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Department Newsletters

1999 - Volume 6 Number 2: February 3, 1999

Editorial

Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Third Annual Conference on Teaching and Learning

Major NSF Grant Expected

Spring Mathematics Enrollment

Cheating on the Rise

Newsletter on the Web

Course Coordinators

Useful Information

 

Editorial

 

This issue contains some good news and some bad news. For example, the department expects to receive a large grant from the NSF, there is a growing number of programs that involve undergraduates in mathematics research, and one of our TA's had an important role in a Rutgers conference on teaching and learning. However, cheating on mathematics tests appears to be on the rise and the department does not have the resources needed to meet demand for certain kinds of mathematics courses. All of these topics deserve serious discussion.

Charles Sims
Undergraduate Vice Chair

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Research Experiences for Undergraduates

 

Each summer there are approximately two dozen programs offered at colleges and universities around the country that provide opportunities for undergraduate mathematics students to participate in research activities. Known as Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU's), these programs typically last six to eight weeks. Participants receive a stipend in the range of \(2,000-\)3000 and some travel money. The sizes of the programs vary considerably, but most have between 5 and 20 undergraduates working individually with faculty mentors. Application deadlines tend to be in late February or early March.

Rutgers has an REU in mathematics and computer science run by the DIMACS Center. Information about the DIMACS program can be found on the World Wide Web at http://dimacs.rutgers.edu/REU. There are too many REU programs nationally to list here. The National Science Foundation funds many of these programs and the Web page http://www.nsf.gov/mps/dms/reulist.htm contains a tentative list of 22 programs expected to run in the summer 1999 with NSF support. There is also a link to a list of four additional programs.

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Third Annual Conference on Teaching and Learning

 By Amy Stern

Mathematics Teaching Assistant

The Teaching Assistant Project of the Graduate School organized the Third Annual Teaching/Learning Conference on Saturday, January 23rd. The meeting brought together Rutgers TA's from a wide variety of disciplines. The day began with a faculty panel, moderated by Dean Barbara Bender, discussing mentoring. After that, graduate students gave presentations exploring various aspects of teaching.

I discussed the use of cooperative learning in Rutgers calculus classes in a panel titled, "Models of Interactive Learning." My copanelist, Nancy Wiencek, a graduate student at SCILS, explained several strategies for helping students learn to communicate better.

I explained the format in which calculus was traditionally taught at Rutgers-New Brunswick and then discussed the changes in the courses with the addition of workshops. In the remainder of the talk, I discussed my own experiences as a TA in traditional recitations and workshops. I raised the question of how one can best use the time we have to teach our students. The audience was extremely active, and asked many thought-provoking questions.

The other panels I attended focussed on challenges in laboratory teaching and the different experiences first-time TA's have. Both were enjoyable and interesting. Overall, attending the conference was a very positive experience.

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Major NSF Grant Expected

 

The National Science Foundation has notified the Mathematics Department that it should expect to receive a substantial five-year grant under the program for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences (VIGRE). Official notification of the award should come in the next two months.

The phrase "vertical integration" refers to efforts to involve undergraduates, graduate students, recent PhD's, and senior faculty together in all aspects of the department's activities, including research, curriculum development, efforts to improve teaching effectiveness, and outreach to industry and K-12 education. The funds from the NSF would expand the REU program at Rutgers, support graduate students with special traineeships, and fund postdoctoral fellowships for recent mathematics PhD's.

Last fall, a team from the NSF visited Rutgers as part of the review of our application to the VIGRE program. During that visit, the team met with a large group of undergraduates, which included math majors, peer mentors, and senior peer mentors. We were told later that the team was extremely pleased with the enthusiasm they saw in the Rutgers students. We believe our good showing in the review was due in no small part to the positive impression made by the undergraduates.

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Spring Mathematics Enrollment

 

The growth in enrollments in undergraduate mathematics courses continues and shows no signs of tapering off. On January 29, 1999, enrollments totaled 7,002. On January 26, 1998, they were 6,657. Thus spring 1999 is approximately 5% ahead of spring 1998. Enrollments last fall were up more than 4% over the previous fall.

The following table summarizes enrollments for spring 1999 and spring 1998:

 

 

Spring 1999

Spring 1998

Noncredit

869

733

Liberal Arts

457

401

Precalculus

1516

1291

Other 100-Level

2298

2426

200-Level

1226

1170

300- & 400-Level

636

636

Total

7002

6657

As was the case in the fall, the only area where enrollments declined was in first year calculus classes. Among Math 135, 136, 138, 151, 152, and 154, only Math 151 showed an increase. All the rest remained the same or decreased slightly.

There is a huge unmet demand for liberal arts mathematics courses. The courses Math 103 and 104 are graduation requirements for many students in the humanities, elementary education, and several other majors. The special permission process revealed a demand for more than 100 additional places in these courses. All requests by graduating seniors for these courses were accommodated, but only by allowing class sizes to grow to the point at which quality of instruction begins to be jeopardized. Students who need Math 103 or 104 should be expected to complete these courses by the end of their second year. At the moment, the Mathematics Department does not have the resources to offer enough sections of these courses to make this possible.

Other courses in which the department had difficulty meeting student demand were Math 111 and Math 250.

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Cheating on the Rise

 

In the last two months there have been two particularly disturbing cases of attempted cheating on mathematics examinations. Since charges are still pending in both cases, it is not appropriate to give complete details here. However, it is possible to present brief sketches of what happened.

The first case occurred during the mathematics group finals in December. A student in a calculus course asked another student to take the final exam for him. The instructor realized that someone not in the class was taking the final. When the instructor challenged the imposter, the imposter attempted to run out of the room and in the process the instructor was injured slightly.

The second incident occurred in January during the break between semesters. At this time the department gives a large number of makeup exams, which are scheduled as much as possible at the convenience of the students. One student, who was to take a makeup for a basic skills class, came to the department a few days before the scheduled day and impersonated a mathematics TA in order to get an early look at the exam from another student taking the same test.

These cases, together with a number of less spectacular cheating incidents, make it clear that the department must review its proctoring procedures, both for regularly scheduled tests and for makeup exams. The Undergraduate Committee will undertake a review of our current practices.

There is one area where changes are already in the works. For a long time the Undergraduate Office has administered makeup examinations two half days each week. At these times, individual students have been put in vacant faculty offices to take the tests. In the future, all makeup examinations administered by the Undergraduate Office will be given at one location with a proctor present at all times. Because of the expense of paying proctors and the difficulties associated with finding appropriate rooms, it seems likely that the number of dates on which makeup examinations can be administered may have to be reduced.

Frequently faculty schedule makeup examinations directly with students. It is common practice to have a student taking a test sit in the hall near the faculty member's office. In the current environment, this arrangement does not provide adequate security. Faculty are being asked to make other arrangements when administering makeup examinations.

The University has a Web site dealing with academic integrity. It is http://TeachX.rutgers.edu/integrity. This page contains links to the academic integrity policy and descriptions of the responsibilities of both faculty and students under the policy.

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Newsletter on the Web

 

Issues of this newsletter are now being placed on the Web. This issue, as well as all issues published since September 1997, may be found by going to the department home page, http://sites.math.rutgers.edu and following the newsletter link. The department acknowledges with thanks the assistance of Professor Stephen Greenfield in making the newsletter accessible online.

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Course Coordinators

 

Here is the list of course coordinators for the current semester:

Noncredit courses, Math 111 and 112: Dr. Lewis Hirsch.

Math 115: Professor Amy Cohen, assisted by Dr. Lewis Hirsch.

Math 135: Professor Stephen Greenfield.

Math 151: Professor Michael O'Nan.

Math 152 and Math 154: Professor Richard Lyons.

Math 244 and Math 251: Professor Richard Falk.

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Useful Information

 

Here are the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of Mathematics Department administrators:

Chair, Antoni Kosinski, 445-2393, kosinski@math.rutgers.edu.

Undergraduate Vice Chair, Charles Sims, 445-2390, sims@math.rutgers.edu.

Graduate Director, Peter Landweber, 445-3864, landwebe@math.rutgers.edu.

Director of Basic Skills, Lewis Hirsch, 445-2288, hirsch@math.rutgers.edu.

Associate Vice Chair, Michael O'Nan, 445-2390, monan@math,rutgers.edu.

Head Undergraduate Advisor, William Sweeney, 445-2390, wsweeney@math.rutgers.edu.

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Department of Mathematics

Department of Mathematics
Rutgers University
Hill Center - Busch Campus
110 Frelinghuysen Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854-8019, USA

Phone: +1.848.445.2390
Fax: +1.732.445.5530