The American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges recently held its statewide conference at Chattanooga State Community College.

Members from Tennessee Board of Regents institutions, as well as two-year colleges from out of state, were in attendance.

Founded in 1974, the AMATYC is an organization dedicated to the improvement of education in the first two years of college mathematics in the United States and Canada. AMATYC hosts an annual conference, summer institutes, workshops and mentoring for teachers in and outside math, and a biannual math competition.


Dr. Arthur Benjamin, professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremon, Calif., was the keynote speaker. Harvey Mudd is one of the top 10 colleges in the nation. Benjamin is famous for his ability to square faster than a calculator. He attributes his skill to his ability to hear numbers rather than visualize them. He uses a phonetic code to help him calculate quickly. He also says mental math strategies include working left to right.

“I always liked math as a little kid. I liked to take problems and do them lots of different ways to see if I could always get the same answer, ” Benjamin said.

He developed an interest in magic while in high school that he now combines into his classroom teaching.

“I’m a huge believer in mental math and in students showing their work,” Benjamin said. “They don’t pay you [the big bucks] for the answer, but for the explanation.”

Benjamin’s favorite math courses are Discrete Mathematics, Game Theory and Probability. Unless a student is pursuing a career in engineering, he believes there should be a greater emphasis on statistics than calculus in the curriculum of most schools. Benjamin emphasized that he is a strong advocate of STEM education (science, math, engineering and technology).

Faculty members of Chattanooga State’s Professional Actor Program provided entertainment. Rex Knowles, executive director; Sherry Landrum, artistic director; and Jeff Parker, assistant professor of theater arts, performed a math-themed, musical, improvisation piece titled “The Pie Is Square.”

Motlow State Community College in Lynchburg, Tenn., will host the 2013 annual AMATYC state conference. In 2014, the conference will be at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville.

For more information about Chattanooga State Community College and its educational programs, call the Chattanooga State information hotline at 423-697-4404 or toll free at 866-547-3733. Information is available on the Chattanooga State website, on Facebook and on Twitter.