History of Mathematics at GVSU
Thomas Jefferson College


Phone: 616-331-2041
Ted Sundstrom
sundstrt@gvsu.edu

Department of Mathematics
Grand Valley State University
Allendale, MI 49401
Thomas Jefferson College
Thomas Jefferson College started in the fall of 1968 as the School of General Studies. The first faculty chair of the School of General Studies was Dr. Dan Clock who had been a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics. When Thomas Jefferson College was established, the so-called traditional college was named the College of Arts and Sciences.  Thomas Jefferson College was closed after the 1979 - 1980 academic year.
 
Thomas Jefferson College was described in the 1970-71 catalog as “a freely structured experimental program offering unusual opportunities for interdisciplinary approaches to learning.” The college gave students both the freedom and responsibility to design their own curriculum, guided by a faculty member and approved by the faculty.  TJC did not have a mathematics program and it only offered courses in mathematics occasionally. For example, courses titled Theory of Arithmetic (The Real Number System) and Algebra for Those Who Don’t Take to It Naturally were found in the schedules of classes. Following are course descriptions found in a schedule of classes.
 
Real Number System (Winter 1975)
Does arithmetic make sense? Why do we perform the operations of arithmetic the way we do? Why do we have a base 10 number system? What it be like with another base? What are the definitions of natural numbers, integers, rational and irrational numbers? For the answers to these questions, take this course. No math background needed. Especially good for prospective elementary teachers. Others are welcome. Guaranteed to remove the fear of numbers! Each student will keep a workbook of problems.
 
Algebra for Those Who Don’t Take to It Naturally (Winter 1975)
This class – the result of student requests in the fall of 1974 – will be an introduction to important principles of algebra and practice in their applications. The student title, “Algebra for Dummies,” indicates that we will be especially understanding of the special problems of those ill at ease with mathematics.
 
Until 1974, students could earn credit at TJC by completing an Exam in a specialized area of study. These Exams were offered by the faculty and given during the eighth or eleventh week of the term (quarter) and students earned five credits with satisfactory completion of an Exam. A student would prepare for an Exam by independent readings according to a syllabus prepared by a faculty member. The syllabus sometimes included seminars and tutorials. TJC offered two Exams in mathematics. One was titled Truth and Mathematics and one related to calculus was Infinite Processes. Following is the description of this Exam taken from the 1970-71 catalog.
 
Truth and Mathematics. Examines knowledge of relationships between the sciences, truth, and mathematics. Deduction and its limitations, do numbers exist? Are theorems true?
 
Infinite Processes. Examines knowledge of the central ideas of modern analysis. Resolution of paradoxes such as those of Zeno. A description of what calculus is all about. Types of infinities; continuity and discreteness.
 
No records could be found concerning how many students competed these exams.
 
  Last Modified Date: March 21, 2014
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