Featured Department: Mathematics

The Mathematics Department serves essentially every CBU student and is probably the biggest service department at CBU. It provides courses for Arts majors, courses for Business majors and many courses for Engineering and Science majors. It offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics, a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and a dual degree in Math and Computer Science. There are options in the math degree in bioinformatics with a minor in biology or chemistry, and an option in forensics with a minor in biology. Most people recognize that you can teach with a math degree, and we do have a program for teacher licensure in Math. There are lots of other career options with a Math degree.

Math for some students is a fascinating and wonderful subject. For others it is something initially feared and dreaded. This wide range in attitudes and backgrounds in mathematics provides quite a challenge for the department. To handle this challenge, the departmental faculty have tried many different teaching techniques and use a wide array of tools.

Math Center in use

Math Center in use.

It all starts with trying to place students at the appropriate level. The initial placement is based on ACT scores, but the department offers placement tests for those who think their ACT results do not really indicate their level of skill and knowledge.

The Mathematics Department continues to explore ways to increase student success. To meet the needs of students who require a review of algebra before attempting other mathematics courses, the department has recently created three new ALG courses, ALG 110, ALG 115 and ALG 120. The department offers these in the fall in the day program and in the professional program in the evening. They are designed to prepare the student for Finite Math, MATH 105. The department hired Mrs. Sandra Davis a couple years ago to help with the new ALG courses. The Math 103 course was designed as a prerequisite for those that will take Precalculus and Calculus. Both the ALG courses and the MATH 103 course use computer tutorials to supplement instruction by the professor. These tutorials allow students to spend more time concentrating on individual weaknesses.

In the fall semester, the department incorporated the use of online interactive homework in its precalculus course, Math 117. The students in the course completed assessments in precalculus to help them learn and to prepare them for calculus. These assessments were developed at Pierce College in the state of Washington, are free and available at www.myopenmath.com. Dr. Andrew Diener, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, and Dr. Arthur Yanushka, Professor of Mathematics, modified them for use in CBU’s course.

During the summer of 2012 Dr. Arthur Yanushka developed similar online assessments for Math 132 Calculus II, Math 232 Calculus III and Math 309 Probability. His students used these assessments during the fall and spring semesters.

This is the eighth year of a special course, Math 129, that was designed to improve success for engineering students. The math department calls it MIFE (Mathematics Immersion for Freshman Engineers). Dr. Pascal Bedrossian and Professor Cathy Grilli have been team-teaching Math 129 in the fall semester. In it, students meet for nine contact hours each week and cover the topics of Pre-calculus and Calculus I. The students who succeed in the course are pleasantly surprised in Calculus II when the lectures are less than an hour!

Br. Joel Baumeyer continues to serve as Director of the Math Center which offers free assistance in mathematics, physics and computer science to CBU students. Tutors are typically CBU students majoring in mathematics, engineering or the sciences. These tutors take pride in offering their services to their fellow students. Since moving into the new Math Center room in Cooper-Wilson, student visits have increased from about 1,000 per semester to above 3,700 per semester.

In the upper level courses, the department uses the MAPLE programs to help make the material as visual as possible. Br. Walter Schreiner, Associate Professor of Mathematics, spent many hours of the past couple summers revising and updating MAPLE worksheets and aligning them with our new calculus text. Dr. Leigh Becker, Professor of Mathematics, continues to use MAPLE in his manuscript Ordinary Differential Equations: Concepts, Methods, and Models. CBU uses this manuscript as the text for MATH 231 Differential Equations. Dr. Holmes Peacher-Ryan, Associate Professor of Mathematics, is doing research on the robustness of maximum likelihood factor analysis using five-valued Likert data. As an example of five-valued Likert data, consider the sort of questionnaire we have all seen in which we answer “1″ for “strongly agree”, “2″ for “agree”, “3″ “neutral” or “don’t know”, “4″ for “disagree”, and “5″ for “strongly disagree”. Maximum likelihood factor analysis is a statistical technique which finds underlying factors or “causes” of the pattern of responses to a group of questions.

MAA Halloween Party

Student Chapter of Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Halloween Party

This year four seniors will graduate this year with B.A. or B.S. degrees in mathematics. Besides the usual array of mathematics courses, math majors must also take two semesters of seminar (Math 481-482) in their senior year. A fifth student is also taking seminar but will graduate in 2014.   Raymond Bedrossian’s project is a study of the equations required to track an object, specifically its orientation, using a gyroscope and accelerometer. The main focus is on how to quickly compute the current orientation of the object on a cheap, low powered computer by using linear algebra concepts to create an accurate approximation algorithm as opposed to using exact equations, which can take too long to compute.   Brent Holmes’s project is on chromatic numbers of infinite hypergraphs on the real plane. Brent uses hexagon tilings to prove restrictions on the chromatic numbers.

Aaron Lewis

Aaron Lewis

Aaron Lewis’s project is on the finite element method which includes a myriad of analysis techniques, e.g., direct stiffness method, which help solve for internal forces, stresses, and strains in structural members and systems. This is done by considering elemental adjacencies, external and internal loads, and boundary conditions. Michelle McEachron’s project analyzes non-periodic tilings of the plane.  In particular she looks at how Penrose tiles force a non-periodic tiling when certain guidelines are followed.  Megan Wilson’s project is on using neural networks to estimate breast cancer risks. By using neural networks, a model that uses probability distributions, resampling techniques such as bootstrap can be made to approximate the probability of malignancy directly. Raymond Bedrossian is a double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Mathematics. Brent Holmes is a double major in Mathematics and Physics.  Aaron Lewis is a double major in Civil Engineering and Mathematics.

Dr. Leigh Becker, Professor of Mathematics

Dr. Leigh Becker, Professor of Mathematics

Dr. Leigh C. Becker, Professor of Mathematics, submitted a paper for review and publication during spring break entitled Resolvents and Solutions of Singular Volterra Integral Equations with Separable Kernels.  This paper continues his recent efforts to develop techniques for finding closed-form solutions of certain types of integral equations.  The following papers dealing with similar topics were published last year:  Resolvents for weakly singular kernels and fractional differential equations, Nonlinear Analysis: Theory, Methods & Applications, 75, Issue 13 (Sept. 2012), pp. 4839-4861, and  Singular integral equations, Liapunov functionals, and resolvents, Nonlinear Analysis: Theory, Methods & Applications, 75, Issue 7 (May 2012), pp. 3277-3291 (coauthored with T. A. Burton and I. K. Purnaras).

The Math Department also provides service to the university and community through the Student Section of the Mathematical Association of America which is part of our featured article on Student Groups earlier in this newsletter. In addition, Dr. Andrew Diener, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, is the CBU site director for the West Tennessee section of the Science Olympiad (see News of the Moment section earlier in this newsletter). The Math Department also provides support so that CBU can be a test site for the Tennessee Mathematics Teachers Association high school tests in the spring.