Charlie Slavin

charlie in library

Mathematical Matters

Past Trouble I’ve Gotten Into

  • 3C Calculus
    The three C’s stand for collaboration, communication, and context. From 1992 to 1997 I taught sections of first and second semester calculus in which there were no lectures. The students worked in teams of four or five on projects structured to introduce them to the material and enhance their understanding of the concepts. Each week the groups produced a written report of their explorations. The students’ learning was enhanced by a classroom equipped with tables as workspaces, each with a networked computer shared by the members of the group.With very mixed feelings I decided to discontinue teaching 3C Calculus even before I took leave of the Mathematics Department for the Honors Program. The reasons were mostly personal, and perhaps someday I will take it up again. Regardless, I would like to do an analysis on the subsequent performance of students who were exposed to this collaborative learning experience early in their collegiate mathematical careers.
  • ISIS (Integrating Students into Interdisciplinary Studies)
    This project involved 24 faculty members here on the UMaine campus. Using funding from the campus and a grant from NSF/NEH/FIPSE we taught four interdisciplinary courses aimed at first-year students during the 1995-96 academic year. I was one of the Bodies of Power team which included Laurie Hicks (Art), Naomi Jacobs (English), Peter Kleban (Physics), Tom Mikotowicz (Theatre), and Marie Tessier (Journalism).The ISIS project began several years earlier with a course entitled Ages of Discovery, taught by François Amar (Chemistry), Jim Gallagher (Sociology), John Moring (Zoology), Paula Petrik (History), Theresa Sears (Modern Languages), and me during the 1992-93 academic year. The following year we revised the original course and taught it again with Ken Finlayson (History) replacing Theresa Sears who was on sabbatical leave.In 1993-94 we completed preliminary work (along with 12 additional faculty members) on designing three additional ISIS courses: Bodies of Power, The Mind’s Eye, and The World in the Balance. Building upon this foundation we applied for and received the grant which allowed us to run faculty development seminars and undertake substantial revision of the four courses in the 1994-95 academic year. Unfortunately, funding for this initiative was never available to continue the courses on a regular basis or to allow for ongoing course development.  Several of the courses have been taught once since 1995-96, but there has been no regularity or institutionalization.  Every few years or so, someone suggests bringing back the ISIS model; maybe someday…  [However, my experience in ISIS was certainly a factor that encouraged me to become involved in Honors on campus.]
  • Math 4 ME
    A one-week, residential program for high school girls from Maine who are interested in mathematics, Math 4 ME was started in the summer of 1996 jointly sponsored by the Department of Mathematics, the Women’s Resource Center, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. It was funded in part through a grant from the Mathematical Association of America and the Tensor Foundation. The following year we again received funding from Mathematical Association of America and the Tensor Foundation, and we offered Math 4 ME ’97. The program offered all of the excitement of the first program and more.  While this was a tremendous program, my other responsibilities did not allow me to be as directly involved as I had previously.  Math 4 ME continued going strong during the 1998 and 1999 summers, but I don’t believe it has been offered since.
  • The Nature and Language of Mathematics (MAT101)
    N&L-Math was a collaboration with my very good friend and colleague Professor Bob Franzosa. The course was designed as an introductory mathematics experience for non-science majors stressing collaborative classroom explorations and in-depth writing assignments.We taught the course (as a two semester sequence: MAT105 and MAT106) for the first time in the 1995-96 academic year, and it seemed to be fairly successful—both in our eyes and those of our students. We revised the courses and offered them again in 1996-1997; the following year we redesigned it as a one-semester experience.  At this time, I was moving into my new position as Director of the Honors Program.  The following year Bob continued teaching the course, with other partners (notably graduate assistant Dan Look) and by himself.  I’ve thought about taking some of the ideas that Bob and I developed to construct an “honors math” course.  We received some very positive feedback on the course from various directions (including a SEED Fellowship from the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance), and I think that the basic structure might serve as a model for various innovative projects.  [Note: Bob received the University’s Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award in 2003, for bigger and better things he later did.  Dan Look received his Ph.D. from Boston University in 2005 and is currently an assistant professor of mathematics at St. Lawrence University.]
  • UBRMSC (Upward Bound Regional Math/Science Center)
    Funded by the United States Department of Education and run by through the UMaine College of Education, UBRMSC brings talented high school students from throughout New England to campus for an intensive six week program each summer. I was involved in UBRMSC for twelve years up through the summer of 2006 , and I had a great time those summers working with wonderful colleagues and outstanding students. Over the years, it evolved from a discipline-based classroom structure to a totally integrated curriculum that draws on faculty and student facilitators in biology, chemistry, psychology, mathematics, computer science, and physics.  Students work in teams investigating a scientific area in which they are encouraged to develop and test hypotheses, analyze their data, and draw conclusions from their results.  During the summers I was involved, the students studied zebrafish development, Colorado potato beetle control, psychological perception of illusions, and the growth of micro-organisms.  We hope that the students involved in this program will develop the mindset and tools that are so important in the study of science. I have never worked with a more motivated and excited group of students.  The ones who complete several summers at UBRMSC and then proceed to college are to be congratulated and commended—I expect to see some of them return as staff members in the near future.  [Some already have!]

Personal Passions [in alphabetical order so nobody gets mad]

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs [No, I still don’t have a BMD, yet.  I’ve wanted one for years, and I hope that Sam, Nan, and I will bring one into the family in the not-too-distant future.  Stay tuned—there are sure to be pictures!]
  • Books [I once counted; we have books in all but three rooms of this reasonably large house.  This is a real addiction for me— the website linked here is my profile page on—check it out if you’re not already a member.  A wonderful place to find nice copies of out-of-print books or first editions is]
  • Fountain Pens [I used two Rotring 600s for a few years in the 90s — my students and colleagues were always amazed at how much they weighed!  Then in 2000 I bought myself a Faber Castell Guilloche, and I was hooked.  Shortly thereafter I picked up a Visconti Voyager Demo and two Omas: Italia ’90 and Galileo Galilei.  My “collection” has waxed and waned considerably since then, but I always use my pens, even the ones people tell me I’m crazy to even take out of the box.  My current favorites, and my everday pens, are a number of Stipula Saturnos made of various colors of ebonite—yes like the bowling balls—all with stub nibs and aVisconti Copernicus.]
  • Gardening [My good friend Naomi (see ISIS above) often teases me about not even being able to identify any of the flowers in her wonderful perennial gardens when I was her boarder (my first five years in Maine).  Now I dote over my gardens and wage all-out war with the “weed from hell” (goutweed).  A number of years ago,  Nancy and I replaced our entire front yard (not very big) with a New American garden including shrubs, ornamental grasses, daylilies, and over 500 bulbs.  A few summers ago we removed sizable pieces of the grass in our large side yard and planted more gardens.  I (I’m not blaming this one on Nan) also planted, in one of the new gardens, a Franklinia alatamaha—we’re keeping our fingers crossed!  The last few years with Sam have curtailed my gardening a bit—and a large playset replaced a couple of raised gardens—but I hope to be back in the swing soon.]
  • Hockey [I’ve always been a hockey fan, though I can’t skate at all.  I was a Rangers fan growing up, then traveled the Northeast and Atlantic Canada with Matt in his travel days — and announced all of his home high school games.  And now, it’s Sam.   He’s (this is early 2012) is in his fourth year of playing organized hockey — he’s gone through two years of mites, is in his second year of squirts, and has already played one peewee game.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t turn nine until next month; who knows what the future has in store…]
  • Hot Food [Yes, it’s true; I almost always bring a bottle of hot sauce of one kind or another with me to lunch when I’m at school.  Yes, I sometimes make my own hot sauce, too.  No, I don’t eat habaneros raw.  You have to draw the line somewhere.]
  • Kites [This is a  somewhat neglected passion!  A number of  summers ago I finally flew a kite Nancy had given me years previously, and I was hooked!  I won’t admit how many kites I’ve purchased since, but one of my neglected projects is reframing two of Marty Sasaki’s classic Katana kites as well as a couple of others.  Kites provide a great opportunity to be outside in the good weather and mess with some high-tech materials on a small scale during the winter—and remember, this is Maine!]
  • Movies [Ever since graduate school in Madison, and perhaps before, I’ve been a movie nut—in particular, a fan of classic and nouveau film noir.  I also have a warm spot for some of the early screwball comedies and more recent science fiction.]
  • Mysteries [Much of my recreational reading is (well, used to be) in the mystery/detective genre.  Among my favorites are Parker, Emerson, Paretsky, Burke, Julie Smith, and Lehane—and more, just ask!  Wish I had more time to read these days.]
  • Women’s Soccer [I’ve always enjoyed soccer, but about sixteen years ago when Meg was in her first year of high school, I started paying attention more to the women’s game.  Since then I’ve watched infinitely many matches, traveled to a number of sites in the Northeast to watch the women’s National Team, coached a bit, and become a passionate advocate. Of course, now with Sam playing and getting serious about it, I will probably at least expand my allegiances to include more of the men’s game.]

What Charlie’s Reading These Days

  • J. Robert Oppenheimer and the New Century by David Cassidy
  • The Quark and the Jaguar by Murray Gell-Mann
  • [Always] The lastest John McPhee book
  • [Always] The latest Robert Parker mystery—I’m leaving this on even though Parker passed away; consider it a small tribute.
  • Podcasts (not really reading) of Radiolab—if you are unfamiliar with it, check it out!