>From owner-sigcse.members@acm.org  Fri Dec 29 12:20:29 2000
Reply-To: "H. Conrad Cunningham" 
Sender: SIGCSE Member Forum 
Subject:      Re: Math and Physics

> I have a feeling that - at least in engineering-school-based CS
> programs like ours - we've kept the first year filled with calc
> and physics because we've always done so. Obviously this makes sense
> for traditional egineering, because calc and physics directly feed
> into most of the engineering topics. For the most part, they do not
> feed directly into CS. The feed from calculus is more indirect -
> rigor, math maturity, etc.
> This makes me _really_ want to redesign the curriculum so as to shift
> the first-year emphasis from calc and lab science to genuine CS topics,
> letting students defer the (CSAB-required!) calc and science to later
> years when they have more perspective on its relationship to CS.
> Does anyone out there have experience with this?

We have somewhat the same experience with the calc and physics.  However,
physics is not taken until the sophomore or junior year.  (It is in the
suggested program in the second year, but many students delay it until
later.)  However, calc tends to be in the first year (unless the student
is unprepared for calc upon entry.)

Our discrete math sequence is taught by the Math department, has a first
semester calc prerequiste, and tends to be taken during the junior year.
If calculus is moved later in the curriculum, I would think that discrete
math should be taught to freshman and with a calculus-ready prerequisite.
Some schools do that.  How well does it work?

Perhaps I have not looked closely at recent textbooks, but my problem with
most discrete math textbooks I have examined (and, hence, courses) is that
I feel that they are poorly integrated -- just a loose collection of topics
that do not seem to have a unifying theme. ... I also tend to think
these courses should emphasize symbolic logic extensively, as unifying thread
through the book/course, not just one of many topics covered.

- Conrad Cunningham, University of Mississippi

[emphasis by the editor]