"The Role of Mathematics in Undergraduate CS Education"

Peter B. Henderson, Head

Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering

Butler University


Abstract: Computer science and software engineering are young, maturing disciplines. As with other mathematically based disciplines, such as the natural sciences, economics and engineering, it takes time for the mathematical roots to grow and flourish. The current mathematics requirements for computer science majors may not be appropriate, and the mathematics material that is appropriate is not integrated into the computer science courses. The Computing Curriculum 2001 effort is the first to explicitly include discrete mathematics in the core. It also recommends that this material be covered early. In addition, the CC2001 discrete mathematics focus group is recommending 2 semesters of discrete mathematics. This partly addresses the requirements issue, but not the integration problem.

This presentation will identify and motivate the topics to be included in freshman discrete mathematics, discuss curricula issues, present evidence that teaching discrete mathematics and problem-solving early is beneficial, and discuss ways in which important mathematical concepts can be integrated into computer science courses, including computer science I.

Bio Sketch: Ph D, Princeton University, BSEE & MSEE, Clarkson University. Professor Henderson has been actively involved in the effort to ensure computer based mathematics is covered as early as possible in the curriculum and to ensure these concepts are used and built upon in all computer science courses. Over 15 years he developed, evolved and taught Foundations of Computer Science, the first course for all computer science and computer engineering majors at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In the spring of 1999 Professor Henderson co-founded the math thinking discussion group(www.math-in-cs.org) which is actively trying to promote the importance of mathematics and mathematical thinking in computer science education. He has served on numerous panels at national conferences, run several National Science Foundation sponsored workshops on teaching foundations of computer science, has been a co-principle investigator of 3 National Science Foundation education grants addressing issues relating to teaching mathematics in the context of computer science. In addition, he chaired the working group "Striving for Mathematical Thinking" at ITiCSE 2001.