SUNY Potsdam Travel Course Teaches Ancient Mathematics in Mexico

SUNY Potsdam Winterim Math Course Included Visit with U.S. Embassy Officials

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SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Mathematics offered a Winterim travel course to study ancient math in Mexico. The group is seen here at Teotihuacan.

POTSDAM, NY (02/12/2015)(readMedia)-- Faculty and students from SUNY Potsdam's Department of Mathematics recently journeyed to Mexico for an intensive Winterim travel course delving into the origins of math.

Led by Dr. Cheryl Miller and Dr. Blair Madore, 11 students studied ancient mathematics and learned about Mexican culture while taking part in hands-on activities and field trips, from Jan. 2 to Jan. 15. The course explored the origins of mathematics in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, Meso-America and the Islamic world.

Perhaps unsurprising for a professor of mathematics, Madore added up all of the work that the class entailed.

"Students participated in about 30 hours of classes, completed 22 exercises, completed four site-related projects, watched four hours of video, did seven quizzes and one final test, and wrote over 8,000 words of journal entries," Madore said.

SUNY Potsdam's partners at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo provided vital support for the trip.

One highlight of the visit was a meeting with U.S. Embassy officials, Stephany Syptak-Ramnath and Areceli Partearroyo. The group also met with staff in the State University of New York's Office for Latin America.

The group visited multiple archaeological sites, dating from the Toltec to the Aztec Empire, as well as the Museum of Anthropology. The whirlwind trip also included stops in Mexico City and El Chico National Park.

During the trip, students from UAEH joined the group for field trips, taking part in educational exercises and helping to translate. In addition, the Mexican university hosted events to welcome the SUNY Potsdam group.

Two families of international students who have studied at SUNY Potsdam also opened their doors to the group, welcoming the faculty and students for meals and hospitality.

"The Mexican students traveled with us, ate comida with us and also participated in the scavenger hunts. In fact, this is an important opportunity for our American students to understand what their Mexican counterparts are like, to practice some Spanish and to build relationships," Madore said. "While not a graded part of the course, it is a very important part of the experience."

Photo caption: The SUNY Potsdam faculty and students accompanied UAEH international education staff and a math faculty member for a visit and presentation at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. From left: Gibran Lara (UAEH); Areceli Partearroyo (U.S. Embassy); Diana Garcia-Monzalvo (UAEH); Julia Adryuk (student); Senna Handley (student); Gissell Villareal (UAEH); David Cervantes-Nava (student); Mark Sobierajski (student); Cheryl Chute Miller (SUNY Potsdam math faculty); Christina Wahl (student); Devin Benko (student); Blair Madore (SUNY Potsdam math faculty); Lindsey Wadsworth (student); Thomas Rubin (student); Stephany Syptak-Ramnath (U.S. Embassy); Rafael Cravioto Torres (UAEH); Ross Hisert (student); Kristy Allen (student); Grant Gallagher (student), and Ruben Martinez Avendano (UAEH math faculty).

SUNY Potsdam is committed to making students' international education a unique and productive experience. To learn about the different opportunities, visit

The SUNY Potsdam Department of Mathematics offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. The program is based on the belief that students can succeed if they are provided with a supportive environment. For more information, visit

Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America's first 50 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,300 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training and leadership in the performing and visual arts. Empowered by a culture of creativity, the campus community recently launched Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam, which aims to raise $27 million by the College's bicentennial in 2016.