Math problem solving group creates bonds between faculty, students

Friendships can form in the most unlikely places. For members of the problem solving group, that place happens to be the Schwartz Mathematics Library in Cheek Hall. For the past nine years, the problem solving group has worked together to solve problems from a variety of mathematical journals. Some members are professors and others are current students, but they all greet each other as friends.

Math = creativity

Dr. Les Reid, professor of mathematics, says the group exists to expand students’ exposure beyond the traditional problems that they regularly encounter in textbooks and the classroom.

“We want them to realize that there actually is a creativity to math,” says Reid. “Sometimes students feel like they should know how to proceed with a problem at the very beginning, but we want them to realize that’s not always the case.”

Math problem shared on whiteboard

Faculty as mentors

Kelsie Stewart, a senior majoring in applied mathematics, says the relationships students are able to cultivate with faculty are her favorite part of participating in the group.

“Interacting with faculty outside of the normal classroom setting is really cool,” said Stewart. “You get to learn more about their personalities and it actually makes it easier to go to them for help — you have more of a personal relationship with them, so it’s less intimidating.”

Dr. Reid works with students

Chris Arnold, a mathematics graduate student, says that the encouragement he receives from the faculty is the main reason why he still participates in the group today.

“The first time I ever went, I talked to Dr. Richard Belshoff and I told him that I just didn’t feel very effective when it came to the problems they were trying to solve,” said Arnold. “I followed along, but most of it was above my head.”

Belshoff, professor of mathematics at Missouri State, assured Arnold that the problems they deal with can even stump faculty, too, so he shouldn’t be discouraged. This support encouraged Arnold to keep coming back.

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