Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

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Mathematics Faculty Member Elected to International Board

By IMSA Mathematics Faculty Member Dr. Vince Matsko

While some local residents may have visited the shores of Lake Michigan over the summer, Dr. Vince Matsko, IMSA faculty member in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, visited the shores of the Baltic Sea.  That's where Riga, Latvia is located, and where two international conferences were held -- conferences of the World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions (WFNMC), and the International Group for Mathematical Creativity and Giftedness (MCG).  The conferences took place at the University of Latvia from July 25 until August 5.

           Dr. Vince Matsko

Matsko presented a workshop and a talk at the WFNMC conference, and gave a talk at the MCG conference.  (See and click on Riga 2010 to see conference materials.)  At both conferences, he spoke about his work with having students write original problems in the Advanced Problem Solving course here at IMSA.  ``Other educators were very impressed with what we're doing here at IMSA,'' said Matsko.  ``It's so easy to think that what you're doing each day is routine.  But not many schools around the world are doing what we do.''

All participants at the MCG conference were founding members of the International Group for Mathematical Creativity and Giftedness.  A series of conferences were held over the last 10 years in preparation for this event, but until this conference, there was no official organization.  On the last day of the MCG conference, the officers and board were elected.

``I was very excited to get elected to the board,'' said Matsko.  Aside from the vice-president of the organization, Linda Sheffield (professor emerita at Northern Kentucky University), Matsko was the only participant from the US to be elected.  ``You really do feel like you're an ambassador to the world.  It's fascinating to hear about what mathematics education is like in different countries.  It turns out that teachers face many of the same issues everywhere.''  Issues of governmental support, student apathy, and inadequate teacher preparation are not confined to the US.

The next MCG conference will be held at the Korea Science Academy in July 2012, just after the ICME (International Congress on Mathematical Education) Conference in Seoul, Korea.  Matsko plans to attend.  ''The ICME conference will draw two or three thousand educators. I've been asked to help organize one of the study groups,'' said Matsko.  ``The MCG conference will be a lot smaller, maybe around 100 participants.  I'll probably present further work with having students write original problems.''  There will be much to do in preparation for these conferences.

On a more personal note, Matsko remarked that the hospitality of the conference organizers was incredible.  ``We were very well taken care of.  We really couldn't have asked for better hosts.'' 

Would he ever go back?  ``Maybe.  I taught three of the students from the University of Latvia - Maris, Janis, and Laura - how to play euchre,'' said Matsko.  ``We may need to have a rematch.''