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China Impressions

Solomon A. Garfunkel

Mathematics Topic:
Application Areas:
Mathematics Education ,Math Contest

| ©2013 by COMAP, Inc. | The UMAP Journal 34.4 | 3 pages |

I have just returned from my second trip to China. I was the invited speaker at the Chinese Conference on the Teaching of Mathematical Modeling and Applications. There were 600 college faculty in attendance. And while there is great interest, as well as great participation, in all things MCM, my talk was about UMAP—the Modules and this Journal. I gave a UMAP talk for several reasons, the most important one being that there is a Chinese explosion in the teaching of mathematics through modeling at the tertiary level. And COMAP and the modeling contest have had a good deal to with that. Let me explain.

Up until quite recently, the Chinese undergraduate mathematics curriculum was quite conservative. Aside from the singularity of the Great Cultural Revolution, applied mathematics certainly took a back seat in both research and teaching. But the Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM)served as a catalyst. A telling anecdote: In the mid-90s, at the International Congress on Mathematical Education(ICME), I was approached by a leading Chinese mathematician who came up and shook my hand. He thanked me profusely, because as he explained, for several years he had been trying to offer an applied mathematics course at his Beijing university, but was consistently turned down. However, once the MCM modeling contest became established and a handful of Chinese teams began to participate, he went to his administration and asked for permission to teach a course specifically designed to prepare students to succeed in the international modeling competition. It was accepted immediately.