Math load lightened for non STEM students

Mt. Hood’s math department has created two new math courses to shorten the pathway to graduation.

Currently, students need to either take Math 111 (Pre-Calculus) or Math 105 (Statistics) to get a transfer or associate degree. While this hasn’t changed, the MHCC mathematics faculty team, spearheaded by Rob Hauss, has designed an alternative pathway to get there that requires less of a focus on calculus skills.

Rather than taking Math 60, Math 65, and then Math 95 as prerequisites for a 100-level math course, students will have the option of taking two courses instead: Math 58 (Quantitative Reasoning) and Math 98 (Quantitative Reasoning II).

Both Math 58 and Math 98 are now available for early enrollment for the Winter Term.

Hauss said the change was mandated by Oregon state higher education officials, but it also was something the Mt. Hood faculty had wanted to embrace for a while.

“A lot of the things in 60, 65 and 95 were getting people ready for (Pre-Calculus). But not everyone needs to take Calculus, so why should all those people take Pre-Calculus?” Hauss said. “Instead of getting you ready for 111 or 105, 98 will get you ready for 105 (Statistics),” he said.

While it’s true that many STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and mathematics-oriented disciplines) require an understanding and application of Calculus, many other fields, such as psychology, rely more heavily on the concepts taught in Statistics.

Hauss and the Math department hope that re-defining the requirements will help remove stumbling blocks for many students.

“A lot of the things that we teach in the… traditional algebra sequence are really put in place for later math courses,” he said. For instance, the slope-intercept form, he noted. Those students who do need to take Calculus must be strong “at solving equations of lines, they have to be really good at solving algebraic equations, things like that,” but many others are never going to need to take Calculus, he said.

“If you’re a mental health major and you’re pretty sure that’s where you’re going to be,” Hauss said, there’s no need for Calculus. “There’s just a lot of majors that are perfect for this sequence… I think it’s a great fit.”

Scheduling shuffle

The new courses, 58 and 98, will reduce the total number of prerequisite credits needed to take a 100-level course: 58 and 98 together are 10 credits total, while the traditional path of 60-65-95 totals 13 credits.

Because 58 covers material that’s typically spread over several courses, it amounts to six credit hours. That means students who elect to take 58 will need to ensure they can fit three two-hour class periods into their schedule.

Hauss said the new courses will spend significantly less time on algebra-oriented material, instead focusing on three main areas.

“One of those is medical literacy, when you read medical information, to be able to understand that,” he explained. “One of them is understanding personal finance, like interest rates, tax forms, things like that. The third one [is] ‘citizenship,’ being able to read info, get info off the internet or newspapers and be able to analyze that numerical information.”

Hauss noted that, in theory, students who complete Math 98 could have to start from scratch if they later choose to take Pre-Calculus instead of Statistics. Faculty hope to develop a “bridge course” to solve that problem.

In the meantime, the focus is placed on identifying students who are “definitely not going into STEM fields” with the new pathway designed to reduce the time it takes to graduate.

Both Math 58 and Math 98 are open for Winter Term enrollment, though students who wish to take 98 must either have taken 58 as a prerequisite, or have tested into 98, Hauss said.

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