No more ‘overmathing’ in Virginia

Virginia community colleges have redesigned remedial education to speed students’ paths to college-level classes.  One big change: Students who aren’t planning to major in science, technology and engineering fields will need less math. “We are overmathing our liberal arts students,” says a professor who helped design the new module-based programh.

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  1. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Because humanities majors don’t need fractions… or statistics….

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    “The goal is to improve success rates….”

    … by redefining success.

    It’s a pretty common maneuver.

  3. If you want to learn about art but don’t want to take math, go to an art school. If you want a bachelor’s degree from a university, expect to demonstrate a modicum of math knowledge.

  4. That’s a really interesting question. Math tends to be a pretty polarizing subject and requiring students to take more of it than they need at the risk of reducing rates of comm. college completion is definitely not ideal.

    More importantly though, seriously reducing math requirements for liberal arts students could might mean that they don’t meet requirements if they want to transfer to a four year university. A nursing major might not need Calculus 2, but if he or she does not have basic math skills and requirements, they’ll have a hard time moving forward in their education and that’s a problem.

    • If a nursing student can’t e.g. multiply a quantity in mg/kg by a patient’s weight to calculate (or cross-check) a drug dosage, people will die.  Maybe these tracks don’t require calculus or geometry or trig, but without accurate and rapid calculation abilities students are simply not fit for those jobs.

  5. I’ve come to the conclusion that the movement of art, theater, dance and music into colleges and universities must have been driven by either the desire to have a college degree for social reasons or the public school system’s requirement of not only a college degree but ed credits for teachers in these areas. Essentially, I’m with Darren on this.

  6. Yes, by all means skip the math. A twenty year old, after all, is completely sure of the career path they plan to follow until retirement. Also, if you don’t know any math, then it will never be helpful in your daily life – by definition – so why bother?

  7. Overmathing, what a concept. There are so many people in society today who simply cannot use a ruler, handle basic math calculations, or simple fractions (which is stuff students used to be proficient in by grade school).

    If students don’t want to learn math, fine…they’ll struggle when they find out they want to be re-trained in a different field in the future, it will be a nightmare.

    IMO, poor math skills are the reason why many persons who want to follow a career in nursing (or health care) will never make it through the pre-reqs for a course. IMO, for any career in health care, math through algebra should be mandatory, and for nursing, pre-calculus should be a requirement.

  8. Roger Sweeny says:

    Right now we require lots of math, and students get lots of math, but they don’t understand it or retain it. As Bill says, “There are so many people in society today who simply cannot use a ruler, handle basic math calculations, or simple fractions …”

    Get rid of the requirements for lots of courses and “exposure.” Have a requirement for the skills that everyone needs. Then make sure that requirement is met, not some bogus test that the student crams for and soon forgets.

  9. You could also argue that we “over-English,” at least at the college level. Today I worked with a nice young man who is a certified arborist. This requires a degree in Forestry and a lot of technical skill. In no way does it require the ability to analyze literature, or write narrative and argumentative essays, yet that is what he had to do in order to get his degree.

    • I’m a homemaker. You could argue I require none of those skills you mentioned to do that job and you’d probably be right. The catch is that have a life beyond that job. I’m a mom, a homeschooler, a community volunteer, a citizen. All of those roles DO require some, if not all, of those skills.

      If all school is meant to do is churn out employees then yes, we cut out a lot. If we’re interested in creating engaged citizens and community members then the skills you mentioned should be taught well before college.

  10. Thomas Garrison says:

    So the liberal arts students were spending more than 3/7 of their time on math? Because clearly logic, arithmetic, and geometry are math, so one would expect 3/7. . .

  11. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Logic’s not math. I can be made to look like math, but they’re not the same thing.

  12. Michael,

    I think George Boole would disagree with you…