Background and Context

Course History | Place in the Curriculum | Funding Sources
Ordinary Differential Equations in Real World Situations, a course at Bryn Mawr College.
Victor Donnay, Professor of Mathematics, Department of Mathematics


Course History

The differential equations course is taught to between fifteen and twenty sophomore, junior and senior math and science majors. I use the text Differential Equationsby Blanchard, Devaney and Hall. Over the past several years I have been focusing the course more on mathematical modeling than on physics and engineering applications. Since Bryn Mawr is a liberal arts college without an engineering program and our physics department teaches its own mathematical methods course, I have the freedom to replace some traditional topics with material on modeling.

The text has a lot of interesting real world applications of modeling which have stimulated my interest in more applied aspects of mathematics. As my interests and expertise has developed more in these directions, I have added more components to the course that have a civic engagement focus.

Factors that have contributed to my development in this direction include:

  • teaching a course for senior math majors on Mathematical Modeling and the Environment, using the text of the same name by Charles Hadlock
  • supervising on year long senior these on Mathematical Epidemiology in which we studied the book ... (ref)
  • attending the 2006 Mathematics of Social Justice conference at Lafayette College

Place in the Curriculum

Mathematics 210, Differential Equations with Applications, is an elective that counts towards the mathematics major. It has as pre-requisites Calculus 1 and 2 and as a co-requisite either Multivariable Calculus or Linear Algebra. It can count as an elective for science majors. Mathematically oriented students in the Environmental Studies concentration are encouraged to take the course. The course is not required for physics majors. There is no engineering program at our institution so we do not need to cover engineering oriented topics.

Funding Sources

I have received no funding support for course development. The last time I taught the course, I had an undergraduate teaching assistant who attended the class and helped me with the logistics of the course, the worksheets and the laptop computers. I also have an undergraduate student who grades the weekly homework.