Millersville University student Nicholas Heil won an Outstanding Presentation Award in the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Undergraduate Poster Session at the 2015 Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) held in San Antonio, Texas from Jan. 9-13.

Heil, a senior honors math major from Ephrata, Pa., presented a new approach as to how the Maya culture may have completed division in their number system.

“While I was trying to come up with a method of division, I began focusing on what division really was; repeated subtraction,” said Heil. “I had to make the process more efficient, and I tweaked it to incorporate the Maya positional grid system.”

The Maya poster was scored based on the problem solving methods, results, poster design and verbal presentation. “I am extremely pleased with the entire experience and I am looking forward to continuing my research and completing my thesis with Drs. Ximena Catepillan and Cynthia Taylor,” said Heil.

Heil began this project last semester as part of his honors thesis, “Ethnomathematics in the Classroom.” Advisors Cynthia Taylor, assistant professor of mathematics, and Ximena Catepillan, professor of mathematics, oversaw the project.

“Nick’s hard work, enthusiasm for the subject and perseverance were acknowledged in this competition, which brought honor and recognition to the department of mathematics at Millersville,” said Catepillan. “This is truly an accomplishment for a Millersville University senior mathematics education student to be recognized for an achievement in the scholarship of mathematics at the JMM.”

The JMM is the largest annual mathematics meeting in the world, and offers a variety of sessions that are designed to appeal to undergraduates. The session is reserved for undergraduate and first-year graduate students submitting posters on work done while an undergraduate.

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