Simpson Promotes Math Modeling Contest at Iowa High Schools

With the 2014 High School Mathematical Contest in Modeling (HiMCM) fast approaching, the Mathematics Department at Simpson College again is making every effort to promote this competition throughout the state of Iowa.  This 36 hour international team competition is sponsored by the Consortium of Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP).  For this competition, participants work on real world open ended problems.  Recently visits have been made to the high schools of Sioux City North, Norwalk, and Central Academy in Des Moines.  Visits are scheduled for Cedar Rapids Prairie, Ottumwa, and Lincoln High school in Des Moines.  At each visit, there is a presentation given that prepares teachers and students for the competition.  This presentation was put together by Simpson College mathematics faculty and students that participated in the Mathematical & Interdisciplinary Competitions in Modeling (MCM/ICM), also sponsored by COMAP.  For ten consecutive years, Simpson College has fielded more teams in the MCM/ICM than any other institution in the United States.

As part of these promotional efforts, faculty member Rick Spellerberg and North Cedar High School mathematics teacher Vicki Hamdorf gave a presentation on the HiMCM at the Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) annual meeting at Iowa State University.  North Cedar High School was one of the first schools in the state of Iowa that started participating in the HiMCM due to the promotional efforts of the department.  Since then North Cedar has participated in the HiMCM competition on a yearly basis and fields ten or more teams on a regular basis.  Both the HiMCM and the MCM/ICM provide the participating students strong evidence that a background in mathematics will afford them a large and exciting number of career opportunities.

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Crêpes and conversation: French language tables!

The students in Simpson’s introductory French class, Professor Sutton’s FREN 110, have been attending French Language Tables over the course of this semester. The tables are run by our talented Fulbright Teaching Assistant, the très chic et sympathique Rosa Bathia from Paris.


Rosa and some of her FREN 110 Language Table students










Rosa has been offering some very entertaining and challenging Language Tables. One session was all about tongue-twisters! As one student reported:

We worked on the different sounds the vowels make. It really allowed me to better understand how pronunciation works. I liked that we focused on one general theme and kept it simple. I feel that this allows us to retain more of the information presented. We did little tongue twisters to learn the sounds which I feel were a great way to practice in a fun way. I think that my pronunciation and flow of my French improved greatly over the half hour. I would like to continue working on things like this during future language tables.










This week, Rosa held a Language Table where students were able to feast on crêpes and Nutella while Skyping with one of Rosa’s friends from France. This kind of interaction with a native speaker can be really nerve-wracking — but it is so worth it! And the food helps as well…

As one student told us,

I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Rosa’s friend. We introduced ourselves to each other, and I told her what classes I was taking and what my major was. She explained how they don’t have majors until graduate school. I had also prepared questions to ask her. One was “Do you enjoy reading?” and the other was, “what time do people in France eat dinner?” Her responses contained words that I wasn’t too sure on, and I had to ask Rosa what a lot of the words meant. It was very informational and pretty fun.













Language Tables en français - part of the unique Simpson College experience! Merci, Rosa!

Intercultural communication in Mexico: When “sí” can mean “yes” or “no”

As our Intercultural Communication (IC) students well know, sometimes there is no direct, one-to-one translation of a term. In fact, it might even be the rare exception!

One example is the word “no.” Easy enough, right? Well, no.

As we read in this blog post, “Five Things Mexicans Say to Avoid the Word No,” it’s essential that we know how to communicate not only in a language, but also in and between cultures.

The article cites the following words that say one thing but can actually mean no, depending on the context:

- Sí (yes)

- Quizá (perhaps)

- Gracias (thank you)

- Estamos en contacto (we will be in touch)

- Ahorita (right now, just now)

As you can see, these words have other meanings as well, and so it’s not enough to be able to speak Spanish–it’s essential to be able to communicate interculturally! Luckily, that is exactly what Simpson College students get to do all the time in their Intercultural Communication (IC) classes!





Happy Halloween from Math Club

Yesterday afternoon, Math Club members carved mathematical pumpkins.  They are currently on display outside the north entrance of Carver Science.  You can also see pictures from the event on the Simpson College Math Department Facebook page (and you can like us while you are there)!


Thank you to all the carvers for attending this fun annual event!

Our next Math Club meeting is Monday, November 24 at 3:20pm in Carver 340.



Videos: Teaching Veterans

What Learning Activities Help Student Veterans Succeed?

Simpson College has an increasing number of students who are veterans transitioning back to civilian life.  After viewing this video, you’ll be able to implement learning activities to help student veterans succeed, understand and explain the differences between military and academic decision making and communication, and help student veterans learn how to reflect and write for an academic rather than a military environment.

How Do I Accommodate Student Veterans with Disabilities?

This video will provide you with an idea of what it feels like to have a variety of different cognitive disorders.  More importantly, it will teach you how making simple adjustments to the way you teach face-to-face will make it easier for student veterans to succeed.  You will learn to recognize the impact acquired disabilities have on students, discern the difference between associative and cognitive tasks, and understand the impact of acquired disabilities on learning.

How Do I Design Courses to Enhance Student Veterans’ Success?

After viewing this video, you will be able to redesign your courses to support success for student veterans, use course design to help student veterans make the most of their strengths, adapt everything from course objectives to syllabus design to support student veterans, use classroom technology to improve course design and delivery, and improve educational opportunities for student veterans by implementing the basic Principles of Universal Design.

To view any of these videos and/or access the supplemental materials, click on the question of interest above.

A Busy Week – Three Math Department Events

Within one week, the Math Department will be holding three separate events: Math Day/Homecoming, pumpkin carving and a Math Club bonfire.

Math Day is Friday, October 17 and Saturday, October 18.  A complete schedule for the event can be found here.  If you are a high school student interested in attending, you can register here.  If you are a Simpson student, please sign up outside of Carver 340 so we know how much pizza to order on Friday night and how much lunch to order on Saturday.

On Monday, October 20, Math Club will host our annual pumpkin carving event.   It will be in Carver 323 at 3:20pm.  Bring your creative ideas for math themed pumpkins.

On Friday, October 24 at 6:30pm, Professor Rick Spellerberg will host a Math Club bonfire at his house.  [Note that the bonfire has been moved to November 8 at 6:30.]  Check your Math Club email for directions.  Please sign up outside of Carver 340 so we know how many marshmallows to buy.

If you have any questions about any of these events, contact any member of the mathematics department.


Seeking Writing Consultants–Paid Positions

Fall 2014 will be the last semester for several of our Sr. Writing Consultants. This means that the Simpson Writing Center will be hiring new consultants for spring 2015. The ideal candidates will be strong writers who are patient and diplomatic. Please send your recommendations to Beth Beggs.

Help for the “I can’t get started!” or “I’m stuck!” writers

We have all heard from writers with writers’ block. Most of us have also found ourselves staring at a blank screen or page as a deadline approaches. Last week, the Texas A & M University writing center uploaded Can’t Write This. Their release is timely because this is the point in the semester when writers are beginning to encounter the dreaded writers’ block.

Whether the problem is unarticulated (but really good) ideas, boredom with the topic, confusion about the assignment, or simply the fear of failure, SWAC staff are prepared to offer some suggestions.

Professional Writers

Professional writers like Maya Angelou, and Barbara Kingsolver, have all complained of the temporary inability to compose. Because their success depended on writing, these and other writers learned to develop practices that help the words begin to flow. Angelou combatted writers’ block through writing every day: “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write” (Angelou qtd. in Temple).Kingsolver asserts that writers’ block is merely an issue of mindset. She states: “I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done” (Kingsolver qtd. in Temple).

Practical Suggestions

Because the causes and cures of writers’ block are as varied as our writers, writing consultants and fellows need a toolbox full of practices that will help writers transfer thoughts to the screen or page.

The Purdue OWL, known for its vast number of resources and accessibility, devotes an entire page to suggestions for curing writers’ blockAnother resource, A Little Thing Called 750 Words,is a secure site that encourages regular writing. The site can generate daily email productivity reminders to those writers who produce daily writing.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips is another great writing resource. Dozens of tips appear as audio podcasts and in transcript form. Here, Grammar Girl presents ten sure-fire tips for beating writers’ block.


The bottom line is that writers can beat writers’ block, often by simply reconsidering the project from a new perspective.

What are your best tips for writers’ block? Share your tips in next month’s From the Center by sending them to Beth Beggs.


Works Cited

Temple, Emily. “13 Famous Writers on Overcoming Writers’ Block.” Flavorwire. Flavorwire. 3 Nov. 2012. Web. 1, Oct. 2014.

October Events

10/06: Late Night Against Procrastination

10/7: Drawing

10/13 – 17: Homecoming Decorations

10/15: Writers’ Studio, 4:00 PM in SWC

10/20: National Day on Writing