How would you feel if you were told that you could have earned your four-year degree without taking College Algebra? Would it have kept you in college or allowed you to progress faster toward your goals? For many students, math phobia is real.
It first appears in the admissions process, as students choose their majors. It affects the registration process, when students wait until the last semester to pick up the class. Students struggle with it in the tutoring lab as they attempt to give algebraic equations a logical context in the real world. For those students, times are changing.
The Charles A. Dana Center, housed at the University of Texas at Austin, has presented a hypothesis that is music to the ears of thousands of college students. Their hypothesis is simple: Not all college students need College Algebra.
According to the center’s findings, College Algebra serves as a prerequisite for Calculus. College Algebra and Calculus are needed skills for those trades in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. However, there are a large number of students outside of STEM fields — history, law, literature, art and a host of other fields. For those students, Quantitative Literacy may be an option. The needs of our careers are changing, and it is time that our math education system reflects that.
Designed to encompass everyday life applications, such as finance, elementary statistics and basic engineering concepts, Quantitative Literacy allows students to immediately apply context to the mathematics being learned. In the finance course, students may learn about budgeting in their personal lives and about the stock market and interest rates in the larger perspective. In the statistics class, students may find context by analyzing sports performance statistics or the percentage of success with a new medical treatment. In the engineering class, they may delve into the inner workings of computers or sound waves.
The addition of Quantitative Literacy to the curriculum is not entirely new; it was previously known as Math for Liberal Arts majors, Math in a Global Context and the like. What makes it different this time is the acceptance of QL as a standard. The Arkansas Department of Education has added Quantitative Literacy to the Arkansas Course Transfer System, allowing this course to transfer between institutions. To aid in transfer, a number of two-year and four-year institutions have developed advising sheets which allow students to better understand which majors will accept Quantitative Literacy to fulfill the math requirement. It will be up to individual colleges to update their majors to reflect the actual math needed.
Rockwell’s Recommendation: As you prepare to enter college, return to college or mentor a future college student, remember that Quantitative Literacy could meet the needs of your future career.