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University swaps math class for college algebra

A discussion is occurring among faculty, students and administration to phase out the course math and society and exchange it for college algebra, starting in the fall of 2015.

“The idea has been percolating for several years now,” said professor of mathematics, Dr. Andrew Lang. “The proposal is something we’ve discussed extensively in the computing and mathematics department, but only recently decided to pursue it. It is still in the very early stage but we’ve received a lot of good feedback from our informal talks with both students and faculty.”

If officially proposed, the General Education Committee, University Faculty Senate and administration would have to approve the proposal to eliminate math and society.

This change would benefit transfer and international students, because most colleges in the U.S. and other countries require college algebra as a general education mathematics course.

“Another part of the discussion is the globalization efforts of the University and the President,” said assistant professor of mathematics, LeighAnne Locke. “As we create more global partnerships and degrees, there is a need for courses that can transfer among institutions. In the area of mathematics, college algebra would be that type of course.”

This change would also better prepare students for graduate school, according to Lang. Many graduate schools require an entrance test, the Graduate Record Examination [GRE], with a large portion of the mathematics section covering college algebra skills.

“The General Education Committee has discussed the issue of nationalized exams in the past since most assess objectives that are related to college algebra content. Math and society does not provide the necessary rigor to prepare students for these objectives,” said Locke.

According to Lang, requiring college algebra would better equip ORU students to compete with other schools.

“When we test ORU students against students from other colleges, we do very well except in the area of [algebraic] mathematics mainly because other schools require it, and we don’t,” Lang said.

Nixing math and society could help students cruise faster through their degree plan. Students are able to CLEP college algebra, but there is no CLEP for math and society.

Some departments have already shifted toward this change.

“Many of the individual departments have already chosen to change the required math class to college algebra on degree plans or add college algebra as a choice for their students,” said Locke. “Each department has its own reasons determined by faculty recommendations, specialized accreditation requirements or easier transition for transfer students, just to name a few examples.”

While nothing official has happened yet, many majors have already switched their requirements under their own initiative. Due to all of the positive feedback, there may not be a need for a formal process to make the change, according to Lang.

“What ORU students will notice is that starting in the fall of 2014, there will be more sections of college algebra offered and fewer sections of math and society offered,” said Locke. “A student can choose to take college algebra even if their degree plan has math and society listed. A course substitution form can be completed so that college algebra will count as the math course for their degree.”

The mathematics department plans to continue gaining feedback from non-math majors that still require math and society.

“Math and society is a course that provides practical aspects of mathematics for everyday life. It is a liberal arts style course that has the benefit of giving practical information regarding the use of mathematics in daily activities,” said Locke. “However, for globalization efforts, transfer potential and preparing students for future studies, it does fall short.”

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