posted June 2, 2005

Intro Math Text Features Everyday Examples

 Everyday examples and active learning are at the heart of a new mathematics text written by two members of the Hope College faculty.

Dr. Janet Andersen and Todd Swanson are co-authors of "Understanding Our Quantitative World," which has been published by the Mathematical Association of America and is intended for general-education mathematics courses or quantitative literacy courses.

The emphasis in the text, which is written in a conversational tone, is on helping students learn to use mathematics to interpret the world they encounter daily, according to Andersen and Swanson. Attention is paid in particular to interpreting graphs, simple functions and statistical information.

For example, the introductory chapter on functions includes examples such as the stock market, the population of the United States and the cost of Internet services. Further chapters include examples ranging from analyses of the prices of DVDs, electric bills and car loans, to a contour map of Mount Rainier and a comparison of salary versus the winning percentage of basketball teams.

Group activities are intended to get students actively involved in the lessons through working together.

Andersen, who is a professor of mathematics, and Swanson, who is an assistant professor of mathematics, have been collaborating on developing courses and related texts for more than a decade.

In 1997, their book "Projects for Precalculus" was published by Saunders College Publishing. The book, which they wrote with Robert Keeley, an associate professor of education at Calvin College and a former mathematics teacher at Holland Christian High School, grew out of a grant the trio had received from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1994. The three authors subsequently wrote "Precalculus: A Study of Functions and Their Applications," published in 2000 by Harcourt College Publishing.

"Understanding Our Quantitative World" developed as the text for a general education course taught at Hope since 1998. The course, in turn, had grown out of a 1997 grant from the NSF to develop an interdisciplinary course sequence focused on the skills needed to interpret the type of mathematical and scientific information commonly found in public discourse and positions of leadership and responsibility.

The four faculty members who were principally involved with the 1997 NSF grant were Andersen; Swanson; Dr. Edward Hansen, who is a professor of geology and environmental science; and Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray, who is a professor of biology. The other courses that developed from it were "Populations in a Changing Environment" and "The Atmosphere and Environmental Change."