Breakout sessions A & C:
The Continuous Evolution of Core Mathematics

Breakout sessions A & C
The Continuous Evolution of Core Mathematics at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Presenter:
Gary W. Krahn, Professor and Head of the Department, Department of Mathematical Sciences- United States Military Academy, West Point

The Core Math program at USMA has been undergoing a sustained evolution since 1985, when mathematical modeling was introduced throughout the program. In the early 90's we achieved a leaner, livelier, and more integrated program; we did this by recasting the first year as a flow from discrete mathematics, to linear algebra with (less) single variable calculus, culminating with differential equations, all tied together by application projects generated with our partner disciplines. Over these past twenty years, the Department of Mathematical Sciences has believed that, although our current material and form of delivery was acceptable, there were opportunities for improvement. This belief continues today as we now attempt to create a program that emphasizes creative problem solving - leveraging the power of human reasoning to formulate and validate, while using the power of technology to calculate.

The rationale for Continuous Evolution is to provide the appropriate mathematics for our graduates to make contributions to their professions and to society. Note that arithmetic flourished with the emergence of commerce, geometry had its origins in earth measurement and navigation, and calculus was developed to meet the needs of astronomy, physics, and the other disciplines. We believe that today's world is largely based on information, and we are working now to offer a program that prepares our students in the social and decision sciences as well as in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) arenas. After providing a perspective of our program we will discuss the following three postulates and their implications for program design: (1) Mathematics is best learned by solving problems in context. (2) Students develop skills in learning for themselves through inquiry-type activities. (3) Technology has reversed the roles (importance? priorities?) of calculus and of modeling in the core curriculum. The session will conclude with a conversation on how members of audience have instituted change and why some transformational efforts work and why others fail.