The teaching of mathematics at University of Northern Iowa dates back to 1876 when the school (then Iowa State Normal School) was founded. The first teacher of mathematics was David Sands Wright, who taught here from 1876 until 1928. Academic departments (including Mathematics) were officially organized when the school was renamed Iowa State Teachers College in 1909. The first Mathematics Department head was Ira Condit, who served in this role from 1909 until 1937. The University has undergone two subsequent name changes: it became State College of Iowa in 1961 and University of Northern Iowa in 1967.
Two other academic areas developed within the department. From 1920 until 1937 Business (then called Commerce) was part of the renamed Department of Mathematics and Commerce. From 1981 until 1992 the department was renamed the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (a separate Computer Science Department was organized in 1992).
The department's mission has continued to expand in the years since its founding. In the early days, its work dealt exclusively with preparing teachers at the undergraduate level. This original goal has expanded over time, first to encompass graduate work for teachers, and then to add both undergraduate and MA level programs for liberal arts mathematics majors. The department's missions now include providing quality instruction in both mathematics and mathematics education (to both majors and non-majors), together with research, other forms of scholarship, and professional service in all of these areas.