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Dr. Eric Sullivan

Eric Sullivan

Dr. Eric Sullivan


Eric Sullivan is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Carroll College in Helena, MT. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Iowa State University in 1998 he taught high school mathematics for 10 years. He did his Ph.D. work at the University of Colorado, Denver from 2008 to 2013 focusing on numerical PDEs. In 2013 he started teaching at Carroll College in Montana where his mathematical focus has shifted to developing inquiry-based teaching materials for differential equations and numerical analysis. He enjoys guiding his undergraduate students in research projects in numerical differential equations, engaging in public mathematical debates with his colleagues, and developing challenging open-ended problems for his students to tackle. Beyond his mathematical pursuits you can find Eric backpacking the wilderness areas of Montana and the greater mountain west.

Presentation Title:

Playing with Mathematical Models

Presentation Abstract:

Among the many perks of teaching subjects like mathematical modeling, differential equations, and numerical analysis is that I get to ask my students simple mathematical modeling questions and then turn them loose to play. Questions like: “What shape ice cube will keep my drink cold the longest?”, “Why does everyone in the freshman dorm always get sick at the same time?”, or “How thick should the walls be if we want to design an adobe house?” have a low entry point that allows students to get started doing math right away. Once they get started, however, they realize that there are surprising hidden assumptions and complexities lurking under the surface that make for rich and wonderful mathematical explorations. We will explore several of these low floor - high ceiling modeling problems and see how far we can take them!