Mathematics has gotten a bad rap. It may be one of the most misunderstood of all academic disciplines, says Gene Klotz, the director of the Math Forum, an on-line discussion group sponsored by the math department at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa.
"The public thinks we contemplate ancient proofs made by people in togas, and doesn't realize that if the stock market grew as fast as new mathematics, we'd all be rich," he wrote in a recent on-line essay about public understanding of the subject. "It's important that the public understand us and the importance of what we do in this time of shrinking academic dollars and bulging overproduction of academics."
With that in mind, dozens of colleges and other organizations participate in Mathematics Awareness Week each April, hosting math-related workshops, seminars, and other events.
Swarthmore's Math Forum has set up a World Wide Web site on the Internet to coincide with this year's awareness week, which runs from April 21-27, full of math activities, contests, and other information at http://forum.swarthmore.edu/maw.
Students can even download a computer game from the site. Developed by Jonathan Choate, who chairs the math department at the Groton School in Groton, Mass., Computer Undercut is designed to teach concepts of game theory such as selection of optimal strategies, bargaining and negotiation, costs and benefits, and equilibrium outcomes.
In addition to the math-awareness page, the Math Forum site includes articles on broader issues in math education, from calculus reform to constructivism. It also offers links to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, a teachers' "site of the month," and other Internet math resources.
The National Council on Economic Education has created a new CD-ROM to help elementary and secondary teachers teach economics to their students.
"Virtual Economics: An Interactive Center on Economic Education" helps teachers brush up on important concepts such as unemployment and inflation. The CD-ROM also includes a 60,000-page library of curriculum materials, reference books, and lesson plans.
The project is financed by a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Copies of the CD-ROM will be available at the council's regional workshops on economics education for teachers and administrators, most of which are free events.
For more information, call the council at (800) 338-1192.