Mathematics is a major achievement of the human mind, a subject with its own structure and elegance, worthy of pursuit for its own sake. On the other hand, mathematics has always been used to help us understand the world and the society in which we live, and with the development of the computer, applications of the mathematical methods of thought have become even more prominent.
At Beloit, we respect and teach both aspects of mathematics. The structure and intellectual appeal of mathematical ideas is central to our courses and curriculum. We stress the relationship of mathematical thinking to other fields of intellectual and practical endeavor. We emphasize the importance of clear and careful expression to mathematical reasoning; our courses involve practice in writing, giving oral presentations, and working on projects as part of a team.
Most students begin their mathematics course of study with calculus—the quantitative study of change and the mathematical ideas for describing it. Calculus is the cornerstone of further explorations in mathematics. In addition to teaching the fundamental concepts and technical aspects of the subject, we pay particular attention to its historical dimension, to those who developed the subject, and why it mattered to them.
The sophomore year is designed to give students a sense of contemporary mathematics. Normally one course in each term will be chosen from linear algebra, discrete mathematics, differential equations, vector calculus, and probability and statistics. During the junior and senior years, students continue to broaden their mathematical knowledge while pursuing some advanced topics in depth.
Mathematics majors participate in the department's weekly mathematics colloquium, an event that begins with informal interaction between faculty and students and is followed by a mathematical lecture given by a visitor, faculty member, or advanced student. Apart from regularly offered courses, students also have the option of independent study or supervised research in areas of faculty expertise in which we do not usually offer courses.
The faculty of the mathematics department make a special effort to develop internship opportunities for mathematics majors and to encourage students to take advantage of such opportunities. Notable opportunities of this sort have included government-sponsored undergraduate research at national laboratories, software conversion, oceanographic research, statistical quality control, database programming, and management training.
Mathematics majors go in many different directions after leaving Beloit. Some go on to graduate school in mathematics; those who have a second major often continue in that field, given advantage by their work in mathematics. Universities entered by recent graduates include Chicago, Duke, Iowa, Michigan, Purdue, SUNY at Stony Brook, and Wisconsin, as well as the University of Chicago for business; Johns Hopkins University for astronomy; and UCLA for anthropology.
Other recent graduates have taken jobs in utility and insurance rate-making, operations research for a trucking firm, household energy modeling for the National Bureau of Standards, engineering flight simulators for the U.S. Air Force, high school and grade school teaching, and all kinds of computer work.