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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Data science' closes STEM doors, professors warn

"Data science" classes don't prepare students for college-level math, science or engineering courses, say University of California professors, reports Stephanie M. Lee in the Chronicle of Higher Education. They want a UC panel to revoke its decision to let applicants substitute data science for Algebra II.

“Giving high school students the idea that it is OK to skimp on their math education is very dangerous,” stated a March letter from Santa Barbara’s physics department, flanked by similar complaints from computer science and mechanical engineering. “Such students will have their career choices severely curtailed, at an early age, and perhaps without even realizing it.”

Letters have come from other UC campuses, a group of Black UC faculty members, and professors in the California State University system, Lee writes.

Many professors are alarmed by the proposed California Math Framework, which encourages creating a data-science pathway to graduation rather than the traditional algebra-centric track leading to calculus.

They say the courses cover “data literacy,” but don't contain enough math or science. If a "student might major in data science — or engineering, computer science, and so on — they need to enter college calculus-ready, which means understanding logarithms, trigonometric functions, and other concepts traditionally introduced in algebra II."

Cal State's academic senate said encouraging students to skip algebra II will increase the number of students needing remedial math courses.

Stanford has removed "data science" from its curriculum recommendations for future applicants, reports Kyle Feinstein in the Stanford Daily.

Harvard’s admissions office made similar changes in January, removing "data science" from a list of acceptable advanced math classes, he notes.

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