UE Math Professors Awarded $600,000 National Science Foundation Grant

Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dave Dwyer and Mark Gruenwald, professors of mathematics at the University of Evansville, have been awarded a three-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant is one of 30 awarded out of over 400 proposals submitted to the NSF’s TUES program (Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) for extending and broadening the work of successful pilot projects related to undergraduate STEM education. It is one of only two such grants awarded for projects related to mathematics.

“This grant is not just a tremendous honor for Dr. Dwyer, Dr. Gruenwald, and the Department of Mathematics, but it is also a wonderful example of the quality of the faculty at the University of Evansville,” said UE President Thomas A. Kazee. “Their project has the potential to revolutionize the way calculus is taught across the nation. By funding this grant, the National Science Foundation affirms the remarkable commitment Professor Dwyer and Professor Gruenwald have made to scholarship and teaching.”

The grant supports the second phase of Dwyer and Gruenwald’s Resequencing Calculus project, which builds on work that was funded by a $150,000 NSF grant awarded in 2009. Under the first grant, Dwyer and Gruenwald revised the standard three-semester calculus sequence to better meet the emerging needs of students in a variety of STEM disciplines, wrote a 700-page textbook to support the first two semesters of this sequence, piloted the sequence at UE, and identified supporters of the redesigned sequence at other institutions.

Phase 2 of the project entails completing the three-semester textbook, testing and assessing the textbook and the sequence at four other universities (Valparaiso University, Millikin University, the University of Central Missouri, and the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota), and campaigning for broad and sustained adoption of the revised sequence.

“A close look at the order and choice of topics in the mainstream calculus sequence is long overdue, especially in light of the ever-increasing role of mathematical and statistical modeling in fields such as chemistry, biology, and economics,” said Dwyer. “For too many students and at too many institutions, mainstream calculus sequences as they exist now are a poor fit.”

According to biochemist Kristy Miller, chair of UE’s Department of Chemistry, “Students in chemistry and the life sciences would benefit from exposure to certain topics that are usually not covered until the third semester of calculus, but most of these students do not have room in their schedules for a full three-semester sequence.”

“One of the goals of the Resequencing Calculus project is to rearrange the ordering and choice of topics in the mainstream calculus sequence to better fit the needs of today’s students,” Gruenwald added. “Our approach more closely connects calculus instruction with its application in STEM fields, and it facilitates deeper and earlier exposure to both upper-level math courses and upper-level courses in STEM disciplines where calculus is applied.”

A number of UE faculty members will serve in an advisory capacity to the project, including Mohammad Azarian, Erin Davis, Clark Kimberling, and Adam Salminen in the Department of Mathematics; Jeff Braun in the Department of Physics; and David Unger in the Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering. Brian Ernsting, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will serve as an internal assessment advisor. Teams of undergraduate math majors at UE will contribute to the development of the text and related materials.

Dwyer and Gruenwald will also be assisted by faculty and students at each of the pilot institutions, an external professional assessment team, and an advisory board consisting of national leaders in various STEM professional organizations.

To learn more about this project, please visit the Resequencing Calculus website.

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