Friday, April 24, 2015

Do the math...but which math?

Inside Higher Ed is running an extensive piece on conflicts at UCLA and Berkeley (but mainly UCLA) over the math requirement for students in life sciences:

For about as long as anyone can remember, most undergraduate natural science majors have been required to take at least two semesters of calculus. Lots of students -- especially those in the life sciences -- don’t end up using most of what they’ve learned later on in their studies or their careers, but the requirement has endured... 

“Our principal complaint with the calculus for life sciences is that it is a horrible and hideous instrument of torture to life sciences students taught by mathematicians who want to make third-rate mathematicians out of our students and get angry when they fail,” said Alan Garfinkel, professor of medicine and physiological science at UCLA, who campaigned for and teaches the new math for life sciences course. Still offered to a limited number of students, the sequence combines two quarters of calculus and one each of probability and statistics into three quarters total, with a lab, and focuses more on biology-based problem sets. “I’m a professional mathematical biologist and I don’t use freshman calculus at all.” ...

Full story at

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