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Mathematics Professor Sun Designing Course that Blends Math and History

Kent SunFerris State University mathematics professor Kent Sun has had a passion for math and history for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve loved math since middle school when I discovered how exact it is,” Sun said. “I may have been interested in history even earlier. It has always amazed me that even ordinary people make history.”

Sun, who joined Ferris in 2000, plans to combine his love for the two subjects with the creation of a course for mathematics majors, math education majors and other students interested in the origins of math.

Sun was granted a sabbatical with the goal of designing a History of Mathematics course that will include biographies of major mathematicians and seminal developments in mathematics. The course, which would be offered as an elective toward the Cultural Enrichment requirement, also would include important historical mathematical problems.

The course not only will join the studies of mathematics and history, but also will explain how the two fields of learning influence one another, Sun said.

“I think that learning about the history of mathematics leads to an appreciation that mathematics was not always there,” said Sun, who earned a Ph.D. in applied mathematics and statistics from the State University of New York in Stony Brook, N.Y. “Often it was discovered by people to solve important problems.”

According to the University Education Committee, all courses seeking general education certification are required to meet the standards of the Academic Senate. Sun will submit his proposal for approval once the course has been designed.

Sun, whose sabbatical runs from mid-Fall 2012 to mid-Spring 2013, said his colleagues are supportive of his desire to create the course.

“The faculty in the math department think math is the best thing since the discovery of fire and would just love the opportunity to share it with anyone,” said Sun, who teaches mathematical statistics, calculus and differential equations and numerical analysis. “One of the great things about the math department is that there are so many knowledgeable faculty members who are great when it comes to bouncing ideas off of them.”