For the past six years, Wofford College’s Department of Mathematics has hosted small get-togethers for students and professors called Math Teas.
The events are continuing, but the gatherings are virtual.
“In previous semesters we would meet in the math suite,” says Caroline Sargent ’21, a mathematics and chemistry major from Easley, South Carolina, who has participated since her sophomore year. “Professors would bring snacks, and we’d all come by and talk with our professors, play games or work on puzzles.”
For Sharyn Pittman, administrative assistant in the computer science and mathematics departments and an organizer of the teas, this semester poses unique challenges.
“We’ve been a pretty active department,” says Pittman. “We like to engage with students and get together, so this semester has been a little difficult and a little lonely for some of the professors.”
Rather than cancel Math Teas altogether, the department changed how it handles these gatherings.
“In the past, we’ve done different things like bake-offs and puzzles like sudoku,” says Pittman. “This year we’re doing different things virtually. We have a digital math suite, with different rooms, a few chairs, and when you get close to someone, both of your cameras connect. One group can be on one side, and another group can have a separate conversation on the other side.”
The new online environment has opened the door for new ideas. The most recent Math Tea, for example, was a virtual escape room.
“We had two teams in different rooms, with a team captain sharing his or her screen,” says Pittman. “We gave them the link to the escape room website, and whichever team came out first won.”
Chase Creamer ’22, a mathematics major from Duncan, South Carolina, was part of the winning team.
“We had to figure out a number sequence, find the lowest possible number based on some criteria, fill out an anagram, and the last puzzle was just putting numbers scattered around the room in order,” says Creamer. “Sure, it involved math, but I don’t think it was the sort of math that should discourage anyone from trying. It was definitely not what I was expecting, and honestly it was a lot of fun. I highly recommend that anyone, math major or not, come to the next one.”