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Bowen, Pierce co-edit book titled “Mathematical Themes in a First-Year Seminar”

Two faculty members at The College of Wooster are the editors of a book titled, “Mathematical Themes in a First-Year Seminar.” Jennifer Bowen, Dean for Curriculum and Academic Engagement and Professor of Mathematics, and Pamela Pierce, Professor of Mathematics, co- edited the volume along with colleagues Jennifer Schaefer and Mark Kozek. The volume contains 36 chapters, each focusing on a particular first-year seminar taught by authors from a variety of institutions, from small liberal arts colleges to large research universities.

The book is published by the Mathematical Association of America, as part of its Notes Series. It will serve as a handbook for faculty members interested in finding new topics, course structures, activities, or assignments to incorporate into writing-intensive first-year experience courses containing mathematical content or mathematical or quantitative themes.

The book is the first of its kind relating to first-year seminar courses with mathematical content.

“One of the reasons Pam and I joined forces with Jennifer Schaefer and Mark Kozek was our mutual interest and experience in a liberal arts curriculum teaching first-year seminar courses as mathematicians,” Bowen said. “We each realized independently that there were few resources for mathematicians in this area.”

Pierce and Bowen wrote two introductory chapters for the book, one on the history of first-year seminars in higher education and the second offering tips for those teaching in the FYS program for the first time. Further, they each have a chapter in the book describing their most recent FYS with a mathematical theme.

Each chapter in the book describes a particular first-year seminar and the ways in which the mathematical theme was incorporated into the seminar. There are chapters on mathematics and art, mathematics and the environment, mathematics in the media, chaos, game theory, statistics, and many others.cover of MAA Notes series book titled Mathematical Themes in a First-Year Seminar

“I have so many ideas from the book that I am eager to try out in my next FYS class,” Pierce said. “My chapter in the book is about my last iteration of FYS, where the topic was how people make decisions. Some of the other contributors had themes that were very similar to my theme, and I could easily borrow a number of different activities, readings, and films from their chapters that might really enhance my current FYS. Moreover, reading the book has got me excited about possibly teaching an FYS with a brand new theme.”

Bowen and Pierce shared that they hope the book will serve as an excellent resource for faculty in mathematics-related disciplines that are developing a first-year seminar course for the first time.

Published Dec. 2, 2021

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