Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Responding to More Student Email

A student contacted me. After failing College Algebra* twice, he was wondering if he had to try it a third time -- as his major does not require the class -- and if not whether he could fulfill his major's requirements with an easier math class.

So often when students have a registration question about a math class they contact the math department. When really this is a question about what Political Science is OK with. If Political Science will grant you a degree in their subject even though you can't find the equation of a line, then that is FINE WITH ME. If they expect you to be able to do high school math, well, then you would have to try again.

After telling him that his first question was one for his advisor, I addressed the second one: Try the community college. No, we don't offer anything "easier" than College Algebra -- at least not for credit. We do offer two courses with lower course numbers that do count, but they require just as much hard work, commitment, and knowledge of the middle-school-level prerequisites as does College Algebra. And any of these low-numbered courses is very likely to be taught be someone teaching their FIRST CLASS EVER -- and quite possibly someone who has just moved to the United States from a country where college students know something about math and where English isn't spoken regularly.

[While I wrote this post I got another administrative email: An instructor -- after warning the students that it is important to arrive in class on time -- has started giving quizzes at the beginning of class (with no make-ups). A habitually late student is furious with this policy and may come to see me about it.]

*College Algebra is a mix of the key topics in 9th grade math (Algebra I) and 11th grade (Algebra II) math. In countries with decent educational systems, probably any 14-year-old could pass this class without much effort.