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Topic: Uhl's post to apcalc
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mark snyder

Posts: 1,300
Registered: 12/3/04
Uhl's post to apcalc
Posted: Dec 8, 1997 7:22 PM
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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:.


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 epsilon-delta 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

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