The Joint Mathematics Meetings

Math editor Vickie Kearn reports on the goings on at the Joint Mathematics Meetings held in Washington, DC, January 5-8.

The Joint Mathematics Meetings, held in Washington DC this January, had its largest attendance ever—over 6,000 professors, practitioners, and students from high school on up. This was an increase of more than 500 over the last meeting in San Diego in January 2008. And there’s even more good news for math. During the meeting, announced that the most satisfying job is that of mathematician.  This top ranking was based on stress, work environment, physical demands, income and outlook. The meeting had something for everyone. There were plenty of talks on quantum computation, differential geometry, and operator theory. There also were sessions that connected math to biology, finance, and medicine.

The education sessions were filled with innovative ways to bring excitement to the classroom: “Using mime to see the remainder”, “Football rankings using linear algebra”, and “Using game theory to get a date” are just a few examples. Using sports and art to teach mathematics has become very popular with both professors and students. There are two new journals devoted to math and art. Even after a long day of talks, the evening sessions are always well attended. Who would want to miss the CNN United States of Mathematics Debate, Who Wants to Be a Mathematician, or Alice in Numberland?  These are all events that showed the lighter and very entertaining side of math.

The biggest event at the meeting for Princeton University Press was the release of The Princeton Companion to Mathematics, edited by Tim Gowers. The champagne reception celebrated the culmination of five years of hard work by more than 150 people. The celebration continued later in the week with a reception at the math department back at Princeton.

One of the most active areas for presentations at the meeting is the history of mathematics. The talks are always interesting and the evening skits and movies are a guaranteed source of entertainment. Princeton released four new titles just in time for the meeting.  These include Plato’s Ghost by Jeremy Gray, The Mathematics of the Heavens and the Earth by Glen Van Brummelen, Mathematics in Ancient Iraq by Eleanor Robson, and Mathematics in India by Kim Plofker. These titles, along with The Mathematics of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Islam, edited by Victor Katz provide a very comprehensive library for the history of math.

A highlight of every meeting is the book signings for new popular math titles. David Richeson was on hand to sign copies of his newly released Euler’s Gem: The Polyhedron Formula and the Birth of Topology. This is the latest release in a long line of books that bring the excitement of math to readers outside the field.

One of the best attended events of the meeting is the awards ceremony.  We would like to congratulate our author, Jeremy Gray, for his outstanding achievement in receiving the Albert Leon Whiteman Memorial Prize for notable exposition on the history of mathematics.

This meeting always has a high level of excitement about it. It is a great place to renew friendships with professors and classmates and make new friends, or to look for a first, or new, job. Each year, hundreds of people wait anxiously for the ribbon cutting and the grand opening of the exhibit hall, filled with book and software vendors as well as puzzle makers and mathematical sculptors. If you so desired, you could also get a foot massage, buy jewelry, or get a new tie (with or without math on it). The exhibit hall is a place to gather informally and have a cup of coffee. It is also a fantastic library where browsers can sit and read all of the new titles and talk with editors about forthcoming titles and new writing projects. It is the ultimate opportunity to find a new text for the next semester. For four days each January, mathematicians at all levels and with varied interests come together to share their ideas and learn of new ones from their colleagues.

Here are some additional photos from the meetings. Click on each picture to see captions, etc.