Morris Kline, one of the twentieth century’s great mathematicians, in his book, A History of Mathematics in Western Culture, advances the thesis… that mathematics has been a major cultural force in Western civilization. Almost everyone knows that mathematics serves the very practical purpose of dictating engineering design.
Fewer people seem to be aware that mathematics carries the main burden of scientific reasoning and is the core of the major theories of physical science. It is even less widely known that mathematics has determined the direction and content of much philosophic thought, has destroyed and rebuilt religious doctrines, has supplied substance to economic and political theories, has fashioned major painting, musical, architectural, and literary styles, has fathered our logic, and has furnished the best answers we have to the fundamental questions about the nature of man and his universe.
As the embodiment and most powerful advocate of the rational spirit, mathematics has invaded domains ruled by authority, custom, and habit, and has supplanted them as the arbiter of thought and action. Finally, as an incomparably fine human achievement, mathematics offers satisfactions and aesthetic values at least equal to those offered by any other branches of our culture.
Bertrand Russell, the English philosopher, states: “Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses … supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than a man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry”.
The West Valley College Mathematics Department subscribes wholeheartedly to the beliefs of Morris Kline and Bertrand Russell. The department believes that all people should have the opportunity to experience mathematics, not just as a series of apparently meaningless technical procedures, but as Morris Kline and Bertrand Russell have. The mathematics faculty hope to:
Provide our students with the mathematical power necessary for a productive and creative life.
Help our students master fundamental skills at a level sufficient to sustain our present technology-based society.
To influence the mathematical curricula in our country so that it is current and reflects present intellectual and technical needs, and the new findings in cognitive science.
To provide a vigorous intellectual center for the mathematical life of West Valley College.
The mathematics department at West Valley College offers a wide variety of courses that include pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, statistics, trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, and mathematics for elementary school teachers. Many of the courses we offer are transferable to four-year schools. We have 13 instructors, some who have just recently graduated with their master’s or PhD degrees, and some who have been here for 30 years.
Our faculty is very active in the mathematics education community. Most of us regularly attend conferences so as to keep up with current trends in teaching and learning. From time-to-time, several members give presentations on mathematics or teaching and learning at local, state, and nationwide conferences. Some of the faculty have written textbooks on community college mathematics topics. Nearly all the mathematics faculty belong to some professional mathematics organization.
West Valley College has a tutoring center where any student can get one free hour of one-on-one tutoring in most subjects. Drop-in tutoring is also available anytime the tutorial center is open. The tutorial center is located adjacent to the college’s library.
The mathematics department operates its own resource center. The Mathematics Resource Center is located in the room SM-5 of the Science and Mathematics building. It is staffed with student tutors and very often mathematics faculty members are present.