Days may be numbered for 'same old' calculus

By Angela Swilley
News Staff

Keith Winnick
Professor Jim Herod feels that his proposed changes would "set directions in math and engineering."

Mathematics professors Jim Herod and George Cain have generated a proposal which could significantly alter the structure the math department in the near future. The two professors recall that, thirty years ago, Georgia Tech required that all entering freshmen take algebra and trigonometry. These requirements, however, ceased to exist when high schools began to teach these classes. Instead of allowing students to take classes that they had already taken in high school, Tech required them to begin their college careers with calculus.
Presently, Herod and Cain feel that beginning calculus has taken the same route that algebra and trigonometry took three decades ago.
According to Cain, "Calculus has become an essential high school subject, like algebra and trigonometry years ago."
This new idea will be presented officially by Herod and Cain during a faculty meeting this quarter. The plan, if implemented, would require Tech to stop teaching beginning calculus.
Herod feels that students should begin with a math class different from the ones that they had in high school [and] see calculus afresh."
Herod feels that the high schools want to teach calculus, and the lack of calculus at Tech would allow schools who don't already teach it to build a solid argument for teaching it. The arguments would be based on the need to prepare students for college. He also feels that this proposal would remove the problem of Tech freshmen being bored in class because they have already learned the material in high school.
According to Herod, the calculus class that students would begin with would allow them to learn the one-dimensional calculus in three dimensions, if they had not taken it in high school. It would include the one-dimensional ideas from high school with a "different perspective."
Herod feels that community colleges and learning at a distance allow most students to have access to calculus classes. However, Tech would also offer a creditless calculus class which would be similar to the algebra and trigonometry courses that were offered thirty years ago for any student who had not had calculus.
Herod feels that, "Georgia Tech should be setting directions in math and engineering and not following the mainstream. The time has come to do [this]." He believes that, "Students like new ideas, and to do the calculus again puts them in the wrong frame of mind for university education."
Cain says that Tech has ignored the fact that beginning calculus has moved into the high schools in the past twenty-five years and that it has become the "same old, same old" for students.
Cain feels that the proposal to change entrance requirements to include calculus may be met with initial opposition.
He says that, "No one cares what we do in calculus, but they will become interested if we try to change entrance requirements." Herod and Cain believe that their ideas will be well-received. However, the idea will only be in planning stages until after semester conversion. After the conversion, freshmen may begin math at Tech in multivariable calculus and Tech will once again be "setting directions in math and engineering."

Online Editor's note - Sorry Dr. Herod, but this article wasn't produced using Maple.

Copyright © 1998 by Gregory S. Scherrer, Editor and by the Student Publications Board

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