A degree in mathematics will provide a foundation for a lifetime of critical thinking and learning. Whether you are interested in mathematics for its own sake or applications of mathematics in a particular subject, the Millsaps College Department of Mathematics provides opportunities to develop quantitative reasoning, problem solving, and other skills. The department supports two majors: mathematics and applied mathematics. Many mathematics majors pursue graduate school while others find careers in industry or government. A major in applied mathematics will provide a thorough grounding in mathematical methods that underlie the physical, engineering, and biological sciences. Employers seek mathematics majors regardless of the particular work involved because of their ability to solve problems. Banks and investment firms, insurance companies, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and publishing firms are some of the employment opportunities available to math majors.
The department is committed to providing a program of instruction that will achieve goals in four areas: quantitative literacy of our graduates, service to other departments, service to the major, and your own personal development.
The Mathematics Department ensures that you will be provided quality instruction in the major areas of your discipline, makes you aware of current issues and active research areas, and prepares you to be competitive in the workplace and in graduate and professional schools.
B.A., University of Texas; M.Ed., Texas A & M University; M.S., Mississippi College
Gayla Dance came to Millsaps College in 1989 and teaches in the Mathematics Department. Dance stresses class interaction as a way of getting students to engage with their math classes. She says, "I have been known to say, 'It is too quiet in here. I seem to be the only one talking. ' I encourage, applaud, and beg students to join in the class discussion. I continue to look for ways to motivate my students, and I'm shameless with what I will try. I always try to keep my presentations energetic and interactive. Also, I want to create an environment where students are comfortable enough to say that they do not understand. I do this by telling them that our classes are conversations, not lectures, and I encourage them to ask questions in class. To alleviate some of the anxiety found in many students in freshman level mathematics courses, I encourage group problem solving and extended guided practice.
"I love mathematics in its pure and abstract form, but some of my students have difficulty seeing its beauty. However, most of them respond very well to the applied side of math. I try to convey that math is the language of science and, as such, it can be a tool used for understanding our world. While their eyes might glaze over during the delta-epsilon definition of a limit in calculus, the students perk up when I show them using calculus that the B-2 Stealth bomber was built exactly wrong—it should be a flying fuselage instead of a flying wing. Because of the students interest in applied situations I have overhauled all of my projects. One class calculated the amount of stone and labor needed to build the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Giza, while another class used the Hoover Dam in a similar project. Yet another class had to prove for the defense that the McDonald's customer could not have been burned by the spilt coffee, using Newton's Law of Cooling. I could have asked them to work the same math problems in the abstract, but the context brought it to life and made it relevant to them. "
B.A., Millsaps College; M.C.S., Mississippi College; M.S., Ph.D., University of Mississippi
B.S., Millsaps College; Ph.D., Louisiana State University
"Teaching: I love to teach at Millsaps and I think the students appreciate my caring nature. For example, if a student makes a zero on a quiz, I draw a sad face in it so they know I feel their pain. Also, on the rare occasions I make a mistake at the board (like, diamond rare), I’ll take points off myself. I’ll write a big ‘minus 5’ on the board. That way, when I take points off their tests, they know they’re not being treated any differently than I treat myself. It gives me street-cred in the classroom.
"Research: Several of my recent ideas have been featured in textbooks (2 in calculus texts). A statistics idea has been the subject of a webinar sponsored by the Journal of Statistics Education (perhaps it will appear in a text, too). I’ve focused my efforts on new ideas that can be shared with undergraduates. My days of exploring twigs on the branches of obscurity are long gone.
Outside Class: I live in Madison with my wife, two dogs, and a cat on 2.5 acres of a wooded cul-de-sac. I have one son who recently graduated from the Naval Academy as a math major (3.95 GPA). But he isn’t your typical math major…HOOYAH! Currently, my favorite hobby is rappelling. Rappelling from a building is illegal so I rappel off pine trees. Many pines have no low hanging branches so I’ll climb 50 feet and rappel down. Pretty cool."
B.B.A., Georgia State University; M.S., Ph.D., University of Mississippi
"I find teaching to be quite fun and rewarding. The job of a math professor is to both teach the material and demonstrate to the students why it is interesting and convince them that they are capable of learning it. I want all students to leave my classroom understanding the basic concepts covered in the course, but I see further opportunities to assist them in their evolution as critical thinkers and problem solvers. To this end, I am incorporating more learner-centered techniques than ever before.
"I strive to create a relaxed classroom atmosphere and make sure that student responses are always given merit – because right or wrong, they are valuable and we can all learn from them. My goal as a teacher is to foster the desire to learn and encourage learning by opening my own mind to let the students teach me new ways to reach them.
"While at Millsaps, I have taught Elementary Functions, Elementary Statistics, Calculus I, Calculus II, Introduction to Advanced Math, Linear Algebra, Graph Theory, and Number Theory. Hopefully new adventures await me in other courses as well! I plan to continue to find ways to connect with students and help them to connect with the material."
B.A., M.S., University of Mississippi
Tracy Sullivan started teaching at Millsaps in the fall of 1993. She enjoys teaching a wide variety of courses at the introductory and immediate level, especially courses in the calculus sequence. Ms. Sullivan is very active in investigating ways technology can be used to enhance students’ understanding of mathematics. Examples of technology and multimedia she regularly uses in her courses include graphing calculators, mathematical software, 3D plotting websites, short videos, and podcasts.
Recently, Tracy was involved in redesigning the department’s introductory level Statistics course to shift the course away from being a calculation driven course to a more concept and activity driven course which makes use of current technology and allows students to spend more time on understanding statistical concepts and interpreting the results of statistical tests.
In her free time, Tracy enjoys following sports and traveling to places with beautiful hiking trails.
B.S., M.S., South China Normal University; M.S., National University of Singapore; Ph.D., University of Alabama in Huntsville
"I teach Mathematics and Computer Science courses at Millsaps College. These courses are objective and useful, I just love teaching them! Carl Friedrich Gauss once said, “Mathematics is the queen of the sciences”. I completely agree with him! My happiest moments are when students who thought they could not understand mathematics inform me that they “can do math” and that mathematics becomes less difficult after they take the class. As a teacher, I believe that students should solve problems in the way that they think is right and should be independent thinkers.
"My most recent research involves graph theory (a mathematical representation of relations on a given collection of elements). I am very proud to have co-authored two articles that were published in peer-reviewed journals with two math majors at Millsaps. One of these student authors won the First Place Award in the Student Paper Competition at the 88th annual meeting of the Mathematical Association of America Mississippi/Louisiana section in 2012."