Harding University

July 3, 2013

Professors and students published in academic journal

Drs. Dean Priest and Ron Smith, professors of mathematics, along with 2011 University alumna Christin Carlisle and 2012 University alumna Rebeccca Mays, published the article, “The Driver Problem: The Surfer Problem in 3D,” which was published in the May 2013 issue of Mathematics Teacher, a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics publication and one of the nation’s leading journals in mathematics education.

In the article, Priest and Smith explain how Carlisle and Mays successfully extended a well-known two-dimensional geometry problem — the surfer problem — into the world of 3-D. The scenario for the original problem is as follows: “A surfer, shipwrecked on an island in the shape of an equilateral triangle, wants to build a hut so that the sum of its distances to the 3 beaches is minimal. Where should the hut be located?”

The students extended this problem by figuratively constructing 3-D objects beneath the surface of the ocean and then appropriately locating a diver’s living quarters inside these objects so that the sum of the distances from the living quarters to the surrounding waters would be minimal.

According to Priest and Smith, the students spent hundreds of hours on their work. Their findings and solutions were first presented in their senior capstone seminar. They later presented their work at a regional meeting of mathematicians at Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo. Finally, their results were submitted to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics where they were judged and accepted for publication in Mathematics Teacher.

“The entire mathematics department at Harding is proud of these students,” Priest said. “These are two outstanding students who used all the skills necessary to discover their own problem and then find its solution — the same skills necessary for success in any of today’s top graduate schools.”