Course Announcement

Math 210

Mathematics in the Age of Information

Applying Mathematics in Contemporary Life

Tools for survival.

This is an experimental course for students who have had one year of calculus (Math 114 or 115 -- or equivalent). It will cover material involving statistics and mathematical modeling, including differential equations.

An important ingredient in the course will be to learn to present material on the Web using a computer language such as Perl. No special computer background is presumed; learning it is part of the course.

The courses are to be "problem-based" or "project-based", with themes from various other disciplines entering and being subjected to mathematical analysis. Structurally, the class will be divided into small teams that will carry out research on each topic, perform whatever mathematical analysis is appropriate (according to the mathematical topics being discussed in class) and prepare their results either for in-class or on-line presentation.

One reason to have the students work in teams is to spread various kinds of expertise and background they may have. For instance, some students will already know more statistics or computer techniques or linear algebra, while others may have special experience in an area such as business or biological science. We anticipate inviting colleagues from other departments as well as guests from outside the University to meet with the students to discuss the students' work and point out directions for further investigation.

The timeliness of mounting such a course, that combines mathematical modeling with the use of web-based programming, is emphasized by the NYT 10/09/96 article on HIV using web-based simulations in the media. Another related Aug. 1996 NY Times article that effectively uses the Web is Bob Dole's 1996 Tax Plan.

We have been somewhat (pleasantly) surprised to realize that the task of finding topics to develop for these classes is not so difficult. Indeed, the problem comes in choosing from among a too-vast array of applications, while guided by the idea of using a variety of mathematical tools. Mathematical tools of particular interest include the ideas of continuous and discrete dynamical systems (i.e., differential equations or Markov processes), notions from statistics and probability (collection and analysis of data and simulations) and ideas from computer science (representation and encoding of data, notions of efficiency of algorithms).

See Math 210 Topics for a typical set of topics that might be included this semester.

It is easy to imagine segments of the course that will change from semester to semester in response to such stimuli.