How would Jesus do mathematics? He would most likely connect the discipline to his daily experiences (whether in carpentry or in discipleship) and would seek out a community of like-minded individuals rather than work in isolation. I would like to think that he would support the mission of the Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences (ACMS). We cite our commitment to the saving grace through Christ’s atoning sacrifice in our brief statement of common beliefs.
When I began my academic career at a small Christian liberal arts college in 1990, I immediately connected with the ACMS, an international group of like-minded colleagues. After my initial year of teaching, I attended the biennial ACMS Conference hosted at Wheaton College and have been active member ever since. In that time, I have:attended 12 of the 15 biennial conferences held since 1991, speaking at most of these conferences, publishing related articles in conference proceedings and a related online journal, and joining the board for an 8-year term beginning in 2015, including a recently completed two-year term as President.
My involvement with the ACMS has enriched my experience in academia. My own growth as a Christian scholar and teacher has been influenced through relationships formed and nurtured at ACMS conferences and ACMS-sponsored receptions at other academic gatherings. I have collaborated with other ACMS members on multiple projects that collectively address all four types of scholarship cited by Boyer: scholarship of discovery, scholarship of teaching (and learning), scholarship of application, and scholarship of integration (and synthesis).1 In addition, my own Christian faith has deepened through interactions with colleagues in the organization.
The Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences (ACMS) began with a conference in 1977 hosted at Wheaton College. The focus of the presentations was philosophy of mathematics with additional attention devoted to the integration of faith and mathematics as a discipline. During the subsequent 44 years, the membership of the organization has broadened from mathematicians to include those with expertise in computer science, statistics, and mathematics education. Biennial conferences through 2019 have provided opportunities for both plenary speakers (including leading names in the history of mathematics and a variety of branches within mathematics, computer science, statistics, and industry) and brief presentations on a wide variety of topics within these same disciplines made by ACMS members attending these conferences. Conferences are hosted by member institutions throughout the United States and Canada.
Initially, speakers were asked to submit short papers that were later accumulated into a set of conference proceedings with minimal editing. Beginning in the early 2000s, a peer-reviewed online journal of the ACMS accepted not only articles linked to conference presentations but also general submissions. Eventually in 2015, the decision was made to abandon the online journal and to reformat the conference proceedings to a peer-reviewed publication.
During the past decade or so, preconference workshops have been offered on topics ranging from teaching technologies and strategies (e.g., Simulation-based inference for statistics; R-based statistics), to mentoring support for graduate students and early career faculty to the integration of faith within disciplines and pedagogical strategies. The tentative list for the 2022 ACMS Conference includes workshops focusing on: philosophy of mathematics and faith integration; ethical implications for computer science, statistics, and data science; and mentoring for graduate students and early career faculty members. I have participated in prior workshops as a co-leader, as an attendee, and as an interested guest. In the last of these roles, I joined several of the sessions for graduate students and early career colleagues. I subsequently served on the dissertation committee and as a mentor for one of these participants, Josh Wilkerson. Later, I even joined with him in collaborative research. This past summer, he replaced me as the President of the ACMS. He also maintains a website devoted to exploring connections between faith and mathematics.
The philosophy of math workshop emerged from several younger ACMS colleagues who initiated a Zoom discussion group of Mathematics in a Postmodern Age: A Christian Perspective. This is one of several publications either sponsored by ACMS or written by one or more ACMS members. Russell Howell of Westmont College and James Bradley of Calvin University (now emeritus) published two books on faith and mathematics by recruiting a group of ACMS members to contribute different chapters based upon specific areas of expertise. Many Christian colleges and universities use one or both books with their first-year or senior capstone students.
If you have read to this point, then we would like to welcome you to join the ACMS. If you work in a job related to mathematics, computer science, statistics, or data science, whether at a college or university, K-12 education, or industry, then please join us at the 2022 ACMS Conference at Azusa Pacific University near Los Angeles, California from June 1-4, 2022 (a registration page will be available in early October). If you do not meet this definition but you know of others who do, then please encourage them to attend this conference. Also note, the ACMS is covering the registration costs for all first-time attendees.
When you or your friends join us at the ACMS Conference, be sure to engage in the complete experience. Plenary speakers will include Talithia Williams (Harvey Mudd College Professor of Statistics), Matthew DeLong (longtime ACMS member, cohort leader of Project NExT, a program for new faculty members in mathematics, and Marian University Professor of Mathematics), and Jason Thacker (author of a recent book on artificial intelligence and its impacts and chair of research in technology ethics at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission). Beyond plenary speakers and parallel sessions, I find the conversations during meals to be the most important and sometimes transformational. We offer daily opportunities for small group prayer and large group devotions, and we end the conference with an ecumenical worship experience that includes the musical gifts of some of the attendees. My prediction is that you will choose to remain connected to the ACMS in future years, and you are welcome to join us at the subsequent ACMS biennial conference (at Dordt University in northwest Iowa in 2024).
Whether you serve as a teacher and scholar at a college or university that requires faculty members to integrate their Christian faith with their discipline and related pedagogical practices, or you have an interest in the mathematical sciences and its applications, please consider joining us at our upcoming biennial conference and becoming a member of ACMS. Be a part of a community of nearly 300 members, many like me who prioritize these opportunities for professional growth and fellowship over other conferences within our academic subspecialties.
How would Jesus do mathematics? Perhaps a better question is: how do we, as Christ’s followers, best model a faith community of people with interests and expertise in the mathematical sciences? At our conferences, we find time and space to pray for one another, to worship God, and to form connections and collaborations that span multiple institutions, disciplinary specialties, and stages of careers, from undergraduate and graduate student participants to early, middle, and late career academicians and professionals in industry. The ACMS is a community in which I am blessed to be considered a member.
Yes, yes, and yes! Thanks for writing this Dave. The ACMS has been a valuable organization for my growth as a professor as well. The community and support is so evident. After attending my first conference in 2013 and sharing about the group with my husband, he looked at me and said, “This is clearly a group that you need to prioritize and stay connected to throughout your career.” He’s a wise man!
Thank you for writing this Dave! You have been a tremendous asset to the ACMS and I know I have big shoes to fill. I second Val – the best quality of ACMS is the community support and encouragement. It has been vital to my growth as a mathematician and math teacher intent on integrating my faith with my work.