Beer & Bowling with MCLA QUAC: Spring 2018 Edition

Please feel welcome to attend the second QUAC “Beer and Bowling” event, an informal social gathering for QUAC members and local STEM/quantitative/math-positive K-12 educators.

We will gather on Friday, March 23 at 4 p.m. at Greylock Bowl in North Adams (directions to Greylock Bowl) and the cost is $8 per person (includes two games of bowling, plus shoes; food and drinks are separate).

Please also feel free to disseminate the attached flyer among your contacts who may be interested in meeting us: Flyer. We hope to see you there!



Helping Students with Math Anxiety

At QUAC, we think a lot about students who have math anxiety, and we even put together a workshop about math anxiety at the Flying Cloud STEM Educators’ Conference in December (you can find the workshop slides here).

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Some of the best resources we’ve found in helping us to understand math anxiety are the works of Sian Beilock’s laboratory at the University of Chicago. Selected works:

Some strategies that we came up with during a brainstorm, for helping our students:

  • Survey the students about their past experiences with mathematics at the beginning of the semester, because for anxious students, helping them identify the their hangups can prompt them to seek help earlier and more often;
  • Students who express their concerns before an exam often perform better on the exam—so, have students spend a minute writing their concerns on the cover page before beginning;
  • In the first three minutes of class, mindfulness and meditation can help students shift mental gears, so they’re ready to perform well as math scholars;
  • Asking students before quizzes and exams, “Who are you here for?” (meaning: who in your life gave you the support you needed in order to go to college, and who is an important person that wants you to succeed here?), can improve the students’ grades on those assessments, especially for students of color.

What are some of the strategies that help your students?

Please weigh in by writing a comment!

Eureka! Program Launches in Pittsfield

The members of MCLA’s QUAC group are honored to work with so many experienced instructors dedicated to Quantitative and STEM instruction at all levels. We’re particularly fortunate to include among our ranks Dr. Adrienne Wootters, MCLA physics professor and associate dean who is helping to launch the Eureka! program. Eureka! is, according to a recent profile in the Berkshire Eagle,

“…an all-girls science, technology, engineering and math program in the Berkshires.

Run by Girls Inc. of the Berkshires, the five-year educational program will be launched in January with 20 eighth-grade girls — the first “Eurekans” in the area.

The program will focus on girls who are from low-income families, minorities and those who would be first-generation college students. The eventual goal is to have 100 girls participating — 20 in each grade through senior year in high school.”

We’re all looking forward to the day when some of the young participants in this new “Eureka!” program might choose to attend MCLA! In the meanwhile, we will all stay tuned for further updates on Eureka!.

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Beer & Bowling with MCLA QUAC

Please feel welcome to attend the first QUAC “Beer and Bowling” event, an informal social gathering for QUAC members and local STEM/quantitative/math-positive K-12 educators.

We will gather on Friday, November 17 at 4 p.m. at Ken’s Bowl on Dalton Ave. in Pittsfield (Driving Directions to Ken’s Bowl), and the cost is $9 per person (includes two hours of bowling, plus shoes; food and drinks are separate).

Please also feel free to disseminate the attached flyer among your contacts who may be interested in meeting us: Flyer.

Hope to see you there! In the meanwhile, please knock yourself out analyzing the following data…


Towards the 4-D Honeycomb: Thursday, November 02

6 p.m. in Bowman 205. Pizza and drinks will be served.

Abstract: The honeycomb is an incredible natural structure that exhibits many intriguing mathematical properties. For instance, if you took a slice of the honeycomb you would see hexagonal cells, which for a given amount of area is the most cost-effective shape that slots together to fill space. In other words, hexagons tile the plane and do so with the least perimeter; that is why bees love them! Now the question arises, what does a 3-D chunk of a 4-D honeycomb look like? What shape tiles space with the least amount of surface area? We make progress in answering this question by proving the first non-trivial case for a 3-D solid and show the best tetrahedron (pyramid with a triangular base) that tiles space.

About the lecturer: Arjun Kakkar is a senior math major at Williams College and an international student from New Delhi, India. Driven by his passion for the application of math in a wide variety of fields he has worked as a consultant, a quantitative analyst and a researcher in mathematics. His research interests include geometry, mathematical modeling and computational techniques for problem-solving. For his senior thesis in mathematics, he is working on modeling of vegetation patterns in semi-arid regions under the  guidance of Professor Chad Topaz, Williams College.

Flyer: Kakkar_Flyer

Math Talk at Worcester Polytechnic Institute: Thursday, September 28

Please see the attached flyer about an upcoming talk at Worcester Polytechnic Institute entitled “Extreme Equally: How to Create a More Prosperous and Inclusive Society Using Math”. The talk will be given by John Mighton, a playwright turned mathematician and author whom you might have, incidentally, seen in the 1997 movie ‘Good Will Hunting’, where he played Matt Damon’s math tutor.

The talk is in Worcester at 5 p.m., and Erin Kiley will leave by car from MCLA’s campus around 2 p.m.; please let her know (emkiley@mcla.eduon or before Monday, September 25 if you are interested in attending, and transportation will be arranged.




The mission of the Quantitative Understanding Across the Curriculum (QUAC) group at MCLA is to promote and support development of and engagement with the quantitative sciences across the curriculum at all levels, and to create an institutional culture of bravery and positivity toward numeracy.

In support of its mission, QUAC reaches out to faculty in all disciplines through its professional development offerings, including workshops and reading discussions. Our group works together with CSSE to encourage students through development of resources to support their academic achievement, and provides a local support network to K-12 educators in the quantitative disciplines. We also endeavor to work through the STEM Network to engage in outreach to the community.

We hope to use this blog to disseminate information and links that will be of interest to our community.