St. Olaf College Undergraduate Mathematics
Lynn Arthur Steen
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics
Dept. of Mathematics
Statistics, & Comp.Sci

St. Olaf College
1520 St. Olaf Ave.
Northfield, MN 55057

Copyright © 2010.

Calculus Reform

During 1985-86 I served as President of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), a professional organization of 30,000 college and university mathematics faculty. This assignment not only took me to Washington, DC on a regular basis, but provided opportunities to visit and speak at college campuses across the country.

At that time the development of computing was creating a crisis of confidence in calculus and with it a significant decline in undergraduate enrollments. The community's response came to be known as "calculus reform." In 1987, the National Research Council convened a national convocation to address these issues. Calculus for a New Century is the enhanced proceedings of this convocation. Its subtitle became the slogan of undergraduate reform: to make mathematics "a pump, not a filter" in the pipeline of American education.

(One of the major outgrowths of this movement is the "OZ" calculus text developed at St. Olaf by my colleagues Arnold Ostebee and Paul Zorn.)

Once calculus reform got underway, other issues quickly surfaced, including teacher preparation, computational science, program assessment, effective pedagogy, and--more recently--quantitative literacy. These were addressed through a variety of programs, committees, projects, and forums, and led to two volumes of curriculum reports and recommendations that I edited for the MAA: Reshaping College Mathematics and Heeding the Call for Change. These reports documented the rationale and provided motivation for many reform efforts in undergraduate mathematics.

Resources for Reform

To support the emerging recommendations for change, and with help of grants from the National Science Foundation and the Exxon Education Foundation, I led a team of approximately 150 mathematicians to expand and update a decade-old list of recommended volumes for undergraduate libraries. In 1992 these recommendations were published by the MAA in three volumes: for four-year college libraries, for two-year college libraries, and for high school and public libraries. This Basic Library List has now been incorporated into MAA OnLine where it is available for searching over the internet.

Two recent projects, both sponsored by the MAA, continue the national effort to strengthen undergraduate mathematics. Math and Bio 2010: Linking Undergraduate Disciplines reports on strategies for preparing mathematics and biology undergraduates for careers in the "new biology" where sophisticated mathematical and computer techniques are required to interpret voluminous data from genomics to epidemiology.

Strengthening Assessment in Undergaduate Mathematics (SAUM) is both a volume of case studies and a website derived from an NSF-supported project designed to support mathematics departments seeking to meet accountability expectations by documenting what their students learn. The web site includes links to a previous report on assessment (Assessment Practices in Undergraduate Mathematics), recently revised Guidelines for Assessment of Student Learning, and a bibliography of web sites and published reports on assessment of undergraduate mathematics.

Related Professional Service

2002-05   Steering Committee, Supporting Assessment in Undergraduate Mathematics (SAUM).
2000-01   International Conversation on Liberal Arts Education, National Council on Education and the Disciplines.
1999-00   Chief Organizer, Working Group on Mathematics Education in Universities, International Congress on Mathematics Education (ICME-9), Tokyo/Makuhari, Japan. August, 2000.
1995-00   Chair, NSF Visiting Committee for Long Island Consortium for Interconnected Learning.
1996-00   Chair, Advisory Board for Focus and MAA OnLine, Mathematical Association of America.
1992-96   Committee on Opportunities in Science, American Association Advancement of Science.
1992-96   Coordinating Council on Education, Mathematical Association of America.
1990-92   Executive Committee, Project Kaleidoscope.
1989-89   Consultant for Fifty Hours, National Endowment for Humanities, Washington D.C.
1988-91   Chair, MAA Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics (CUPM).
1988-90   Chair, Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS).
1988-90   Chair, MAA-AAC Task Force on the Undergraduate Mathematics Major.
1986-89   Advisory Committee, Division of Mathematical Sciences, National Science Foundation.
1989-89   Chair, Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP).
1982-88   Secretary, Section A (Mathematics), American Association for the Advancement of Science.
1985-86   President, Mathematical Association of America.
1980-86   Trustee, Consortium on Mathematics and Its Applications.
1984-84   Council of the American Mathematical Society.
1976-92   Board of Governors, Mathematical Association of America.
1973-80   Committee on Publications, Mathematical Association of America.