Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Students React with Horror and Confusion to Being Told that They Can't Take Calculus

Stu's placement level is somewhere on the border between Intermediate Algebra and College Algebra. Since we can't force students to pass Intermediate Algebra before taking College Algebra, normally we would recommend that a student like Stu should start by determining whether hir major requires calculus. If the major doesn't require calculus, Stu should take Fun with Math and Fun with Stats to satisfy the graduation requirements. If the major requires calculus, then Stu should take College Algebra With Intensive Academic Support, then Calculus Lite, then either Math for Business or Stats For Business.

Stu is signed up for Calculus Lite. Based on Stu's placement level, this would be a nightmare. My beloved database has discovered this situation, so today I emailed Stu (and roughly 300 of hir colleagues) about this whole issue of having signed up for a course that one is completely unprepared for.

Stu writes back:
I took Fun with Math this passed fall semester. I passed with a B+, and I talked with several advisors about which math to take this comming spring and all agreed that I should take Math for Business or Calculus Lite. They said that if I took College Algebra that I wouldn't receive any credit for that course because it is a prereq. I'm not sure what to do now, or whom to speak with about this, because all the advisors I spoke with said that I should take Math for Business or Calculus Lite. Please let me know whom to speak with about this.
Now, if Stu's major will accept Fun with Math as a math class, then it does not require calculus in any way shape or form. Similarly, if Stu's major requires calculus, then it will almost certainly laugh at Fun with Math and not let that count. So I have sent Stu back to advising to ask whether hir major will accept Fun with Stats or Demystifying Computers towards completing the math requirement.

* * *

Stu2 also received one of my bad news missives denying hir the opportunity to take calculus this spring. Stu2 also has a placement score on the border between Intermediate Algebra and College Algebra. Stu2, however, self-identifies as a sophomore majoring in accounting, and the accounting major definitely requires calculus. Stu2 has attempted College Algebra and has failed it.

I explained to Stu2 that before taking calculus that ze must pass College Algebra.

Stu2 writes back self-identifying with a learning disability that has been documented through Disabled Student Services, blames the learning disability as the reason ze failed College Algebra, and wants to know what paperwork needs to be filled out to allow hir to take calculus in the spring.

I also sent Stu2 back to advising.