F&M) in charge of the initial stage. He turned the program over to James Brooks (Villanova), under whom the program seemed to languish. When Bedient was elected secretary-treasurer he asked Jerry King (Lehigh) to take charge. As Brooks had discovered, it was not an easy task. However, two years later King wrote, “Some twenty members have agreed to speak at nearby schools.” A list of names and topics was mailed to all departments in the section. Chapter 7 discusses the continuation of this program in the next era of the section’s history.
A program of institutional representatives was established in 1977 to enhance communication with the membership. At that time secretary-treasurer Willard Baxter began to send official communications to the representatives, who were asked to forward the information to their colleagues. Since not all institutions have representatives, secretary-treasurers sometimes rely on department chairs for this task.
By the end of the 1970s the emerging role of two-year institutions was being felt in the section. In 1977 section chair Gene Klotz wrote, “Some members have expressed an interest in establishing closer relations with the Pennsylvania State Mathematics Association of Two Year Colleges.” He then appealed for ways to meet this challenge.