Potsdam Miracle


Potsdam Miracle

The Potsdam Miracle refers to the unusual success of the Mathematics Department at SUNY Potsdam, USA , under the guidance of Dr. Clarence F. Stephens, in attracting large numbers of students to become successful mathematics majors. For example, in one year, about 25% of the degrees conferred by Potsdam were in mathematics and over 40% of the institution’s honor students were mathematics majors. The 184 majors in that year was the third largest number of colleges and universities in the United States.

Seven of the eight valedictorians for the period 19801987 were mathematics majors. No student who graduated from SUNY Potsdam between the time of its founding in 1816 and the arrival of Stephens in 1969 is known to have subsequently earned a Ph.D. in mathematics. However, twelve students who graduated during Stephens's tenure are known to have done so, half of them women.

The Potsdam Miracle confirmed the effectiveness of the Potsdam Model of mathematics education. The model is based not on lowering student standard but in raising teaching standards.

In explaining the program in Dilip Datta's book "Math Education at its Best: The Potsdam Model", Dr. Stephens said that his primary goal was to create the most favorable possible conditions for students to learn and for faculty to teach. He and a team of other student-oriented faculty members taught a course, "How to Read Mathematics Literature with Understanding and to Become Independent Learners," to students early in their study of mathematics. For undergraduates that was typically in the freshman or sophomore year, while for graduate students it was during their first year. The Potsdam Model is “based on the premise that the study of pure mathematics can be undertaken successfully by a large number of students if they are provided with a supportive environment including: careful and considerate teaching by a well-trained and dedicated faculty, continual encouragement, successful (student) role models, enough success to develop self-esteem, enough time to develop intellectually, recognition of their achievement, and the belief that the study is a worthwhile endeavor.”

Stephens had largely developed his ideas and earlier implemented them at Morgan State College (now Morgan State University). Although no graduates of Morgan are known to have ever received a Ph.D. in mathematics, nine did so during his tenure there. Hence, the Potsdam Model is sometimes called the Morgan-Potsdam Model.

ources

* [http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:iWpRUbIxHBwJ:www.maa.org/news/gung_hu_citations_03.html+%22Potsdam+Miracle%22&hl=en Gung Hu Award Citations and Responses]

* [http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:YOAB0HGwJFkJ:www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3742/is_200303/ai_n9229724+%22Potsdam+Miracle%22&hl=en Clarence F. Stephens]

* [http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:t-dgJn43bSsJ:www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/special/morgan-potsdam_model.html+%22Potsdam+Miracle%22&hl=en The Morgan-Potsdam Model and the Potsdam Miracle]

*Datta,Dilip. "Math Education at its Best: The Potsdam Model". Framingham, MA: Center for Teaching/Learning of Mathematics, 1993.

*Spencer, Armand. On attracting and retaining mathematics majors-Don't cancel the human factor, "Notices American Mathematical Society", 1995, "42(8)", 859-862


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