Governor Huntsman welcomes Park City Mathematics Institute |

Governor Huntsman welcomes Park City Mathematics Institute

Frank Fisher, of the Record staff

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. came to Park City Monday morning to welcome 350 participants to the summer session of the Park City Mathematics Institute, at one point saying world peace could depend on the advancement of mathematics.

The three-week conference, held at The Prospector Lodge and Conference Center, brings together mathematicians, faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and from around the world, to interact in a research environment.

Huntsman began his speech with, "I’d like to state we’re a little top heavy in brain power here this morning, and I don’t know quite how to handle it." Huntsman, who speaks Mandarin, spoke an ancient Chinese Aphorism, which he translated as "Together we study, together we progress."

He said he wanted to admonish participants to not only connect on a mathematical level, but also on "the social science side." He hoped they could find answers about what governors could do to promote math in schools.

"As elected officials, we need to fix this, Huntsman said. "After the first three years of teaching, 50 percent of math teachers leave the classroom. I don’t know what the answer is, but we’ve got to solve it."

"I hope you don’t underestimate the power of teachers," he said, adding, "Those of you who are moving on to teaching, if you don’t do it, I don’t know if it’s going to happen."

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"I have a little homework assignment for all of you," Huntsman said. "In kindergarten through third grade, literacy is stressed, and it is asked, how can we hit the mark? But what do we do about numeracy? Minds at those ages are ready to learn math. And what will it take to keep math teachers in place?

"Mathematics is critical to the future and our well being and even world peace."

Damon Alexander, a junior at the University of Wisconsin, is attending the conference in order to discuss interacting particle systems, that deal with particles’ relationship in space in relation to time. He said he applied online, and was selected in March.

Park City School District math specialist Lars Nordfelt, said there are five from Utah attending the conference. "This is my third year here. I will be here the full three weeks," he said, adding, "This is a great opportunity to learn math and learn how to better teach math."

PCMI was established in 1991 by the University of Utah, and has since been sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., where Albert Einstein conducted research much of his career, according to PCMI. Applicants apply for the convention, and are chosen by a competitive selection process, said Catherine Giesbrecht, administrator for PCMI.

The conference goes by very quickly, said Giesbrecht, who has been planning it all year. "It’s a high-energy atmosphere."

Norfeldt looked around the facility at mathematicians carrying laptops and interacting with one another. "It’s great to be around all these geeks."