Rolfe Rankin

Practical Problems in Basic Courses

There seems to be some demand from the students in the elementary or basic courses of mathematics for practical problems. In order to create interest and to promote the class work it is the desire of many instructors to satisfy this demand. I, personally, have spent much time in a vain attempt to formulate my problems so that they have the engineering setting or background. I have encountered many difficulties in this endeavor:

1- Such problems are unwieldy and cannot be used to take the place of the formal work.

2- Such problems are out of time and require too much of the instruction time in explanation.

3- Such problems are distracting and take the attention of the student from the point in question.

There seems to be a misconception on the part of the student concerning the real reason for requiring the courses in mathematics. He mistakes the application of the science with the science itself. It has proved very desirable to supplement text problems with some engineering problems but, on the whole, I judge them to be more a hindrance to the development of a course than a help.

__ From "Sectioning in the Mathematics Classes at M.S.M." by Rolfe M. Rankin, chair of the M.S.M. Mathematics Department from 1942-1963. This was probably written in the 1950's sometime.