April 2013

Report on the 2013 Joint Mathematics Meetings held in San Diego, California

By Mark Maxwell

For the benefit of both organizations and their members, the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and the American Mathematical Society (AMS) jointly hosted the 96th annual winter meeting of MAA and the 119th annual meeting of AMS in beautiful San Diego, known for its mild year-round climate and its natural deep-water harbor.

What an amazing gathering of over 6700 people celebrating mathematics. The two major activities of interest to actuarial educators were 1) a special contributed paper session on actuarial education and 2) a panel discussion on current issues in actuarial education with representatives from the MAA, SOA, and CAS.

Special Session on Actuarial Education
The MAA special session on actuarial education was organized and moderated by Robert Buck (Slippery Rock University) and Thomas Wakefield (Youngstown State University). Ten 20-minute talks were scheduled and each talk was made to an ever-changing group of approximately thirty participants. There were talks on starting actuarial programs, descriptions of diverse actuarial programs, discussions about preparing students for preliminary examinations, and a talk about improving the communication acumen of actuarial students.

This excellent group of presentations offered some suggestions and guidance to the diverse group of attendees. The journal, PRIMUS, announced a special issue on Actuarial Education. Robert Buck, robert.buck@sru.edu, and Michael Huber, huber@muhlenberg.edu, will be guest editing the special issue, inspired by the MAA Contributed Paper Session on this topic at the Joint Meetings in 2013.

PRIMUS—Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies—is a refereed journal published by Taylor and Francis.

Excerpt from the PRIMUS call for papers:

Interest in actuarial science has increased tremendously over the past few years, with many institutions trying to start programs or upgrade existing programs. We are calling for papers that focus on: starting an actuarial science program; sharing ideas on various ways to structure actuarial science programs; describing how institutions can adjust to the constantly changing requirements of the actuarial organizations; outlining specific and/or unique details of your actuarial science program.

MAA Panel Discussion: Current Issues in Actuarial Science Education
Annually, the MAA organizes a panel discussion on actuarial education. This year the event was held on the evening of Friday, Jan. 11. There was a lively discussion between representatives of the Mathematical Association of America, the Society of Actuaries, and the Casualty Actuarial Society.

Like many of the activities of the MAA, the Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics (CUPM) is charged with making recommendations to guide mathematics departments in designing curricula for their undergraduate students.

The MAA highlighted a preliminary draft of a 2015 report classifying actuarial programs housed in mathematics departments into four categories: preparatory, introductory, intermediate, and advanced. Current proposed plans include examples of institutions that would fit into the four categories. Their goal is to give guidance to actuarial program in mathematics department who wish to have actuarial offerings, not as any type of credentialing body.

The SOA discussed some modifications in their current credentialing system. The SOA decided to not renew an agreement with the CAS to jointly administer preliminary examinations after 2013. Minor changes to the SOA examination system include:

  1. Beginning spring 2014, the MLC exam will have multiple-choice questions as well as short answer questions. Rationale is to test at a deeper level of conceptual understanding. Create your own sample question by looking at existing questions and conclude with the word “explain” instead of five multiple-choice possibilities. Noteworthy, this announcement of modification was made more than a year prior to changes in the system.

  2. Adding an FSA track in General Insurance. Stated rationale is due to membership demand.

  3. Minor logistic changes in FSA exams were made especially with respect to the CERA credential.

The CAS mentioned working with credentialing bodies like the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and the SOA. For example, the CAS will recognize the CIA credentialing system. The CAS envisions fully accepting SOA exam P to count as their course 1. As for upcoming changes in the CAS exam requirements, there will be less emphasis on life contingent models and more on statistics. They want to place a high value on communication skills and will continue to brand themselves as the credential to aspire to in property and casualty insurance.

Mark Maxwell, PhD, ASA, is program director of actuarial studies at the University of Texas at Austin.