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Mathematics Colloquium: 'Increasing the mathematical content of the undergraduate curriculum for all students.'

Friday, 05 April, 2019

The Mathematics Colloquium will present a talk by William Yslas Vélez, Ph.D., of the University of Arizona, on Friday, April 5, at 4 p.m. in Room 231, Ritter Hall. Refreshments will be available beforehand in the Ritter Hall Lobby.

The talk is “Increasing the mathematical content of the undergraduate curriculum for all students. Good for the student. Good for the university.”

Abstract:  In the late 1980’s I began my efforts to increase the success rate of minorities in first semester calculus. These minority students came from all majors, though most were in engineering. The interventions that I devised were very time consuming and as the number of minority students increased, I could not manage that kind of effort. I developed my Calculus Minority Advising Program in an effort to meet with scores of minority students each semester. This program consists of a twenty-minute meeting with each student at the beginning of each semester. The meetings with the students eventually transformed my own attitude about the importance of mathematics in their undergraduate curriculum. It dawned on me. The more mathematics a student took, the more opportunities were available to that student.

I took over the position of Associate Head for Undergraduate Affairs in the department in 2003. My work with minority students provided me with the tools to accept the new challenge of encouraging students to take more mathematics and to think about adding the math major or math minor to their program of study.

One can see the impact of these efforts across our university. With 600 mathematics majors and 700 mathematics minors, oftentimes the outstanding graduating senior in another department also has a mathematics major or minor. Our mathematics majors who also have another major are being accepted into graduate programs at the most elite universities in their other major.

The work that I do is focused on helping students reach their goals. Given the increasingly important role that mathematics now plays in society, taking more mathematics is essential. Mathematics departments need to communicate this to their students.

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