Baylor University's department of mathematics is taking a lemon and making it into lemonade with the construction of a new specialized learning space, the Mathematics Technology Classroom.
Rendered unusable for regular classroom use due to a noisy air conditioning unit located directly behind it, Sid Richardson 203 was an unfortunate waste of space in a time when Baylor's student population has continued to grow. But after some thoughtful renovation regarding the air conditioning unit - and the assistance of two generous Baylor alumni - this once-vacant room became a prime location for a technology classroom unique to any other on Baylor's campus.
An addition worth celebrating, the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Mathematics Technology Classroom is set for 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 17., in room 203 of Sid Richardson on the Baylor campus.
"The Mathematics Technology Classroom is an important and necessary step in the department's continuing growth," said Dr. Lance Littlejohn, chair of the department of mathematics in Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences. "It will be a huge boost to our various programs in mathematics and was the one thing we were lacking. It also will be a great aid in recruiting."
The classroom contains 30 student computers and a computer for the instructor. Each computer is formatted with specialized software that will be used in courses dealing with calculus, linear algebra, numerical mathematics, differential equations and mathematics education.
The Geometer's Sketchpad', Mathematica', MATLAB' and Insight are the highlights of the software that will be installed on each computer. Mathematica' and MATLAB' allow for life-like creation of 3-D figures that will be helpful to students in upper-level calculus classes, according to Littlejohn. And the Geometer's Sketchpad' will bring geometry figures to life on screen. Insight is classroom-control software created by Faronics. It will allow the students to view an instructor's computer screen on their individual monitors and also allow a student to share his or her screen with the rest of the class.
"We have a lot of software that will help students understand mathematical concepts better," Littlejohn said. "This classroom also will allow us to offer more graduate courses in numerical and computational mathematics for our own graduate students and graduate students in the new doctorate program in engineering."
Faculty who plan to use the classroom for instruction will go through three days of training. The room is ID-card accessible, and the math department plans to have lab hours where students can come in after class hours and use the computers to complete homework or study.
The department of mathematics worked closely with the College of Arts and Sciences Technology department, design services, classroom technology and student technology to make the technology classroom a reality.
"It really was the coming together of the different entities that allowed us to get things moving," said Wes Johnson, the technology consultant for the College of Arts and Sciences.
The creation of this much-needed facility would not have been possible without the generosity of Baylor alumni, Jim and Lisa Meyerhoff. Jim graduated from Baylor in 1978 with a bachelor's of science degree in mathematics and then in 1983 with a master's of science degree in geology. He is currently a partner and Exploration Manager at Krescent Energy in Houston. Lisa graduated from Baylor in 1978 with a bachelor of science degree and in 1983 with a master's degree, both in geology. She received her juris doctorate from South Texas College of Law in 1990 and is now a partner at the Houston law firm Baker & McKenzie LLP.
"Education in America is what it is today because so many people have given back to institutions of higher learning such as Baylor," said Jim Meyerhoff. "Because God has blessed Baylor alumni with great educations and the resources to give back to Baylor, it is important that they continue the tradition of helping current and future Baylor students obtain quality educations in a Christian environment."
"Within minutes of a breakfast meeting with Jim, it was clear he wanted to help out the math department in a significant way," Littlejohn said. "The department is so grateful to the Meyerhoffs for their support. What they have done for us will have lasting, positive effects for generations of Baylor students."