Philosophy of the Mathematics Department
The Mathematics Department at Saint Vincent College views mathematics in several ways. First, we see the role of mathematics as a "universal language". In this role mathematics enables mankind to engage in various activities such as engineering, chemistry, physics, computing, and economics (to mention just a few) with a much deeper understanding than would otherwise be possible. Indeed, mathematics facilitates the quantification of various results, notions, and concepts, allowing them to be studied, revised, and refined to such an extent that, in many cases, they become excellent descriptors of human behavior and natural phenomena. It is also in this sense that mathematics is seen as a tool which allows for profound development, not only in the mathematical arena, but in the natural and social sciences as well. Indeed, in the words of Galileo Galilei:
"Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe."
The role of mathematics as a language or tool is perhaps the most common perception of the discipline. We, in the Mathematics Department, perceive a second role of mathematics as being an object of beauty, essentially an art form; something to be shared and appreciated by all - not just by a select few. It is our hope that students will come to appreciate the unique way in which mathematics often starts with a few basic definitions and premises and then unfolds into a tremendous body of knowledge, often yielding many new and exciting insights and problem-solving techniques. Thus it is our hope that every one of our students will come to enjoy the actual excitement and fun that can be experienced in the rigorous study of mathematicws.
The ability to enjoy the study of mathematics comes with a certain degree of mathematical maturity which is achieved only after working through many problems and examples. As a result, the members of the Mathematics Department strongly encourage their students to carefully complete all homework assignments in order to facilitate the development of their own personal maturity. It is important to note that mathematics is not a spectator sport; in order to learn mathematics, one must actually do mathematics. We understand that in the normal course of events students may encounter difficulties in their studies of mathematics. To address this the faculty holds numerous office hours each week and students who need extra help are invited and encouraged to attend. In addition, the department has many student tutors who are quite capable in helping students complete their assignments and understand key techniques and crucial concepts. Click here for a list of our student tutors and their schedules.
It is often the case that the profit derived from a venture is proportional to the amount invested. For this reason we urge our students to approach their studies of mathematics wholeheartedly. Thus, in order to derive the maximum benefit from math courses (or any course for that matter) the student should:
a) attend each class and participate frequently
b) complete each and every homework assignment
c) seek additional help as necessary.
We believe that if this prescription is followed, then students will develop their own mathematical maturity and come to enjoy and understand the beauty of mathematics.
We end with a note concerning our take on the use of
technology in the classroom. It is impossible to neglect or deny the
effect of technology on modern life. Technology is here and it is here to
stay. As a result, graphing calculators are used in many courses numbered
above the MA 100 level. The mathematics faculty is currently using the
Texas Instruments model # TI-85 or TI-86 and recommends that each student
taking Calculus I or above obtain one. (Check with your instructor to see
if a graphing calculator is required for your particular mathematics
course.) In addition the Computer Algebra System of Mathematica
will be used in one of our sections of freshman Calculus this fall.
Although technology is frequently used to eliminate much of the tedious work
encountered in mathematics, the faculty believes that technology is not a
substitute for a firm understanding of basic definitions and concepts. As
a result we strongly encourage our students to use technology only as a tool
for understanding; that is, as a tool to help enforce or discover fundamental
mathematical principles and notions.