CMSC 2014

Creative Mathematical Sciences Communication

Ramanujan Auditorium

9-12 December 2014

This is the second in a conference series that explores new ways of helping students achieve 21st Century competencies in mathematics and computer science, which includes math activities across the curriculum. The first conference in the series, held in Charles Darwin University, Northern Territories, Australia, from August 2 to 8, 2013, saw a unique interaction between artists (theatre, dance, graphic arts) and mathematicians / mathematics educators.

The main theme of the conference is popularizing the rich mathematics underlying computer science, a new kind of mathematics much of the school / college education community is largely untouched by. And yet, this has the potential to unlock a great amount of creativity, currently stifled by the calculus oriented math curricula. We do NOT wish to discuss how to make math easy, or how to teach topic X or Y in the syllabus easily, but to attract children to open problems, to dare reach for gold. We believe that combinatorics and computer science mathematics offer extensive opportunities in this regard.

Importantly, the conference aims to engage research mathematical scientists in outreach and communication. Bringing together researchers, educators and communicators committed to bringing exploration and discovery into classrooms and among the educated public, the conference hopes to explore new ways of thinking initiated by Computer Science Unplugged and other similar efforts in the 1990s.

The conference features keynote talks by researchers and communicators with original work in popularizing mathematics and computer science, and sharing of experience by activists with extensive experience in education and outreach.

The conference is being held at The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai from December 9 to 12, 2014.

Participation in the conference is open to everyone and will be limited only by logistical constraints.

Please note that the conference will be streamed live. During talk timings, please visit: CMSC live stream .

On the 8th, there is a discussion meeting on Multivariate Algorithmics: Fresh Ideas and New Results at Alladi Ramakrishnan Hall from 9-30 AM to 5 PM.

Schedule outline


Other participants include

  • Mike Fellows on "Infinity for Kids: As Concretely as Possible - Some New Ideas":
    The talk will begin with a few anecdotes about the spell that the notion of infinity seems to cast on children as young as 5-6-7 years of age. How to make this conceptual curiousity mathematically concrete for them? The talk will offer a few new ideas about that, from on-going research projects where some of the open problems can be explained to anyone, including 5-6-7s. And the Rainbow Snake, which appeared at the first CMSC, will make another appearance.

    Note on speaker: Professor Mike Fellows (Charles Darwin University, Australia) is a co-author (with Tim Bell and Ian Witten) of the internationally award-winning book Computer Science Unplugged, about the mathematical underpinnings of computing. Prior to that was the book This is MEGA-Mathematics (with Nancy Casey) sponsored by the USA Los Alamos National Laboratories (freely available fromtheir website --- it has a more pure mathematical focus). Mike is an internationally prominent mathematical scientist, originally from California.

  • Matt Skoss on "My Journey with Cubes and Hyper-Cubes":
    I am utterly convinced that effective Mathematics teachers need to skulk in dark corners with other classroom teachers, Mathematics Education researchers and Mathematicians. Keeping company with thinking people in each of these sectors is essential for a happy, healthy and cheerful Mathematics classroom, as each has a significant contribution to make to the instructional practice of classroom teachers.
    This session will offer a brief overview into my learning about probability, network theory and Gray codes, arising from the Annual Maths Enrichment camps held in Alice Springs and Darwin under the auspices of the Mathematics Teachers' Association of the Northern Territory. These camps are the legacy of teachers, Maths Education and mathematicians collaborating.

    Note on speaker: Matt Skoss is an experienced classroom teacher, having taught for over 27 years. He is currently teaching at Centralian Senior College, with a role coordinating Maths, Science & Health/Physical Education. He has enjoyed several curriculum roles with a Maths and ICT focus for NT Department of Education.
    Matt also works as a consultant for schools in Australia, with a strong interest in supporting remote and country schools. Matt has a strong belief in making Mathematics accessible and highly visual to all students, using digital resources. He likes to make powerful, but incidental use of learning technologies and Web 2.0 tools to amplify student learning.
    Resources that might be useful for classroom teachers are uploaded to his Maths? No Fear! wiki.

  • Ambat Vijayakumar on "Mathematics is everywhere- some attempts to encourage creativity among students in Kerala" :
    In this talk I shall share some experiences of my attempts to encourage the math thoughts among school/college students in Kerala. We have many forums for these, the most prominent being the print media in the regional language MALAYALAM. As also , the ‘ SASTRAYAAN ‘project a unique programme aimed at making science learning a meaningful experience initiated by a member of Legislative Assembly of Kerala, and the Cochin Olympiad – a project of Cochin Diocese. We also have the INSPIRE programme of DST, GOI . We spread the fact that there are many challenges and success stories out side calculus and mathematics is everywhere around us if you observe closely.

    Note on speaker: Ambat Vijayakumar is a professor in CUSAT who is very much interested in Math popularization and history of Mathematics. He is also the member of Ramanujam Society, American Mathematical society, Canadian Mathematical society, Cryptology research societu of India and many other professional societies. He is a council member of Indian Mathematical society and Academic secretary of Kerala Mathematics Teachers' Association. He is the regional co-ordinator of Math Olympiad since 1990. Writes popular articles on many aspects of mathematics in Malayalam and English for school children.He is also the mentor for INSPIRE Programme of DST for school children.

  • Erika Pickworth on "Patterns Preschoolers and Processors" :
    Sorting and categorising are both vital skills needed for programming and computing and both these skills can be found in the basic activity of creating patterns. Patterns, Pre-schoolers and Processors looks at the links between patterning and the thought processes that are developed through creating and identifying patterns. The talk further explores the idea that children learn the essential skills of sorting and categorising faster when they perceive activities that develop these skills as a game and not school work. Patterns, Pre-schoolers and Processors is the result of an investigation that was conducted, firstly with a group of pre-schoolers then with a group of Australian Indigenous students, in order to establish how much students knew about repeating patterns. The results showed that intentional play based learning makes education fun, resulting in students wanting to engage with educational activities. Patterns, Pre-schoolers and Processors additionally considers the possibility of using the concepts of sorting, categorising and patterning in the education of students with special needs, whether it be gifted, ASD, ADHD, dyslexia or other needs.

    Note on speaker: Erika Pickworth is a multi-faceted lady. Her life journey is inspiring and although she could be considered a ‘Jack of all trades’ having dabbled in the Sales and Management Arenas, lovingly laboured in Home Schooling and ardently parented a bustling household of boisterous Indigenous teenage girls in a remote boarding program, she is slowly becoming a master of some! As a mature-age education student in her final year of study, she stands on the threshold of an exciting and rewarding career in which she passionately aspires to work with students who learn differently; especially those who are diagnosed on the Autistic Spectrum, have ADHD or are ESL/D students. Embracing her own ADHD diagnosis with brutal honesty and a refreshing sense of humour, she delights in intentionally striving to engage her learners in accessible learning opportunities which are both fun and meaningful!

  • Sunita Vatuk "Art, Math, and the Qualitative: Changing the Focus in the Math Classroom" :
    I will share my observations about the potential benefits and challenges gleaned from a wide variety of projects integrating math and a variety of visual arts in college and K-12 classrooms, museums and after school activities. Some of the greatest potential is in the area of classroom norms or culture. Many math classrooms do not reflect values which are professed by mathematicians and math teachers, and arts-based activities have great potential to bring classroom culture more in line with those values. Looking at and discussing art can create more rigorous and more creative modes of discourse and engage a wider set of students. Making art gives opportunities for richer and more authentic problem solving. And looking at and analyzing art can help change the focus to crucial qualitative features of mathematical objects, leading to greater conceptual understanding. All of these activities can help bring students' intuition and ideas into the classroom. However, for these to be most effective, it is important to create genuine collaboration between artists or craftspeople and mathematicians or math teachers, and to include arts learning goals as well as math learning goals.

    Note on speaker: Dr. Sunita Vatuk is a mathematician and math educator at the City College of New York. She received her physics (BA) and math (BA, MA, and PhD) education first at the University of California at Berkeley and then at Princeton University, and her artistic education at community and professional schools of ceramics and photography in all three cities. Outside of the differential geometric analysis of systems of partial differential equations, her interests focus on the nature of mathematical thinking in activities that are not math per se, but have some relationship to it. In 2012, she spent 10 months on a Fulbright-Nehru fellowship studying mathematical thinking among Tamilian women who are experts in the traditional art of kolam. While in graduate school at Princeton she worked as a teaching artist, collaborating with high school math teachers in schools in the Bronx, NY. She has given numerous workshops and classes on math and art for college students and math teachers, including a collaborative series -- "Art Looks at Math, Math Looks at Art" -- at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and an ongoing collaboration -- "Paper Constructs" -- with fellow-Fulbrighter and artist Tanya Hastings Gill. In Spring 2015, she is teaching a course and giving workshops for math teachers on mathematical aspects of the Catalan architect Gaudi at CCNY in conjunction with an exhibit at CCNY and publishing a book Kolamology: Exploring Kolams, Making Mathematics with Tara Books, Chennai.

  • Noy Rotbart on "Class activity and self study":
    Ideas for incorporation of technology in teaching. I will present two technological ideas to assist with both class activity and self study.

    Note on speaker: Noy Rotbart is a third year computer science phd student at the university of Copenhagen. He has taught math and riddles in high schools, and currently teaching algorithms at the university of Copenhagen. In addition, he has taken part in two start ups for technological solutions for education.

  • Anita Rampal on "Problem posing pedagogies: Situated learning in mathematics ":

    Note on speaker: Anita Rampal is a Professor, Elementary and Social Education at Delhi University. She worked for many years with Eklavya which brought a major attitudinal change in science education in the country, and was Director of National Literacy Resource Centre, Mussoorie for some years when she contributed to adult education. Her research interests include participatory curriculum development for formal and non-formal education systems with a focus on critical pedagogy; cognition and communication of science and mathematics including indigenous knowledge systems; policy analysis for equity in education; teacher education; literacy and human development.

  • Ruediger Reischuk on "Games to illustrate adversial strategies in algorithm design":
    We consider synchronisation problems for distributed systems like leader election, time synchronisation and Byzantine agreement. They can be modeled by games between several players that communicate by pairwise exchanging oral or written messages. To understand the essence of basic algorithmic problems like searching, and online settings, for example caching or scheduling (ski rental, secretary selection) a useful method is trying to construct worst case szenarios. Similarly, this could be supported by appropriate game settings. We discuss possible realization.

    Note on speaker:Ruediger Reischuk's research interests are algorithmics, computational complexity, parallel and distributed computing and IT security. Being chair of the Institut fuer Theoretische Informatik at the University in Luebeck he has coordinated the Bachelor and Master programmes in Luebeck for many years. Constructing physical models to illustrate algorithmic problems and solution strategies is one of his hobbies. He has acted as editor of the book Algorithmen zum Anfassen (in German) and the English translation Algorithms Unplugged.

  • Wolfgang Slany on "Learning programming with Pocket Code, a Scratch-like Android app" :
    Pocket Code encourages teenagers, both girls as well as boys, to acquire, in Papert's constructionist way, the programming skills fundamentally important for our future society. No PC is needed, as Pocket Code is entirely used on the phones or tablets privately owned by kids or provided by schools. Pocket Code is freely available through the Android Play Store and is a featured STEM application on Google Play for Education. It has won the Austrian national innovation award in 2013, was extensively used during the European Code Week 2014, and is available in many languages. The Pocket Code team closely cooperates with MIT's Scratch team, and Scratch programs automatically can be converted to Pocket Code. Pocket Code also allows to easily program Lego Mindstorms robots, which allows kids to give the robots an animated face and a voice by attaching the phoneto the robot, as well as to use face detection programming blocks that allow to find out if and where a person stands in front of the robot and to, e.g., turn the robot to that person. Pocket Code also encourages teenagers to tinker with electronics by greatly simplifying Arduino or Raspberry Pi programming. Pocket Code can be easily integrated into, e.g., language or science classes at school, and provides ample introductory material for both teachers and kids. Pocket Code fosters creativity and allows kids to express themselves in a million different ways with their smartphones and tablets.

    Note on speaker: Wolfgang Slany has taught computer science for 25 years, both at universities as well as in schools. Together with 300 volunteers, he has developed Pocket Code since 2010. He is a full professor of computer science at Graz University of Technology.

  • Jonaki Ghosh on "Developing student's mathematical thinking through investigatory projects" :
    One of the primary goals of mathematics education is to ensure that students learn mathematics with understanding. The emphasis in the mathematics classroom, especially at the school level, needs to shift from memorising procedures and techniques to conjecturing, meaningful problem solving and developing mathematical reasoning. In order to achieve this goal it is important for teachers and educators to delve into the various aspects of the nature of mathematics and find ways of helping students develop their mathematical thinking.
    In this presentation we shall highlight that investigatory projects offer students tremendous scope to explore mathematical ideas, appreciate a wider range of mathematics and apply mathematical concepts to real life situations. Examples of student's investigations, in projects based on topics such as cryptography, numerical methods, Fourier series and fractal geometry will be illustrated where technology in the form of Computer Algebra Systems, graphing software and spreadsheets were used for exploration and computation. It will be shown that projects can inspire students to explore higher level mathematics and provide many learning opportunities for engaging in mathematical processes such as simplifying and generalizing problems, looking for patterns, problem posing and generating new questions for exploration.

  • Note on speaker: Jonaki Ghosh is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Elementary Education, Lady Sri Ram College, University of Delhi where she teaches courses related to mathematics education. Her primary area of interest is in use of technology in mathematics instruction and in the professional development of mathematics teachers. She has set up the Ramanujan Foundation for Initiatives in Mathematics Education (RFIME) which regularly conducts workshops and training programs for mathematics teachers of all levels, from elementary school to senior secondary school. Her workshops focus on innovative practices in teaching mathematics through hands – on activities and technology and emphasize on enhancing the content knowledge of teachers. She contributes regularly to *At Right Angles,* a mathematics magazine published by the Azim Premji Foundation and has authored books for school students.

  • Tim Bell on "CS Unplugged and the new school curricula":
    As new computing curricula are being developed around the world and the Computer Science is being contemplated for primary school level in several countries, the CS Unplugged approach is generating renewed interest, and is being adapted for this new context. We will look at what is happening in several countries, including pilots in schools, teacher training, and new activities that have been developed.

    Note on speaker: Tim Bell is a full professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. His main current research interest is computer science education (including the CS Unplugged project, and the CS Field Guide). Recently he has been actively involved in the design and deployment of new computer science standards in New Zealand high schools.

  • Fred Sagwe on "Case for ICT, Computer Science and Chess in Early Childhood Education: Redesigning the Kenyan Curriculum":
    The study is aimed to show ways in which ICT, Computer Science and Chess can be rewritten in the context of the anticipated curriculum overhaul by the year 2016. Understand and take advantages of the benefits offered by fusing, combining and teaching the three disciplines in the elementary school level to higher institutions of learning. A review of literature and case study research design revealed ways in which the trio could be used to reinforce understanding of abstract concepts in the entire curriculum especially strengthening of: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), languages, humanities and art. This led to a plan to respond to the research question “Need to integrate ICT, Computer Science and Chess in the Kenyan Curriculum by the year 2016 “in this 21st century conceptual age that demands a host of new and complex thinking and cognitive skills and as such teaching priorities have to adjust to accommodate and foster these new demands. In this regard the study suggests radical changes to be undertaken on rewriting and redesigning the current curriculum by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) with the public participation and other relevant stakeholders. A proposal to design a project to encourage the research that links education, cognitive science, neuroscience with ICT, Computer Science and chess. In a nutshell, ICT ,Computer Science and Chess ,have no barriers in terms of age,class,society ,anyone can learn the foundations and the basics of the 3 disciplines from an elementary level, both are used as educational tools to aid learning ,and the combined fundamental knowledge is needed to prepare students for the 21st century, regardless of their ultimate field of study and occupation.

    Note on speaker: Fred Sagwe teaches computer studies/science in Tabaka Boy's High School,Kisii.Got passion for technology,coding and chess.Works with the Ministry of Education Research and Technology in 1-to-1 National Laptop project as an ICT Master Trainer,an ICT Champion in charge of his district secondary schools ICT integration.Is at the forefront in championing for integration of ICT,Computer Science (coding), and Chess in Early Childhood Education in the Kenya curriculum by 2016.

  • Vivek Monteiro on "Mattermatics":
    At an elementary level there is a close connection between physical structures, mathematical structures and the construction of understanding. This can be used as an effective tool for introducing mathematics at all levels from pre-school to graduate school. Based on the principle that “Addition is joining, joining is addition”, we construct different shapes and observe the numbers within them to develop perspectives on the architectures of matter and mathematics.

    Note on speaker : Vivek Monteiro received a M.S from Caltech in 1970 and a PhD in Theoretical Physics from SUNY Stony Brook in 1974 with a thesis on "Irreversibility in the Hard Sphere Gas" . Thereafter, he returned to India and switched fields to work as a labour organiser. He is currently State secretary for the Centre of Indian Trade Unions , Maharashtra State. His uninterrupted interest in science and mathematics education motivated him to help found Navnirmiti. Navnirmiti is an organization working for universalization of quality mathematics and science education for everyone. He is also an executive committee member of the All India People’s Science Network.

  • Verena Sprecht-Ronique (performance and discussion) on "Adventures with the DRAGON - An interactive performance" :
    Mathematics and Theatre: Finding methods and new ways of Education through Art. Experiences within the program of "tanz und theater machen stark" in Kultur macht stark. Bündnisse für Bildung" an initiative of the Federal Ministery of Education and Research, Germany.

    Note on speaker: Verena Specht-Ronique lived for almost 4 years in London, studied Acting at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Currently studying Cultural Anthropology, Sociology and Philosophy at Goethe University Frankfurt Main. Works as a freelance actress. In the 2013 conference, Verena presented Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, adapted for ExperiMinta Science Center Frankfurt.
    More on her can be found here

  • Benny Chor on "Teaching Computer Science and Computational Thinking to middle school kids and to life science students" :
    In the first part of this talk, we describe our experience in teaching computer science "in the community". We train 3rd year CS students from Tel-Aviv University, who in turn hold weekly meetings with middle school kids in communities of low socio-economic status in the greater Tel-Aviv area. The students teach activities from "Computer Science Unplugged", as well as activities designed by the students themselves. In addition, and following popular demand, part of these meetings are devoted to introductory programming, typically using Scratch. Each group also visits a start up company in Tel Aviv. Last but not least, in addition to scientific and computational thinking, the kids are exposed to the fun and excitement of CS. From our experience, both the kids and the students benefit from the scientific as well as the social aspects of this ongoing interaction.
    In the second part of this talk, we join the increasing call to take computational education of life science students a step further, beyond teaching mere programming and employing existing software tools. We describe a new course we developed, enriching the curriculum of life science students with abstract, algorithmic, and logical thinking, and exposing them to the computational culture.
    The CS@MS project was done jointly (over many years) with Shimon Schocken, Assaf Zaritsky, Noga Levy-Oron, Didi Amar and Yasmin Denenberg. The CS@LS project is joint work with Amir Rubinstein.

    Note on speaker: Benny Chor received a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science at MIT, in 1980, 1981, and 1985, respectively. His Ph.D. thesis, under the supervision of Professor Ron Rivest, was titled "two issues in public key cryptography". In 1985-1987 he was post-doctoral fellow at MIT and at Harvard University. He was a faculty member with the Faculty of Computer Science at the Technion during the years 1987-2001. From 2001, he is a faculty member with the School of Computer Science at Tel-Aviv University.
    Benny Chor has supervised 7 Ph.D. students and 20 M.Sc. students. His research interests span cryptography, distributed computing, computational biology, and Computer Science and Mathematics education.

  • Maya Saran on "What's the point? Some answers to this question":
    Why should I learn this? Why should I learn it this way? Why should one teach it this way?
    While all mathematics instructors encounter versions of these questions,the questioning gets particularly intense when one oversteps familiar boundaries (within which mathematics is seen as a technical toolkit) and tries to teach true mathematical thinking. One of the most challenging contexts in which these questions arise is when students have a strongtechnical background and feel they already know how to "do math". In this talk I will share some of my attempts at providing meaningful answers,drawing on research in neuroscience and psychology, and on my own experiences in classes, workshops, and teachers' workshops.

    Note on speaker: Maya Saran is Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Ashoka University in Kundli, Haryana. She earned her PhD at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and her research is in Descriptive Set Theory.

  • T.V. Venkateswaran on "Mass mathematics popularisation programmes":
    Inspired by the National Year of Mathematics 2012, Vigyan Prasar took specific efforts to popularise mathematics in mass media and also develop sensitisation programme for mathematics enthusiasts and teachers. The campaign included among other things, development and production of radio serial, a TV serial, series of workshops for journalist, development of a handbook for sensitisation programme. Wide outreach was initiated by linking with non-governmental agencies such as All India Peoples Science Network, BGVS and NCSTC network. The activities undertaken under this initiative are reported.

    Note on speaker: T.V.Venkateswaran, is a scientist with Vigyan Prasar, has been a science writer with contributions to several periodicals including Frontline, Down to Earth, Sandarb, Thulir, and so on. He has many science TV documentaries to his credit. He is actively involved with civil society movements for public communication of science and technology. He has organised many capacity building short-term training programmes for teachers and science enthusiasts. His book titled A Revolutionary Scientist: *Einstein *& His Ideas published by NBT has come out in many editions. He delivers popular science lectures to public and conducts training for media students on science communication. His research interest includes history of science popularization, science in Indian media and risk communication.

  • Sarah Carruthers on: "Sparking interest in mathematics and computing: Outreach efforts at the University of Victoria"
    We face many challenges when trying to increase mathematics and science literacy. At the University of Victoria, a number of initiatives exist to try to better reach traditionally underrepresented groups. In this talk we highlight our mathematics, computing science and science outreach efforts with remote communities and aboriginal groups. We demonstrate how we have made science and math education relevant and engaging by linking it with art, music and culture.

  • Nina Gierasimczuk on: "Improving logic education through games in a massively used online learning system. A proof-theoretic approach"
    We propose a new way to analyze logical reasoning in a deductive version of the Mastermind game implemented within a popular Dutch online educational learning system (Math Garden). Our main goal is to derive predictions about the difficulty of Deductive Mastermind tasks. By means of a logical analysis we derive the number of steps needed for solving these tasks (a proxy for working memory load). Our model is based on the analytic tableaux method, known from proof theory. We associate the difficulty of Deductive Mastermind game-items with the size of the corresponding logical trees obtained by the tableaux method. We derive empirical hypotheses from this model. A large group of students (over 37 thousand children, 5-12 years of age) played the Deductive Mastermind game, which gave empirical difficulty ratings of all 321 game-items. The results show that our logical approach predicts these item ratings well, which supports the psychological relevance of our model.

    Note on speaker: Nina Gierasimczuk is a postdoctoral researcher at the ILLC funded by her individual NWO research Veni 2013 grant: Learning from each other: Formal analysis of multi-agent learning. She obtained her PhD in Computer Science from University of Amsterdam and her MPhil in Philosophy from University of Warsaw. Her areas of research include formal epistemology, formal learning theory, dynamic epistemic logic, computability theory, belief revision, and multi-agent systems. She is also actively involved in research into the role of logic and logical modeling in cognitive science. For more information see her website .

  • Valia Mitsou on: "Mathematical induction: games and activities"
    Mathematical induction, if introduced using the blackboard can be somewhat dull. I will describe several group activities and games that a teacher can use in order to make this task more fun! These activities were successfully used while I was teaching a class on Paradoxes and Infinities to students in grades 7-9 at the summer program of the Center for Talented Youth of Johns Hopkins University.

    Note on speaker: Valia Mitsou is currently a postdoctoral researcher with the Japan Science and Technology agency. She received her PhD in computer science in 2014 from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her PhD research focused on the algorithmic properties of puzzles and two-player games. During her PhD studies, she has had the privilege to teach mathematics and computer science for a number of extracurricular programs and a wide range of grades: she has taught twice at the summer programs organized by the Center for Talented Youth of Johns Hopkins University (mostly grades 7-9); she was a NY Academy of Science math mentor for 3 semesters, teaching elementary school students mathematics; last, she has taught for the Bridges to Computing summer program organized by Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (grades 10-12). In addition to that, she has also taught for several semesters computer science courses at City College and Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.