UNC’s Celebration of Mind: a math-magical night


     The University of Northern Colorado hosted the 10th annual Celebration of Mind with a lecture and festival on Oct. 23.

Onlookers were greeted by math themed portraits of UNC’s mascot. Photo courtesy of Morgan Mckenzie.

     Forty-five students, faculty and guests showed up to the hour-long public lecture in Ross Hall given by Dr. Heather Russel. Russel is an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Richmond and received her doctorate in mathematics in 2009. She came to UNC to speak about her research project, “A Graph Coloring Reconfiguration Problem.”

     Katie Morrison, a UNC associate professor in the school of mathematical sciences, introduced Russel to the attendees.

     “She is passionate about involving students in her research and building a more inclusive math community,” Morrison said. 

       Involving students is exactly what Russel did during her lecture, crowd participation was encouraged throughout. She asked multiple mathematical questions and the people listening were able to guess the correct answers. 


      Along with crowd participation, she discussed working on the graph coloring reconfiguration problem. She worked with several colleagues, students and other mathematicians on the research. One of those people was Ruth Haas, the president of the Association for Women in Mathematics, who introduced her to the project.

      Russel also demonstrated a software developed by colleagues and students in computer science, the software analyzes and visualizes coloring graphs. After her demonstration, the lecture ended with a true or false quiz about math. 

      “Thank you for your attention and thank you for inviting me to speak,” Russel concluded. 

Creative and bright posters welcomed students and faculty to the lecture and festival for the 10th annual year. Photo courtesy of Morgan Mckenzie.

        The second part of Celebration of Mind began at 6:30 p.m. in the UC Panorama Room. The festival had 13 tables of all different types of math related games, puzzles and entertainment. Over 100 people of all ages showed up for a fun night of activities. Activities gave people a chance to learn how to play Set and 24, build with Zometools, play Chomp v. Chomp or make hexaflexagons. One table offered a chance to win math-related prizes by estimating the volume of a pumpkin. 

        Jenna Krieschel, a UNC graduate student in educational mathematics, attended both the lecture and the festival. She enjoyed how much math was at the event and getting to do the fun recreational math offered. 

        “I remember when I was first introduced to these manipulatives, and these games and these logic puzzles,” Krieschel said. “I always found them really fun and so I’m kind of hoping some of that spreads.”

         Dan Van der Vieren, another graduate mathematics student at UNC, showcased his master’s capstone project. He finds ways to enrich STEM education by incorporating mosaic art and math using a Rubik’s Cube. He spent three hours making the UNC bear mascot out of Rubik’s Cube pieces to display at the festival.

           The festival ended with a magic show filled with comedy and mathematical tricks put on by Oscar Levin, an associate professor of mathematical sciences at UNC. 


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