Mathematics Faculty and Student Participated in MathFest; Student Earned Presentation Award

Friday, August 19, 2011

Four Westminster College mathematics faculty and a mathematics major participated in the Mathematical Association of America's (MAA) MathFest Aug. 4-6 at the Lexington (Ky.) Convention Center.

The MAA's annual summer meeting is the premier summer event in mathematics, offering a substantial mathematical program that is informative, inspiring, and productive.  More than 1,400 mathematicians attended the conference that included over 130 presentations given by nearly 165 student speakers.

Junior Lisa Kaylor earned an Outstanding Presentation award for "Straightline Hanoi," a variation of the original Tower of Hanoi puzzle.  The research was supervised by Westminster mathematics faculty Dr. Jeffrey Boerner, assistant professor, and Dr. Natacha Fontes-Merz, associate professor.

Abstract:  We investigate a variation of the Tower of Hanoi Puzzle called Straightline Hanoi in which disks may only be moved to or from the first peg.  For n disks and for varying numbers of pegs we devise an algorithm for playing the game which we conjecture gives the minimal number of moves needed to solve it.  We will present formulas for the number of moves needed to complete the puzzle when using our algorithm.

"Through our research, we devised an algorithm for game play, which we conjecture gives the minimal number of moves for solving the puzzle," Kaylor said.

Kaylor's participation was funded in part by a travel/presentation grant from Westminster's Drinko Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

"MathFest provided me with the chance to present my research, attend many talks by other students, and gain a sense of the mathematical community," Kaylor said.  "I was pleased to represent Westminster College at this conference and am thankful for the opportunity."

Kaylor is a daughter of Karen Kaylor of Chicora and the late Terry Kaylor and a graduate of Karns City Area High School.

Boerner organized a panel discussion and attended the last of three meetings for Project NExT, a faculty development program for new faculty in mathematics.

Dr. Pamela Richardson, Westminster assistant professor, served as a judge for one of the student paper sessions; was a participant for a Project NExT panel on "Bridging the Gap between High School and College: How to Provide the Skills Necessary for Under-Prepared Students to Succeed;" and attended meetings and student events related to her membership on the MAA's national Committee on Undergraduate Student Activities and Chapters.

Additional Westminster mathematics faculty attending were Fontes-Merz and Dr. Barbara Faires, professor emerita, who serves as secretary of the MAA.

Click image to enlarge.
Lisa Kaylor