The Mathematics Local-Area Network
(MathLAN) was created in 1987 to provide Grinnell College students in
mathematics and computer science courses with a modern, accessible,
well-stocked computing environment. It comprises about 175
workstations and five servers, running the the Debian distribution of
GNU/Linux operating system.
MathLAN supports a large variety of software for mathematics (notably
DrScheme programming environment, the
Java Platform, the
Eclipse programming environment
etc.), and document creation and display (such as
MathLAN has been developed to meet a broad range of curricular needs of
both students and faculty:
GNU/Linux software includes programming tools that integrate various
steps of coding, compiling, testing and debugging in a straightforward
way. MathLAN supports compilers and interpreters for Java, Scheme, C,
C++, Python, Perl, PHP, Ruby, Lua, Common Lisp, FORTRAN, Ada, Icon, and
other languages, as well as a variety of programming tools and
Our students and faculty have easy access to the major Internet
information services (the World Wide Web, ftp, ssh, and
e-mail). MathLAN's World Wide Web server provides access to more than
fifteen thousand local documents.
High-resolution color graphics, driven by software that is both powerful
and easy to use, make it possible to display data, functions, and
mathematical structures in an intuitive way. These capabilities are used
in a wide variety of courses -- pre-calculus, calculus, linear algebra,
statistics, and modeling.
Our workstations provide enough processing power to run
outstanding mathematical packages that perform algebraic, symbolic, or
graphical operations on functions, statistical data sets, and other
mathematical objects. The faculty of the Department of Mathematics and
Statistics have successfully integrated these computing tools into our
courses, particularly at the first- and second-year levels, with the
objective of strengthening students' intuitive understanding of
About 1000 students, faculty, staff members, and recent graduates of
Grinnell College currently maintain accounts on MathLAN.
Each classroom in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of
Mathematics and Statistics contains a MathLAN workstation linked to an Eiki
digital projection system, for presentations and demonstrations. In
addition, five of our classrooms are equipped with student workstations,
for use in class activities, laboratory sessions, and workshops.
We also support two open laboratories, each containing nineteen
workstations (one of which can be similarly linked to a projection system
when the lab is used for a class).
The open laboratories and one of the computer-equipped classrooms are
open for student use from 8 a.m. to midnight on Mondays, Tuesdays,
Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, from noon to 6
p.m. on Saturdays, and from noon to midnight on Sundays. In the evenings
and on weekends, a consultant is present to answer
questions and provide general assistance.
A separate server room houses our servers for home-directory files,
third-party software license management, remote login, e-mail, the department's
Web, ftp, SVN, and Wiki sites, databases, authentication, and domain name
MathLAN was originally constructed with funds provided in part by the National Science Foundation, the Charles
E. Culpeper Foundation, and the W. M. Keck
Foundation, and was subsequently funded in part by the Instrumentation and
Laboratory Improvement program of the National Science Foundation and by
the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.