Professors in California are staging a quiet protest against a new admissions policy they say leaves students unprepared for college-level math courses, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The University of California (UC) system expanded the number of mathematics classes that qualify students for admission into the system a few years ago, according to the Chronicle. Some professors are protesting the move behind the scenes, saying the “data science” classes do not prepare them for more advanced mathematics, such as engineering and computer science.
“Such students will have their career choices severely curtailed, at an early age, and perhaps without even realizing it,” read a Santa Barbara physics department letter obtained by the Chronicle.
The classes under fire, so-called data science classes, teach students about collecting and analyzing data, according to the Chronicle. Some professors have argued that Algebra II is more important because logarithms and trigonometric functions are more fundamental to understanding college-level mathematics.
“We are concerned that under-represented groups, women, and those attending under-resourced schools may be steered into alternative math pathways that are promoted as being friendlier or more engaging but in fact offer less preparation,” a faculty member from the Santa Cruz campus said in a letter obtained by the Chronicle.
University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt called portions of Algebra II as irrelevant as “sock darning and shorthand” in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times.
The data science classes could be a “game changer” for equity, according to Jo Boaler, Stanford University professor of math education. Boaler helped write the new proposal, according to the Chronicle.
The UC system required three years of math in high school until in 2020 the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) recommended that the second year of Algebra be able to be substituted with alternatives, such as “data science” classes, according to the Chronicle.
Some schools around the country have started ditching standardized tests for admission, with some medical schools getting rid of their Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) requirement. The Kansas Board of Regents has considered getting rid of some of their math requirements due to many Kansas students failing algebra.
“Students should not be given the false impression that a data literacy course will prepare them for a data science career,” Stanford Director of Undergraduate Studies in Math Brian Conrad said in public comments on the matter.
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