Discrete mathematics and finite mathematics differ in a number of ways. First, finite mathematics has a longer history and is therefore more stable in terms of course content. Finite mathematics courses emphasize certain particular mathematical tools which are useful in solving the problems of business and the social sciences. Discrete mathematics courses, on the other hand, emphasize a particular guiding principle for all mathematical inquiry, namely the "algorithmic viewpoint." Discrete mathematics emphasizes mathematical induction and proofs, while finite mathematics avoids proofs and emphasizes applications and intuitive understanding. Because of this, finite mathematics is a terminal math course for many students, whereas discrete mathematics is an introductory course for its constituency. In spite of differences, courses in discrete and finite mathematics have similar prerequisites and cover a number of the same topics. The main difference between the two is the clientele served. Discrete mathematics courses serve mainly computer science students, and finite mathematics courses serve students from commerce and social science backgrounds. Therefore, and unfortunately, finite mathematics courses tend to be less rigorous. Given that mathematical expectations are rising for students in business and social sciences, a common course merging discrete and finite mathematics should be developed. A chart showing the overlap in the content of finite and discrete mathematics textbooks is attached. (AYC)
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Mathematical Association for Two-Year Colleges (Baltimore, MD, October 25-29, 1989).