The Department of Mathematics has received LS&As 1994 Departmental Award for Contributions to the Undergraduate Initiative. The department will receive $25,000 for its innovative efforts to improve undergraduate education.
Donald J. Lewis, chair and professor of mathematics, will recommend the department use the money to furnish a commons room for students and faculty when the department moves in 1996 to its new quarters in the south wing of the renovated East Engineering Building.
But it is the faculty who will decide how to spend the award, says Lewis, who credits the departments success to the hard work of instructional staff at all levels.
In announcing the award at last Mondays LS&A faculty meeting, Dean Edie N. Goldenberg cited a number of contributions the department has made to improve undergraduate education, including:
Lewis says the departmental changes are the result of a five-year evolution that originated for a variety of reasons, including student dissatisfaction with calculus courses.
As the department has moved to a more interactive/cooperative learning mode, instructors have become coaches, not lecturers, Lewis explains. They work to help students develop their own responsibility for learning. Students help teach each other as they work together to solve deeper problems.
A lot of credit goes to the dean. You cant do this kind of teaching in classes of 200. She made the funding available for smaller classes, Lewis says.
Noting that industry insists that employees be able to work on teams, Lewis says that students coming out of the new calculus curriculum know how to work as team members.
Mathematics Prof. Morton Brown, who accepted the award on behalf of the department, recalls that beginning in 1986 a general understanding emerged around the country that there was a serious problem with math education.
It was at that time that Brown became interested in the calculus problem and others started working on other areas of mathematics.
Don has been a very amenable leader, very accepting of people suggesting change and proactively encouraging change, Brown says.
Development of New Wave calculus has involved a lot of people, including senior and junior faculty and teaching assistants, Brown says. Theres been a change of culture in a good part of the math department, he adds.
The Department of Mathematics has 55 tenured and tenure-track faculty, five visiting faculty, 25 three-year postdoctoral appointments and about 100 teaching assistants.
The departments biggest responsibility in terms of workload is teaching basic first- and second-year courses for students in LS&A, the College of Engineering and School of Nursing. The department typically has about 6,500 first-and second-year students enrolled in its courses in fall term and another 4,000 enrolled in winter term.
The Departmental Award for Contributions to the Undergraduate Initiative was made for the first time a year ago, to the Department of Chemistry. Funding for the award comes from gifts to the College.