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FMU Math Department Ready to Tackle & Solve Community Problems

 FLORENCE -- Remember “word problems” from your high school math class?  If Harry left at 5 p.m. traveling 70 miles per hour, and Jane left at … Or, how about, a school district has 1,000 students to pick up by bus to deliver to two schools.  Draw routes reflecting the most efficient use of the district’s resources, given that the district has five buses, eight routes and …

In an attempt to show the community how math helps to resolve every-day issues, the Francis Marion University math faculty is issuing a challenge to the Pee Dee community.  The challenge is for community organizations and service agencies to give their head-scratching puzzles, problems and scenarios to the FMU math faculty for solving.   The service is free.

“Give us a problem, and we’ll work to solve it,” says Bill Fox, chairman of the FMU Department of Mathematics.  “We’d like to provide this service to the community.  The community provides us proposals, and the math department seeks to resolve them.”

Service agencies and community organizations often deal with situations needing mathematical analysis.   For instance, a food bank may need to decide how much fresh, frozen or canned food it needs to have on hand to meet a certain need, or peak season; a city or county council may be working with the implications of statistics in a consultant’s report; an expanding school district may need help prioritizing tasks, interpreting statistics, determining best busing schedules, and the 12-member FMU math faculty, is ready to help help interpret findings and to provide the mathematical problem solving skills necessary. 

A civic organization is hoping to provide a babysitting coop for its members.  How does the group maintain the appropriate number of sitters available for the children in the group, and yet allow participants time off from sitting also?  Consulting a mathematician may not be at the top of an organization or agency’s list when a ‘who can help us with this,’ situation arises,” Fox says. 

Maybe the community doesn’t know where to go when it needs a mathematician.  FMU’s participation in this community-oriented MathServe program, which seeks to build bridges between the use of mathematics in daily life and the community, should help resolve that problem.

The intent of the program is to inspire collaborative projects that use math skills in addressing social, health, or environmental challenges. Projects should seek to deliver community support or services more efficiently, effectively, and equitably.  FMU mathematicians will work to solve problems by applying their expertise for the good of the community.   The Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) sponsors the MathServe program. 

“We have a 50-50 percent chance of helping to resolve issues,” said Bill Fox, chairman of the FMU math department.  For more information about FMU’s MathServe program, call Fox at 843-661-1570.

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Last Published: June 25, 2004 7:13 AM
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