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Course proves math is for everyone

As long as there have been math classes, there have been students muttering: Why do I need to learn this? Im never going to use it!

For APSU math instructors, those words inspired a course designed to put an end to such grumblings.

Created by APSU instructors Dr. Nell Rayburn, Dr. David Cochener and Shirley Hagewood, Mathematical Thought and Practice, or Math 1010, is a reverse approach to teaching math.
As long as there have been math classes, there have been students muttering: “Why do I need to learn this? I'm never going to use it!”

For APSU math instructors, those words inspired a course designed to put an end to such grumblings.

Created by APSU instructors Dr. Nell Rayburn, Dr. David Cochener and Shirley Hagewood, “Mathematical Thought and Practice,” or Math 1010, is a reverse approach to teaching math.

The course, designed in response to the 2003 Tennessee Board of Regents' request for core curriculum changes, examines applications like politics and music, studying the relevant math as it arises.

“There are connections between math and the arts and humanities that are exciting and not very well known,” says Rayburn, who authored most of the course material. “We wanted to focus our curriculum around these connections emphasizing the relevance, applications and applicability of math to art, music, politics and the humanities—areas not normally associated with math.”

Part of the APSU curriculum since Fall 2003, Math 1010 is comprised of three modules: “Is Democracy Fair?: The Mathematics of Politics,” “Cracking the Code: The Mathematics of Cryptanalysis,” and “Can You Hear Me Now?: The Mathematics of Sounds and Music.”

Each module includes little-known facts, such as George Washington issuing the first veto based on a mathematical issue related to apportionment of Congressmen and Internet security depending on an unproven conjecture about prime numbers.

Infusing liberal arts into course curriculum, “Mathematical Thought and Practice” is recognized as an exemplary course.

“The course is very consistent with liberal arts initiatives at the University,” says Rayburn. “It emphasizes collaborative learning, communication skills through writing assignments and oral presentations, problem solving and critical thinking skills.”

Rayburn says enrollment has been strong, with predominately English, history, political science and arts students choosing the course.

This semester, seven course sections are taught on the main campus, while another three sections are offered by the APSU Center at Fort Campbell.

For further information about “Mathematical Thought and Practice,” telephone Rayburn at (931) 221-7834.
—Terry Stringer