Back to Table of Contents
4: Promote interdisciplinary cooperation
Mathematical sciences departments should encourage and
support faculty collaboration with colleagues from other departments to
modify and develop mathematics courses, create joint or cooperative
majors, devise undergraduate research projects, and possibly team-teach
courses or units within courses.
Connecting with other Disciplines within a
Intermath (also discussed in Part 1, Section 3)
’is a consortium of eight schools and four additional associated
schools led by the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Interdisciplinary activities included in this initiative are centered
around the process and use of Interdisciplinary Lively Applications
Projects (ILAPs), small-group projects developed by faculty and experts
from more than one discipline [with the aim of promoting] reform
through ILAP production, curriculum design, and conferences and
workshops [in the belief] that the process of developing and the
classroom use of these ILAPs generate the communication, involvement,
and connections needed to effect educational change.â? Information on
the project website includes complete texts for over 40 ILAPs developed
at the United States Military Academy site.
A grant from the Fund for the
Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) to Allegany College
enabled mathematics faculty to sit in on various health courses and for
faculty from health career programs to sit in on either college algebra
or one of the developmental mathematics courses. These faculty members
also obtained information about each others’ disciplines from classes,
class notes, books, tutoring, student assistants, software, videotapes,
and from health professionals. Faculty members scheduled meetings to
share important concepts and applications as they revised the
developmental mathematics curriculum. Instead of simply adding
applications to the existing developmental mathematics curriculum, this
program changed the basic structure of the curriculum.
Deborah Nolan and Terry Speed, University of California at Berkeley,
Department of Statistics, developed a course and accompanying text (Stat Labs)
to teach undergraduate upper-level mathematical statistics through the
use of in-depth case studies or ’labs.â? The labs include datasets
and are designed to raise scientific questions that are interesting in
their own right and serve as starting points for developing statistical
theory. The course is taken by mathematics, statistics, engineering and
computer science majors. The prerequisites are single and
multivariable calculus and a semester of probability.
Donnay, Bryn Mawr College, whose research specialty is chaotic
dynamical systems, collaborated with a colleague in geology to teach
differential equations. Donnay used one of the geologist’s programs,
based on the logistic model, to simulate the fishing industry, and
arranged for the geologist to give a guest lecture. Donnay and his
students developed several innovative projects, now posted on the
Internet, designed to bring mathematics to a wider audience in
interesting and understandable ways. One of their projects, a
five-minute video on’The Topology and Geometry of the Costa Surfaceâ?,
is on permanent display at the Maryland Science Museum.
Allan Broughton, Rose-Hulman
Institute of Technology, teaches a course Methods
of Image Processing in which he introduces mathematical background
in image processing, in particular: vector and matrix models of signals
and images; filtering and convolution, various transforms such as the
Fourier; discrete cosine transform, windowed Fourier transforms; and
filter banks and the discrete wavelet transform and applies
mathematical methods to solve problems in image processing in
particular data and image compression. He gives students challenging
problems, which they must analyze and explain and, in some cases, prove
carefully. Broughton and Edward R. Doering (from the electrical and
computer engineering department) gave a presentation
about the course in a 1999 MAA meeting.
Mathematical modeling courses
often involve cooperation between mathematics faculty and faculty from
other departments. The following links offer examples of syllabi for
Modeling (Sr. Barbara E. Reynolds, Cardinal Stritch
modeling (John Bukowski, Juniata College) ’ Click on
’Example Syllabusâ? next to the course description, Mathematical
Modeling (Jeff McGough, South Dakota School of Mines and
to Mathematical Biology (Trachette Jackson, University of
Models of Biological Systems (Russell Jackson, Brown
to Discrete Mathematical Models (Erich Kaltofen, North Carolina
State University, Mathematical
Modeling in the Environment (Sarah Glaz, University of Connecticut).
Additional examples of connecting with other disciplines
within a mathematics course are in Part 1, Section 2
and in Part
2, Sections A.1, A.2, and B.1.
Working with colleagues in mathematics, biology, and geology
and environmental science, and with support from the National Science
Foundation, Janet Anderson of Hope College developed a sophomore-level
general education mathematics course, Mathematics in Public Discourse,
tied to two science courses: The Atmosphere and the Environment and
Populations in a Changing Environment. Some of the materials are
available at Group
Assignments for GEMS 100.
The course Patterns in Poetry and
Mathematics is a cross-disciplinary course taught at Rochester
Institute of Technology. Developed and team-taught by Professor Marcia Birken of the Department of
Mathematics and Statistics and by Professor Anne
Coon of the Department of Language and Literature, the course
explores the patterns found both in poetry and in mathematics, as well
as the creative and expressive uses of analogy. The instructors examine
both disciplines by addressing topics such as patterns and symmetry,
proof and contradiction, fractals, and infinity. Students read primary
texts from mathematics and poetry, as well as writings in which poetry
and mathematics are discussed in terms of or in relation to each other.
The University of Puget Sound
offers a year-long course, Integrated
Physics and Calculus that is team taught and meets eight hours per
week. The goal of the course is to increase student understanding by
synchronizing related topics in calculus and physics and to clarify
differences in terminology, notation, and style between the two
subjects. The prerequisite is an understanding of the fundamental ideas
of first semester calculus.
Reasoning at DePaul University was developed by faculty in
mathematics, the natural sciences, computer science, psychology, and
communications and is regularly taught by faculty from all these
departments. The goal of the course is to address the growing need for
quantitative and computer literacy in the face of an enormous expansion
in the use of quantitative methods and information in the social and
physical sciences as well as daily life.
In 1970, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) faculty
developed a program called the WPI
Plan. It eliminated required classes and substituted a
project-based curriculum in which students, guided by their advisors,
design their own programs to suit their interests and aspirations.
Students engage in three significant independent projects, usually
completed in teams, which challenge them to identify, investigate, and
report on open-ended issues. One is a project intended to synthesize
knowledge in the student’s major; the second examines how science
and technology interact with societal structures and values; and the
third is a project in the humanities and arts on how
knowledge is obtained and expressed in a non-technical discipline.
Many of these projects are sponsored by corporations, government
agencies, professional societies, and nonprofit organizations, both in
the United States and around the globe.
Interdisciplinary Science Program (ISP) at Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute is intended to provide an education in the sciences for
students whose interests range outside the traditional disciplines and
career paths. The introductory courses recommended in these programs
are the same as those recommended for departmental science majors.
However, the deep undergraduate concentration in a single science area
that is characteristic of departmental majors is replaced by a broader
coverage of science areas and also by a greater choice of courses,
including nonscience courses. Students vary their programs to emphasize
preparation for their own particular professional objectives.
Interdisciplinary Science Program (ISP) at Trinity College is a
non-major curricular program designed to broaden and enrich the study
of science and mathematics by exploring both the links between the
various scientific disciplines and their connection with the external
world. Designed and supported by faculty in Biology, Chemistry,
Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Neuroscience and Physics,
the core of the ISP consists of a team-taught seminar and a research
apprenticeship, both in the first year, and a course investigating the
impact of science and technology on public policy.
The mission of the
Carleton Interdisciplinary Science & Math Initiative (CISMI)
is to promote and expand the inquiry-based study of complex and
integrated systems, drawing on the power of disciplinary perspectives.
The program includes curriculum development of multi- and
interdisciplinary learning experiences, faculty learning and
collaboration, and disciplinary and interdisciplinary student-faculty
The Foundation Coalition
(FC), funded by the National Science Foundation, ’was established as an
agent of systemic renewal for the engineering educational community.â?
They describe their mission as ’curriculum integration and inclusive
learning communities: helping students make connections between various
disciplines and between academic topics and lifelong careers and
helping them to build learning relationships with other students ... FC
partner campuses have restructured their curricula, renovated or built
new classrooms, and created faculty development projects. Most projects
have focused on the first two years, the foundational years, of the
engineering curricula. Now, the FC is creating resources to assist
campuses that are engaged in their own efforts to improve their
learning environments and curricula.â?
Project Links, based
at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is one of several projects funded
by the National Science Foundation dedicated to linking the concepts of
higher mathematics to real-world applications in other disciplines.
Instructors use interactive web-based modules in the classroom to
engage students in guided learning about applications in science and
engineering to provide them with concrete experiences unavailable in
traditional lecture or textbook lessons. The modules are designed so
that their use can be extended to other institutions.
The goals of the Mathematics Across the
Curriculum project at Dartmouth College are to (1) Make mathematics
welcome and even indispensable across the entire curriculum, (2)
Motivate students to take mathematics seriously, (3) Broaden the
diversity of those undergraduates enrolling in math or science courses,
(4) Increase the ability of students to approach data in a mathematical
manner, and (5) Increase the ability and willingness of students to use
mathematics they already know to facilitate their understanding of
other subjects and to draw upon other subjects to improve their
mathematics, (6) Stem the flow away from science and math of students
with talent and ability, and (7) Make the methods and materials
designed to further these goals available, accessible and outright
friendly to the broad national audience of faculty in undergraduate
institutions. In its first four years the project created sixteen new
courses and influenced another thirteen.
At Carroll College, one
of the Project
Intermath sites, mathematics majors are required to complete a
concentration in a cognate field. Students may select from biology,
business and economics, chemistry, computer science, engineering,
environmental science, or secondary education, or they may work with an
advisor to develop an individual plan based on their interests.
Additional information and resources on promoting
interdisciplinary cooperation are in Part 2, Sections
B.1 and C.5.