Functions, Parameters, and Fitting for Teaching Calculus

Presented by

Daniel Kaplan, Macalester College; and Randall Pruim, Calvin College

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013; 9:00am - 4:00pm


This one-day workshop is designed to help instructors move toward teaching introductory calculus in a modeling- and data-oriented way. The parameters of basic functions are often treated casually in introductory calculus, as if they were a nuisance or merely fodder for the chain rule. In the first half of the workshop, we'll show how to interpret them physically, how to relate them to data, and how to use them for model building. The second half emphasizes polynomial approximation, the relationship between Taylor series and model fitting, and model building using information about derivatives. A small, general purpose mathematical toolkit suffices to build and interpret compelling models in a very wide range of settings spanning economics, biology, physics, etc. We'll provide in-class activities, assignments, student project topics, and example exam questions. Both paper-and-pencil as well as computer-oriented approaches (using R, Sage, or Mathematica) will be featured, drawing on the materials developed through the NSF-supported Project MOSAIC, which aims to construct strong connections in teaching modeling, calculus, statistics, and computation. Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop. If you don't currently use software for teaching calculus, we'll set you up with the free R system running through a web browser.

There is no registration fee for this workshop. However, advance registration is required, and confirmation of acceptance will be sent. Space is limited. There will be no on-site registration; walk-ins on the day of the workshop will not be accommodated. Workshop participants are responsible for their own transportation, lodging, and parking. Lunch will be provided.

About the Presenters

Daniel Kaplan Daniel Kaplan is DeWitt Wallace Professor at Macalester College where he teaches applied statistics, mathematics, and computer science. He is the author of several textbooks, including Introduction to Statistical Modeling. (See He won Macalester's annual Excellence in Teaching award in 2006.

Randall Pruim Randall Pruim is Professor of Mathematics and Statistics and Director of the Integrated Science Research Institute at Calvin College. He is author of several books, including Gems of Theoretical Computer Science (with Uwe Schöning) and Foundations and Applications of Statistics: an Introduction using R (published by the AMS in 2011). He also maintains several R packages on CRAN, including the mosaic package which provides numerous utilities to simplify teaching statistics and calculus using R.