Traditional mathematics courses, designed and taught by
mathematics faculty, are seldom perceived by students to be an
integral part of an education that will prepare them for the challenge
of an increasingly technological society. Instead, these classes are
viewed as a set of hurdles to jump over prior to graduation,
particularly by those students not majoring in mathematics The lack of interaction between mathematics faculty and faculties from other disciplines results in a loss of opportunity for mathematics faculty to
draw on expertise from other areas and to underscore the role played by mathematics in the humanities and social sciences, the
biological and health sciences, and business and finance, as well as
the more traditional physical and engineering sciences.
We propose to restructure the ways in which mathematics relates to the rest of the undergraduate curriculum. Our effort will
involve far more than curriculum restructuring in mathematics. We are proposing a fundamental change which will redefine the manner in which students relate to each other, the faculty, the university,
and most importantly, to the subjects they are studying. Our ultimate goal is to create a new framework for collaboration between
mathematics departments and the faculties of other disciplines, as
well as a new culture among undergraduates which will promote the learning of mathematics and the reinvigoration of undergraduate education. The proposed restructuring is of a general enough nature
to be a model for all of undergraduate education.
The restucturing program we are proposing consists of three inter-related components:
We are in a unique position at Indiana University in that our eight-campus state-wide system, with nearly 4,000 faculty members serving over 90,000 students, consists of a large traditional residential campus (IU-Bloomington), a large, young, urban campus (IUPUI/Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), and six four-year regional campuses (IU-East, IU-Kokomo, IU-Northwest, IU-South Bend, IU-Southeast, and IUPU-Fort Wayne). There are 22
nationally ranked schools located on the core campuses at Bloomington and Indianapolis. Over 850 degree programs are
offered by the system's eight campuses. The comprehensive nature
of the IU system is ideal for experimentation. One can be reasonably confident that elements shown to be successful in our restructuring effort will be adaptable to a wide variety of settings elsewhere.
- The creation of indisciplinary courses that incorporate mathematics and will involve the participation of a broad spectrum of faculty
from a variety of disciplines;
- Changing students' attitude toward mathematics by developing an
academic and social infrastructure to encourage all students to
identify more strongly with mathematics, as well as to understand
its relation to other subjects;
- Changing the academic infrastructure so as to promote and make permanent positive cultural changes in the teaching and learning of mathematics on the various Indiana University campuses and
The primary aim of our curriculum restructuring effort is to correct the perception on the part of many students that mathematics is something isolated from - if not irrelevant to - other disciplines, the real world, and the students' own ambitions and goals. In order for students to see mathematics as existing beyond the boundaries set for it by the traditional classroom presentation, the educational delivery system must itself break some boundaries, and substantially surpass the ordinary extent of collaboration and communication between disciplines, departments, and campuses. Securing the early involvement and support of faculty from disciplines outside mathematics is therefore crucial.
Since receiving our NSF planning grant, we have devoted the bulk of our planning effort to building system-wide and campus-wide faculty and administrative support for our project. We accomplished this by briefing campus chancellors, vice chancellors, deans and department chairs of the goals and objectives of our project and by asking them to help identify faculty members in their respective schools or departments whom they believe could contribute to our effort. Simultaneously, mathematics faculty members on various campuses initiated discussions with their colleagues from other disciplines. More than 80 faculty members
from 23 academic disciplines outside of mathematics have signed on to our restructuring efforts. They represent all 8 campuses. They are
committed to working with their colleagues from mathematics to develop a number of new project-oriented interdisciplinary courses
that they will team-teach.
A system-wide organizational meeting was held in Indianapolis in early November, 1994. This meeting also marked the formation of the Mathematics Throughout the Curriculum Project (MTC), an umbrella organization whose primary aim is to facilitate the sharing of ideas between faculty members who have
expressed interest in our restructuring effort. Over 70 faculty
members from all eight campuses attended the meeting. They represented
more than 20 disciplines: English, History, Biology, Law, Nursing, Speech and Hearing, Physics, etc. As a result of this meeting,
follow-up meetings, and discussions between many of the participants, a number of course development teams (consisting of one mathematician and one non-mathematician) were formed. In turn, these teams proposed, in preliminary form, some 36 new
interdisciplinary courses. The spirit of these courses is exemplified by "Analytical Problem Solving: A Prototype for Curriculum Restructuring."