The theme for Math Awareness Month this year was “Mathematics Statistics and the Data Deluge.”
The April issue of SIAM News had an interesting article titled Got Data: Now What? The article identified the analysis of large data sets to provide understanding, and ultimately knowledge, as one of the fundamental intellectual challenges of the times. It called on mathematical scientists to develop novel methods based on their domain expertise, and to see these developments translate into value for society.
To this I would add that along with new applications come new ethical issues. See for example, You for Sale: Mapping, and Sharing, the Consumer Genome and Predictive Policing.
The question is how to include these new applications in existing courses and what sort of new courses should be designed. It is difficult to do a thorough job of covering theory (read theorems and proofs) and applications all in one course, especially advanced applications, where the context has to be developed to make sense of it. Emphasis on data tends to shift the entire focus of the course. It takes quite a bit of time too, since students have a variety of capabilities and comfort level with software.
One way for math majors to gain familiarity with this topic is to take a course on it, perhaps a capstone course. Another way is to participate in an undergraduate research experience.
In lower-division math courses like Calculus etc. some of the standard applications could be replaced by these newer ones.
At Brooklyn College we have a Math Club Colloquium for the students. Many of the talks last spring were related to the theme of Math Awareness Month.
Any other ideas on how to incorporate emerging fields into the mathematics curriculum?