Math fraternity returns to SU with night of games

At first glance, Andy Cushman’s box implied an innocent pastime enjoyed by people of all ages and from every corner of the world – the common board game.

As he proceeded take out a plastic bag filled with pegs representing barrels of toxic sludge, however, Cushman knew he wasn’t in Candy Land anymore.

‘It’s definitely not Chutes and Ladders,’ said the Syracuse native and member of the Syracuse University game club. In actuality, the game is called ‘Industrial Waste,’ a board game that originated in Germany and is enjoyed by ‘gamers’ across the globe.

In addition to boards depicting pipes and refuse, the SU Math Fraternity presented chess boards, Go boards and card games last night at Carnegie for its first campus-wide Game Night. The math group sponsoring the event also brought in guests from the Syracuse Go club who taught participants how to play the ancient Chinese game.

The game night was one of the first events organized by Pi Mu Epsilon, a math fraternity originally founded at SU in 1914, but which had dwindled into nonexistence until this year. Membership is open to anyone with an interest in the field of mathematics, and the fraternity is responsible for coordinating math-related activities throughout the course of the school year.

‘Our purpose is to promote scholarly activity in math on campus and in the community,’ said Laura McDaniel, a junior math major and fraternity member. ‘It’s also for having events that are fun … so many majors have to take math, they might as well have fun.’

The gaming event kicked off with a tutorial session on the game of Go, presented by Anton Ninno, president of the Syracuse Go club, Mark Brown, SU philosophy professor and president of the university Go club and Richard Moseson, a two-year advisor for the SU Go club. After describing the premise of the game, which consists of moving white and black stones to various intersections of a grid in order to surround one’s opponent, students broke up into different activity groups.

While several students decided to test their beginner’s luck at the game of Go, others immersed themselves in mathematically-based card games or rounds of chess. Also available to students were more of Cushman’s board games, such as ‘Power Grid,’ ‘Hoity Toity’ and ‘Goa.’

One of the card games, entitled ‘Set,’ involved matching symbols from three different cards that were either identical or opposite in terms of number, color, shading and shape. Students often stared at the cards for what seemed like 20 minutes, pondering how the different combinations of cards could potentially match one another.

A majority of the students attempted their first game of Go, which became an eye-opening or confusing learning experience for many of the participants.

‘I did great,’ said Tony Perkins, a graduate in mathematics who described his success with a hint of embellishment. ‘It was wonderful … the best first game of Go ever.’

Despite Perkins’ lack of confidence, Moseson, who served as his Go mentor, was impressed by Perkins’ ability to grasp the complicated game.

‘He’s picking it up very fast, and at a math club gathering I’m not surprised,’ Moseson said.

Another student, freshman inclusive education and math major Julie Manion, left the Go board intrigued and ready for future competition.

‘It’s really interesting,’ Manion said. ‘(The Go board) looks like a checker board so you want to play it like that…but it’s different.’ She added that she has a Go board at home, but until last night, she had no idea how to use it.

According to senior Sarah Thomas, the planning process for restarting the mathematics fraternity has been a long and frustrating road. After two years of working out time-consuming details with the Office of Greek Life and Experiential Learning, the group is ready to enjoy the fruits of its labors.

‘We’ve finally gotten to a point where the administration stuff is taken care of,’ Thomas said. ‘Now we can concentrate on events that are really rewarding.’

The group plans interactive activities for each week, such as a session taking place on March 23rd about the ways in which math patterns known as ‘fractals’ are revealed through nature. According to Sarah Whitman, a senior math major and the programming chair of Pi Mu Epsilon, the fraternity also plans to organize more game nights before the end of the semester.

In providing mathematically-based outlets of entertainment, math gurus like Manion may continue to profit from the expertise of Go masters and grow in the process.

‘It was a lot of fun,’ Manion said. ‘The more you play the better you get at the game, and you learn harder strategies.’

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