July 21, 2019 | 83° F

Students bond over love of equations in Rutgers math club

Photo by Susmita Paruchuri |

The Rutgers University Mathematics Association allows undergraduate math majors to meet and discuss their studies or learn from visiting lecturers. Any student who has questions or needs help with problems can ask members for assistance.

Tucked away in a windowless room in Hill Center on Busch Campus with textbooks lining the walls and endless lines of equations written on the chalkboards, Rutgers math majors gather each week in the undergraduate math lounge to discuss their studies.

The Rutgers Undergraduate Mathematics Association holds general meetings and lectures by faculty. Most recently, Neil Sloane, president of the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences Foundation, spoke about his work, including his personal favorite sequences and unsolved problems.

“The talks were done by professors who were very well-spoken and made everything extremely accessible towards the undergrads,” said Matt Kownacki, a School of Arts and Sciences senior with the group. 

After speaking to lecturers and members of the organization, he continued to attend the meetings.

The meetings are casual — in the club’s last meeting, they formed groups based on what members were interested in learning, said Kevin Sun, the group's president. They are undergraduates teaching other undergraduates.

“You learn a lot from teaching other people,” said Jongwon Kim, RUMA’s treasurer. 

Many of the members of the executive board and general members have some position as graders or teaching assistants in the mathematics department and are taking graduate-level math courses.

Classes in the undergraduate mathematics department don’t generally have much interaction between students, but RUMA helps to bridge that gap, Kim said. Many of the students are in the same classes and have met through the organization by using the common lounge to study.

While there is normally a good turnout, there is a gender imbalance both in the major and at the meetings, Kownacki said.

“I think it’s definitely a problem in science in general nowadays that there’s a gender imbalance, especially in math, there’s a lack of diversity with regards to different subcultures of people and gender inequality,” he said.

There is a lack of women in the major, Kim said, and the club’s ratio reflects that.

But that is not a cause for concern, Sun said. The club encourages students of all years and majors, and the members are mostly of sophomore status or higher with advice to pass on, he said.

“If you’re a (first-year student) considering majoring in math, then come here,” Sun said. “Literally, come to this room, Hill Center 323, and ask anyone here what’s going on.”

Susmita Paruchuri is the design editor for The Daily Targum. She is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in mathematics and journalism and media studies. Follow her on Twitter @susmitapar for more.

Susmita Paruchuri

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