Calculus During the First Two Years

Calculus During the First Two Years at Grand Valley

Grand Valley State College opened its doors to students in September 1963. During the 1963-64 academic year, no calculus course was taught. In fact, only one mathematics course was taught, which was Mathematics 1 – Introduction to College Mathematics. This was by design. In fact, during that first academic year, only courses that were part of so-called Foundation Program were taught. The Foundation Program was a set of nine courses that all students were required to take. The Foundation was considered by its designers as a centerpiece for a public, liberal arts college. (The 1963-64 catalog indicated that a Calculus and Analytic Geometry course would be offered in 1963-64 for those students who were granted an exemption from the mathematics foundation course, but it appears that it was never offered.) After completing their first year in the Foundations Program, students would then begin their major field of study. This is quite likely the reason that the first two courses in the calculus sequence have 200-level numbers rather than 100-level numbers.

The person who taught Mathematics 1 in 1963-64 was Dr. Marvin De Vries. He was one of the original 15 faculty members at Grand Valley and started his career at Grand Valley as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Economics. He was, however, an economist and so the original faculty did not have a mathematician. So while the curriculum was being developed for many majors, during the first year, there was little work at developing the mathematics curriculum. Consequently, there were no descriptions of calculus courses in the 1964-65 catalog.

Grand Valley hired two mathematics faculty members for the 1964-65 academic year: Dr. Dan Clock and Prof. Don Vander Jagt. (Prof. Vander Jagt completed his Ph.D. while at Grand Valley in 1973 from Western Michigan University.) The mathematics major, the calculus sequence, and service courses in mathematics were developed during the second year by Profs. Clock and Vander Jagt. The following are the first description of calculus courses at Grand Valley and appeared in the 1965-66 catalog.

201     Calculus and Analytic Geometry I
Introduction to analytic geometry, functions, limits, derivatives, applications of the derivative, and integrals. Prerequisite: Algebra and Trigonometry, or consent of the department, generally granted upon successful completion of an examination set by the department.

202     Calculus and Analytic Geometry II
The definite integral, exponential and logarithmic functions, trig­onometric and inverse trigonometric functions, formal integration, further applications of the calculus, and basic properties of con­tinuous and differentiable functions. Prerequisite: Mathematics 201 or consent of instructor.

203     Calculus and Analytic Geometry III
Infinite series, plane curves, vectors, polar coordinates, three-dimensional analytic geometry, differential calculus of functions of several variables, and multiple integration. Prerequisite: Mathe­matics 202 or consent of instructor.

These courses, of course, were taught during Grand Valley’s second year, 1964-65. An interesting part of this was that at this time, Grand Valley did not offer a precalculus course, and this caused the instructors some amount of difficulty. In an article he wrote for the Grand Valley Review ("Field for Dreams"), Prof. Vander Jagt states that, “These students had taken Foundation courses their first year, which included no pre-calculus material, and I had the dubious honor of teaching them in the first calculus class on campus. What the students had in enthusiasm, they lacked in preparation. During the first year of operation, it had been decreed that any Grand Valley student could enroll in calculus independent of mathematical preparation. I questioned the dean about that decision, but he was insistent that such a policy was appropriate. I had taught calculus for several years elsewhere and very quickly realized that many of these Grand Valley students were very inadequately prepared in basic pre-calculus fundamentals. Predictably, about half the class failed, which led to some heated discussions between the dean and me. As a result, in the second quarter, I taught a much smaller class in Calculus 11 and tutored many of the students who failed so they were prepared to take Calculus the next quarter. By the beginning of the following year, a pre-calculus course was in the curriculum.” This course had a very terse description in the 1965-66 catalog.

121     Algebra and Trigonometry
An intermediate course suitable for students who wish to prepare for further work in mathematics.

Page last modified October 16, 2014