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Dr. Wing Hong Tony Wong and Diego Manzano-Ruiz

KU Bears Research: A Study in Graph Theory

by Chapel Renish

Kutztown University Bringing About Research in Summer (KU BEARS) is a grant program offered to faculty members and undergraduate students who wish to research and make developments in their chosen field together. The KU BEARS program provides grants to these faculty/student pairs, which allows students to participate in paid research with their assisting faculty member while providing faculty members with a research assistant. Last summer Dr.Wing Hong Tony Wong, assistant professor of mathematics, and Diego Manzano-Ruiz, a mathematics and philosophy major, conducted research in graph theory.

Graph theory is the study of graphs in the field of mathematics and computer science. Manzano-Ruiz and Wong focused particularly on a game in graph coloring. By utilizing games to teach math concepts, Wong finds that he is better able to engage undergraduate students who are interested in math, but are intimidated by their past experiences in the field.

"I got the idea for this project when I was presenting research at The National Museum of Mathematics in New York. The museum had the game featured, I just thought, 'Wow, this game is fun. Maybe I can think about a theory behind it.' That's how the idea behind this research project developed," Wong said.

For students majoring in math or students in other majors alike, integration of games into the curriculum can help spike students' interest in the subject and can help teach difficult theories in a different way.

"For many people, when they think about math, they think binomials, factoring, and fractions...but there are other parts of mathematics that they have never seen before - it's called discrete mathematics. I developed a course at Kutztown in discrete mathematics to let students have fun with math in a way they never have before," Wong said.

For Manzano-Ruiz, learning theories using discrete mathematics has enabled him and his classmates to better retain the subjects taught by Wong.

"The way he teaches these theories really helped me to understand these topics. I know it helped a lot of people in my class as well," Manzano-Ruiz said about the importance of games in a previous class he took with Wong.

"We set out on this research to see just how fun math can be, but also to conduct serious research in a field that is studied by countless well-known professors" Wong added.