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Mission Assessment
The Department of Mathematical Sciences seeks to provide students with the training in mathematics and statistics necessary for success in their careers. The instructional mission of the department can be divided into three categories: 1) we offer quantitative literacy to general university students; 2) we provide the mathematical background for students preparing for careers in other fields; and 3) we offer a quality program of mathematical specialization in the form of majors (with various options) and a minor. Graduates of major/minor programs may teach in public schools or work in national laboratories, government or businesses. Our graduates often seek advanced degrees in mathematics.

The University Catalog defines the mathematical literacy that is expected of all students at The University of Montana. A graduate will demonstrate the ability to a) formulate real-world problems quantitatively, b) solve quantitative problems, c) interpret solutions to problems, and d) make critical judgments regarding the validity of competing formulations and solutions. This definition is considered in the established learning goals of all undergraduate courses. There is the commitment to maintain a faculty make-up with adequate expertise to carry out its service obligations to the University of Montana through course offerings. Naturally, the research commitment of the department is more extensive at the graduate level, but undergraduate students often participate through research courses, seminars, independent study, undergraduate projects, and theses.
Steps in the Assessment Process
1. Student Learning Goals

The following are the most important learning goals for students who complete a major or minor in mathematical sciences:
  1. Students are expected to obtain a broad background in mathematics as demonstrated by their understanding of core mathematical content: functions, calculus, linear algebra, proof.
  2. Students will develop the ability to communicate mathematics both within and outside the discipline.
  3. Students will develop clear, analytical thinking skills as demonstrated by rigorous reasoning in mathematical arguments.
  4. Students will employ a variety of problem solving strategies, including the use of technology.
  5. Students will be prepared for advanced, more specialized study in mathematics (pure and applied), statistics, or mathematics education.
2. Measurement of Goals

The following means are used to measure the progress of our students and to evaluate the programs that we offer:
  1. For each undergraduate class, we have identified specific learning goals. Expected entering skills and prerequisites are considered. Suggestions are given for in-class measurement of the learning goals. Potential problems (for example, future needs of students and difficulties encountered when multiple sections converge into one subsequent course) are part of the evaluation.
  2. Because the content of previous mathematics courses is extremely relevant to future study in the field, we constantly monitor the success of students in subsequent courses. The success of students in the next course is a good measure of their command of the previous courses.
  3. We follow up on our graduates. We try to stay in touch to see if they think we have prepared them well. We often receive feedback from our graduates who continue in academic programs regarding the value of their undergraduate preparation here.
  4. Many of our students participate in independent projects leading to publications and public presentations. Mathematics students may also participate in local, regional, and national competitions.
3. Modifications Based on Assessment

The following is a sample of changes made after assessing program offerings in the department:
  1. Following a retreat of the entire faculty to study our calculus offerings, a committee undertook a year-long restructuring of the course. All aspects were considered, including prerequisites, the use of technology in instruction, the future goals of students in the courses, consistency in multiple sections, and grading.
  2. In conjunction with the Provost's Quality Initiative, a Tutorial Center was established to benefit students in entry-level courses. The Center employs advanced mathematics students to work with students in 100-level courses.
  3. All mathematics courses are evaluated for their technology needs. Computer labs and mathematical software are constantly monitored and upgraded to ensure that we provide the best technology support possible. Laboratory courses have been added to supplement some course offerings (Math 317, Math 388, and Math 418) and technology components have been expanded internally in some classes (Math 150, Math 221, and Math 431). Advanced statistics labs (Math 447 and Math 448) are now taught by professors, not adjunct faculty.
  4. Program adjustments have been proposed, debated, and implemented. For example, in our Combinatorics and Optimization emphasis, Math 481 and Math 482 were eliminated and Math 485 Graph Theory was introduced.
  5. Regarding mathematics literacy, the department experimented with large lecture classes in four courses (Math 107, Math 117, Math 121, and Math 150). The results indicated that students were adversely affected by this format, so we returned to self-contained sections in Math 107 and Math 121.
  6. The hiring of Lecturers whose primary responsibility is teaching of entry-level courses has led to a more stable cohort of faculty. In addition, the department has committed to having more tenure-track faculty teaching and coordinating lower-level classes.
Mathematical Sciences | University of Montana