Engineering Math Curriculum Revamped

Major changes to the engineering math curriculum were recently implemented as the result of a process which began about six years ago, when the Curriculum Committee of the Schools of Engineering asked the Mathematics Department to make major revisions to the mathematics courses taught to engineering students. At that time, the required mathematics courses for engineers were:

Freshman year
MA 161, 162, two 5-hour courses covering single variable calculus,
First semester of sophomore year
MA 261, a 4-hour course on multivariate calculus
Second semester of sophomore year
MA 262, a 4-hour course covering some linear algebra and some differential equations.

The Schools of Engineering requested that MA 262 be replaced with two new courses:

MA 265 - a 3-hour course on linear algebra,
MA 266 - a 3-hour course on differential equations.
To keep the total number of credit hours of the sequence constant at 18, the Engineering Curriculum Committee asked that one hour be shaved off each of the two freshman courses, which would cover the same material. This was accomplished by introducing two new 4-hour freshman courses: MA 165, 166.

The motivation for these changes was as follows. Since many entering engineering students have some experience with single variable calculus in high school, it was felt that they could handle the freshman year material in 4-hour instead of 5-hour courses. (The 5-hour freshman courses are still available for students who need them.) In addition, it was very strongly felt that engineers trained for the next century should know more linear algebra and differential equations.

The new sophomore level courses on linear algebra and differential equations were developed by the Mathematics Department in close consultation with the Schools of Engineering. In addition to containing much more theory, they include a computer component so that students not only learn the underlying mathematics, but also how to implement this mathematics to solve real-world problems by using sophisticated software packages such as MATHEMATICA, MAPLE, and MATLAB. Pilot sections of these courses were very well received by students, and the Mathematics Department began offering them on a large scale last spring.

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