Newsletter #89     Brown Bags and Women's Mathematical Organizations!

For the numerically concerned, I should perhaps explain that my previous newsletter, which owing to a difference of opinion with my computer I inadvertently sent out twice, was neither #86 nor #87, as the respective duplicates were labeled, but actually #88. I seem to have a difference of opinion with the numeric system as well. If I were a little further in arrears this one could have the title "Four Brown Bags and an Article", but it's just two Brown Bags, so it will have to go titleless.

The first of the Brown Bags happened two weeks ago, and was a discussion of the current state of our calculus program. This requires a little background: for the past several years, we have been studying our calculus classes and looking at calculus as taught at a number of other places and cogitating whether change was needed and if so what change or changes. Over time this has indeed resulted in a number of differences, and more are likely -- it is very much a work in progress. A year or two ago we introduced a couple of subsequences specifically aimed at students who are pointed towards a life sciences major or a math major. They seem to be tooling along nicely and were not part of this particular discussion. More recently, in the sequence which still serves the bulk of our calculus students, we have introduced a new textbook (last year -- Stewart) and a new quiz section structure (this year.) The changes under discussion were chiefly the newest ones, though they also related a bit to the textbook issue. The feeling as of last year was that although Stewart provides a number of good, solid application problems, the structure of three lectures and two 50 minute TA sections a week provided no chunks of time extensive enough for students really to dig in together and tussle with them or their like. Accordingly, with the support of the university administration, we extended one of the TA sections to 80 minutes each week. The other stayed at 50. The idea is that the 80 minute one has enough thinking room in it to accommodate deeper problems.

The question on the floor, then, was "So how's it going?" Or more to the point "How'd it go?", because just one quarter of one course has been completed so far. Several instructors and TAs kindly turned up, and other TAs sent me very thoughtful e-mail messages. The general tenor of the comments seemed to me positive, even though nobody laid claim to perfection. Last quarter John Sylvester was one of his own TAs, which was very enlightening. This quarter, Dave Collingwood is taking a purely TA position for one section and getting some really interesting perspectives ("My TAs always told me there wasn't enough time for going over problems, and you know what? They were right!") An unresolved issue is the degree to which to uniformize the use of the time. One thing militating in favor of at least starting with some worksheets for everyone to use at once is that that way TAs could have some preparation together. In days of yore (way yore -- the seventies) when the Math 156-7 posse declared that TA sections were to be used for group work the assumption was that TAs needed both convincing and assisting, and correspondingly there was a seminar for them going right along with the course. Now we've used group work enough so that the feeling is that everybody knows about it and has bought into it -- but it ain't necessarily so. Clearly many have, though, and one thing quite evident is that a number of truly excellent things occurred in the course of the quarter.

Today's Brown Bag was lightly attended and very mellow -- a reasonable counterpart to the previous one. We watched a videotaped talk given by John Kemeny in the late eighties, describing how the advent of computers had changed his views both of what mathematics should be taught and of how mathematics should be taught. Then we talked a while about what has and hasn't changed since those long ago (in computer terms) days. The nice thing about the conversation was that it included two of our Community College colleagues here with the E.S.P. (= Educators' Sabbatical Program) so that we had more breadth of perspective than would otherwise have been possible.

That's it for Brown Bags, and for narrative in general. The rest of this is an upcoming AWM column. It stems from a meeting I ran in San Diego where members of the AWM Education Committee kept mentioning interesting organizations of and/or for women in mathematics and I kept saying "hunh?" They finally took pity on me and agreed to compile a list of the major ones, complete with descriptions. On the theory that my ignorance is probably widely shared, we turned it into this issue's education column. It was so well and formally done that I squelched my temptation to toss in a reference to the ongoing organization of women graduate students at Berkeley that bears the splendid title of the Noetherian Ring. Here follows a serious and highly informative column.

This column has two sources of motivation, both of them originating in events at the Joint Meetings in San Diego. The first such event was the meeting of the AWM Education Committee, at which a number of organizations involving women and mathematics were mentioned. Almost invariably the mention provoked an "Oh, really? Who's that?" from at least one other committee member. We concluded that we would enjoy and profit from sorting them out, and decided that the resulting clarification would probably interest many of the rest of you, too. Further motivation developed when some of us attended the session on evaluating outreach programs for women and girls sponsored by the MAA Committee on the Participation of Women. In that session one of the presenters commented that, for outreach programs with small budgets, an evaluator might well be a graduate student. It occurred to us that several organizations such as WME, PME, or IOWME might be a source for such a graduate student evaluator. Outreach programs might also find mathematician presenters from organizations such as WiMS (and, of course, AWM.)

Since your column editor was the one who most consistently registered surprise at the existence of an organization, this column is almost entirely guest-written by committee members, notably Cathy Kessel, to whom many thanks.

The list below is not meant to be exhaustive. The descriptions are meant to help readers distinguish the organizations from each other, rather than to provide complete information. Unless otherwise indicated membership information is provided on the organization's Web site. Organizations appear in alphabetical order.

The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) has its Web site at Benefits of AWIS membership include a quarterly magazine, a biweekly email listing of announcements relevant to women in science, access to Science Magazine's NextWave Web site, and support of AWIS's advocacy for women in Washington and elsewhere. The AWIS Web site is extensive, including for example, statistics on women and girls in science (see AWIS is an affiliate of MentorNet, an organization that pairs undergraduate and graduate women in science and engineering with professionals in industry. The current AWIS president is Linda Mantel. Jill Sideman is the president-elect.

The International Organization of Women and Mathematics Education (IOWME) is an affiliate of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI, Some information and biennial newsletters can be found on its Web site ( There is no membership fee. To receive the IOWME Newsletter, contact the national coordinator for your country listed on the Web site. The convenor, Jo Boaler, says that a new Web site and an update are in progress. A December 2000 report is available at ICMI holds study conferences whose results are published by Kluwer. One such conference was held in Sweden in 1993 and resulted in Toward Gender Equity in Mathematics Education, edited by Gila Hanna. IOWME met at ICME-9 (the ninth International Congress on Mathematical Education). The results of that meeting are to be published by Greenwood as Which Way Social Justice in Mathematics Education?

The Math/Science Network encourages 6-12 grade young women nationwide to persevere in math and science through hands-on activities at volunteer-led Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) conferences licensed to over 100 locations each year. These one-day EYH conferences provide young women with opportunities to meet and interact with positive women role models who are active in math and science related careers and encourage young women to study as much math and science as possible by showing them the benefits of education and its relevance to their lives. (See the Web site or the November AWM Newsletter.) Benefits of membership in the Network include a quarterly newsletter which features articles about EYH and news and commentary about gender equity in math and science.

The National Security Agency's Women in Mathematics Society (WiMS) has a Web site at Its mission is "To encourage the professional development of women both within the mathematics community at the National Security Agency and within the national mathematical infrastructure." NSA funds the AWM's Sonia Kovalevsky Days and WiMS frequently sends mathematicians to those conferences as well as supporting other mathematics enrichment programs, in particular the George Washington University Summer Program for Women in Mathematics, a five-week enrichment program for third-year undergraduate women in mathematical areas. WiMS participates in the Joint Meetings and hosts an open reception there annually. Membership is open to any NSA employee.

Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME, and PME-NA, has working groups on gender. PME members are sometimes involved in the preparation of special issues of the journal Educational Studies in Mathematics, including a 1995 special issue on gender edited by Gilah Leder. The PME-NA Gender and Mathematics Education Working Group started in 1998 and has been meeting annually, with different leaders and is currently gathering for a monograph with the working title Research, Reflections, and Revelations on Gender and Mathematics: Multiple Perspectives. For more information contact Diana Erchick (

The Women and Mathematics Program (W&M), which has been supported by the MAA from 1975 through 1996, has offered over the years many career awareness programs in 20 regions of the country, touching over 200,000 pre-college young women. The MAA Committee on the Participation of Women recommended that WAM, as then constituted, be ended and that the Women and Mathematics Network organization be initiated in a format more appropriate to current trends and needs. The proposal was accepted by the Executive and Finance Committee of the MAA. Members of the Women and Mathematics Network are individuals concerned about the issues of sustaining interest in continuing in mathematics and changing the culture so that women are welcomed into mathematics-based professions. Access is a major issue. Many members are directors of outreach programs for young women. These directors, most of whom are MAA members, are interested in gaining expertise in how to better conduct their programs and sharing ideas about what they are doing. The group meets regularly at the January Joint Meetings to attend workshops and share ideas. Recently this organization sponsored a summer conference, Women Count, for experienced and prospective directors of mathematics outreach programs (see the November AWM Newsletter). Its Web site is Betsy Yanik (, who is on the AWM Education Committee, is the director of W&M.

Women and Mathematics Education (WME) is an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and holds sessions at the annual NCTM meetings. Its Web site is Its general purpose is "to promote the mathematics education of girls and women." Members receive a resource bibliography, special publications of interest, a membership directory, and fall, winter, and summer newsletters. A recent issue of its newsletter included an article about Florence Nightingale's work in statistics. Our former Education Column Editor, Sally Lipsey, is the WME past president. Karen Dee Michalowicz ( is the current President.

We append one final reference -- not alphabetized, because it is more specialized than the rest, but included because it has such an excellent set of links to other organizations, specialized or not: the Caucus for Women in Statistics has a very useful web site at

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