Centre College professors Joel Kilty, Elizabeth Mollody Dowling Associate Professor of Mathematics, and Alex McAllister, H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Mathematics, recently published a book titled, “Mathematical Modeling and Applied Calculus.”
“Our book provides an overview of the ideas of modeling real life situations with mathematical functions and then how to analyze these functions using the tools of calculus,” Kilty said. “It intertwines ideas from multiple traditional courses into a single course, which provides an excellent overview to these ideas for students who will only take a math class or two.”
Kilty said the idea for the book came as a response to meeting the needs of Centre students.
“The mathematics program at Centre has worked together to create the best course possible for our students without regard to what books were currently available on the market,” he added. “One natural consequence of this approach was the need to write a book to go along with the course that we developed.”
McAlister said that he thinks of this book as also being one response to a national-level conversation among collegiate-level mathematics educators about improving how they teach introductory courses.
“Every national-level curriculum recommendation begins with the assertion that ‘the status quo is unacceptable,’ and calls on the mathematical sciences community to improve undergraduate learning, particularly for courses usually taken in the first two years,” he added. “We’re trying to find a good path forward in response to these calls for change for the sake of our students.”
Kilty, McAllister and John Wilson, H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Mathematics, were tasked with developing the details associated with MAT 145 in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 in response to mathematic programs external reviewers. Kilty and Wilson sat in on every meeting of the course that spring and regularly discussed how things were going and how to improve them, which developed into working on the book.
“I think writing any book starts with having some idea or ideas, chasing them and eventually becoming convinced that you can share your ideas in a distinct fashion that is not out there already,” McAllister said. “The genesis of our ideas traces back to an external review of our mathematics program in 2013, which asked us to think about how best to teach a particular slice of our student population—those who actually love other fields of endeavor, but need certain mathematical ideas and tools to succeed in those fields.
“While Wilson is not a co-author, he wrote some initial drafts of some sections during Summer 2014 and was a substantial contributor to all our early conversations,” he continued. “In many ways, this book would not exist but for his many contributions.”
McAllister said that the first time you get to physically hold a book you’ve spent years of your life working on is truly an exciting and spectacular moment.
“I’m honored and grateful that Oxford University Press believes in our ideas and chose to invest in publishing this textbook—providing us the chance to share this approach with other students and teachers throughout the world,” he said.
Kilty explained that having this book published not only provides a satisfying conclusion to many years of work but it also provides an excellent opportunity for our students as well as students at other colleges and universities to benefit from the success they found with this approach to calculus at Centre.
Several Centre graduates and current students played a role in the production of this book, including Monica E. Fitch ’15, Wangdong Jia ’21, Adrienne C. Kinney ’17, Daniel J. McAllister ’21, Matthew D. O’Brien ’16, Abby Quirk-Royal ’17, Melissa Stravitz ’16, William S. Thackery ’16, and Anne Wilson ’15. For multiple summers, Kilty and McAllister hired teams of students to work on various elements of the book. They were able to find many of the real-world examples and provided feedback on early drafts of the manuscript.
by Kerry Steinhofer
January 22, 2019