Are you interested in teaching topics from discrete mathematics and computer science with projects based on primary historical sources, with possible NSF support? Or could you forward this to a colleague who is? Here is an update on what we are engaged in.
A team of mathematicians and computer scientists at New Mexico State University and Colorado State University - Pueblo has developed an innovative pedagogical technique for teaching material in discrete mathematics, combinatorics, logic, and computer science, with National Science Foundation support for a pilot project. Topics are introduced and studied via primary historical sources, allowing students to participate in the sense of discovery, and to appreciate and gain motivation from the context in which concepts were developed. For example, we have authored classroom modules in which students learn mathematical induction from Pascal's "Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle," written in the 1660's. Another module develops the short recursion relation for the Catalan numbers from a seminal paper of G. Lam\'e in 1838 (based on a start by Euler!!)
We have authored 18 modules so far; all these modules and more information can be found at www.math.nmsu.edu/hist_projects/. These modules will appear in a chapter of a forthcoming MAA resource book for teaching discrete mathematics. We found that 65% of the students who completed a course with these historical projects performed equally well or better than the mean GPA in subsequent mathematics and computer science courses.
We are seeking to expand our pilot program with further major support from the National Science Foundation to create a full book with a comprehensive collection of classroom projects based on historical sources. We would like to invite any instructors of mathematics or computer science courses to agree to site test future projects in related courses in discrete mathematics, combinatorics, logic, or computer science, or perhaps even to design your own projects. We hope to be able to provide some NSF support as travel and/or consulting for site testers.
You can see an initial draft of the projects we are planning under the new grant proposal at www.math.nmsu.edu/~davidp/projII.pdf (separate from what's already at www.math.nmsu.edu/hist_projects/ from our previous grant work). If you think that you (or a colleague) would be interested in teaching with a new project during 2008-2011, we would like to hear from you. We plan to finalize our new NSF proposal by mid-December, and would like to attach a brief letter of support from you if you are interested. It would be nice if it indicated the institution, the course, nature of students, rough timeframe, why you think it would be good for your students, and possible choice of projects for your class.
David Pengelley (firstname.lastname@example.org) Mathematics, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003 USA Tel: 505-646-3901=dept., 505-646-2723=my office; Fax: 505-646-1064 http://math.nmsu.edu/~davidp