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Uhl's post to apcalc
Posted:
Dec 8, 1997 7:22 PM


This was my response to Prof. Uhl's post on feedback to his original post that appeared on another mailing list. Since he posted it to the apcalc list as well, I am sending my response to this list. For those of you on both lists, my apologies...
Jerry Uhl wrote:
>I have received a flurry of email about the abstract I sent out earlier today. >Instead of replying to each one, I willsend out a couple of the emails >that arrived from colleagues at a leading university:.
(snip^n)
Well, I'm not at a leading university, but...
Back when I taught college physics (Trinity, Wellesley), the major complaint about math departments was that they didn't teach students how to *do* anything. For instance, a student might know all about the Riemann integral, the conditions for existence and uniqueness of various ODEs, and be able to do epsilondelta proofs til' cows give beer, and but couldn't integrate any *actual* integrals, or solve any *actual* diffeqs, or multiply any *actual* matrices. The reason for this then (and, I suspect, now) was that mathematics departments are primarily staffed by pure, not applied, mathematicians, and there is a long history of pure mathematicians looking down on applied mathematics as "not really mathematics," and hence as not something worth teaching in a mathematics course. So I do not find it at all surprising that engineering departments do not feel that mathematics departments teach the calculus, diffeq, or linear algebra their students need to know.
What is the solution? I don't know. It certainly involves having more applied mathematicians in mathematics departments, or at least mathematicians who have taken advanced courses in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, or computer science. It certainly also involves heavier (but not exclusive, IMHO) use of computers and numerical techniques, but that's not a magic bullet.
mark snyder



