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Professor Alan Parks
Briggs 409
campus phone: 920-832-6738
schedule coming soon


Courses for Spring 2015

Geometry, math 530, MWF 1:50-3:00

Quantitative Decision Making
math 223/econ 223, TR 9:00-10:50

math courses Spring 2015
and for 2015-16

computer science courses Spring 2015
and 2015-16

Links on this page.

Teaching philosophy


Computer programming

Community Service


Extenal links.

Lawrence Mathematics Department

American Mathematical Society
Research, professional mathematics.

LaTex information
Downloads galore.

Mathematical Assocation
of America

Teaching, literacy, outreach.

Leonhard Euler

Lawrence University
Patron Saint.

Euler's works online

Teaching philosophy.

our graduates and faculty 2014 at the annual end-of-year party in the Viking Room

Here is a FAQ for students interested in our curriculum.


A FAQ for calculus I and II (math 140 and 150).


I have recently undertaken a thorough revision of our applied calculus sequence (math 120 and 130). We want the course to be more practical and to involve more understanding of how theory and practice interact.


You have learned a mathematical subject if you can reconstruct its basic definitions and facts on your own, and if you can apply those facts in a variety of contexts. Mathematics is about getting a great many consequences from a few central facts, not about memorizing lists of facts or equations.

Applications and theory are not alternatives; indeed, they are strongly related to each other. For instance, the Intermediate Value Theorem says that if f(x) is continuous on the interval [r,t], and if f(r) < 0 < f(t), then there is a number  s  between  r  and  t  such that f(s) = 0. An applied approach to this fact might produce approximations to the number s; an abstract approach might ask for a rigorous proof that the Intermediate Value Theorem is true. There is such a proof that produces approximations in the course of its argument. The details (and a more precise statement of the theorem) are here.

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I work in applied mathematics, including optimization, coding theory, and mathematical dynamics. These areas form a well-traveled corridor between mathematics and physics, chemistry, economics, biology, and other subjects.

This past summer I have been working on numerical algorithms for solving optimization problems that are, in some sense, close to being linear.

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Computer Programming.

I am an action-oriented programmer interested in the theory of computation, coding theory, and the analysis of algorithms. "Action oriented" programming stresses the selection and organization of the algorithms used in a program, as opposed to "object oriented" programming which manages a program by the abstract description of objects. I am rarely interested in code that is abstractly portable, and I do not hide methods in my data structures. On the other hand, I am a firm believer in careful documentation. I have written applications in C++, Objective-C, Scheme, Java, html, FORTRAN, pascal, matlab, ALGOL, and a couple of assembly languages.

I am currently looking for an interestingly large development project.

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Service in the Lawrence Community.

I serve this year on the committee for tenure, promotion, and reappointment. I am one of the faculty advisors to Lawrence Christian Fellowship. I serve as faculty marshal.

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Jean Jeff Dan&Annika grill
David&Holly Tyler Josh Lia

My wife Jean and I have three children and three grandchildren. The upper left picture is of Salzburg, where we visited in 2012.

I have been involved over the years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an organization that serves undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty through its various ministries. The InterVarsity chapter at Lawrence is called LCF; it is one of the oldest campus organizations. I am also involved in the Appleton Gospel Church which currently meets at the YMCA on Sundays at 10.

I am a serious amateur musician, writing and playing mostly church worship music but also blues (especially gospel blues: Willie Johnson, Gary Davis, Son House, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and others), rural folk music (Stanley Carter, Ricky Skaggs, Gillian Welch, and others), and some jazz. And throw in a preoccupation with early sacred music, especially Bach, Vivaldi, and Palestrina.


NewmanThe picture to the right portrays John Henry Newman (1801-1890), whose works are linked here. Newman's book The Idea of the University presents an alternative view of the liberal arts based on the metaphysics of orthodox Christianity.


Proud user links.


The Heritage H-535. Expressive rhythm, lead lines, blues, jazz.

Rickenbacker 620. Flexible but always expresses its own voice. Thanks to Wildwood Guitars in Colorado!

Fender guitars and amps. Clean living.
Breedlove acoustics. Ideal for live sound.

Vox AC15. A less expensive amp that sounds nice and chimey.

Fulltone effects. Non-clean living.

Maxon compressor and analog delay.


Really, really good music stores: Elderly Instruments in Lansing. Vintage and modern gear at Willie's American Guitars in St. Paul.


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Disclaimer: I take responsibility for the content of this page. It attempts to represent my work at Lawrence University and my attitude toward that work. Although I do not claim to represent official policies of Lawrence University, I believe that my views are entirely consistent with those policies. Any questions or comments should be directed to myself.