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University of the Cumberlands hosts special mathematics speaker Carl Wagner


Dr. Carl Wagner, professor of mathematics at University of Tennessee, speaks to a crowd of approximately 150 students at University of the Cumberlands on Monday evening, April 11.

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. – University of the Cumberlands kicked off its annual High School Mathematics Contest with a special lecture by Carl Wagner, professor of mathematics at the University of Tennessee, on Monday evening, April 11. Wagner’s lecture, “Incompleteness, Undecidability and Mathematics,” covered ideas based on a 1930’s ruling by mathematicians that everything that is true in mathematics isn’t necessarily able to be proven.

Wagner speculated how severe that limitation is on mathematical research and some wonder if it may even apply to or change how people think theologically.

“The math majors I’ve spoken to were impressed with how much of it they felt they could follow,” said Dr. Reid Davis, math professor at UC. “It was very nice for giving students an idea of both the riches and the limitations of the [mathematics] field.”

Wagner also spoke to teachers, sponsors and parents during the Math Contest on Tuesday, April 12, while students were taking exams. His workshop, titled “Mandatory HIV Testing, Drug Sniffing Dogs and the Probative Value of a Cold Hit: The Doctrine According to the Rev. Thomas Bayes,” highlighted how bright, well-educated people using common sense can sometimes reach wrong conclusions about probability.

Wagner gave examples in medicine and in court cases to back up this idea, and he also gave examples of how teachers can teach their students correct reasoning skills about probability.

Both lectures were a part of UC’s annual High School Math Contest. The competition, sponsored by the Department of Mathematics and Physics, seeks to promote studies in these areas and to prepare students for careers in the fields of mathematics, physics and engineering. This year, students competed in six areas of exams: algebra I, algebra II, geometry, pre-calculus, calculus and cooperative group.