Please register to participate in our discussions with 2 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.

I was bored, so I looked through my roommates pre-precalc homework while she was away. wowzers, it was not at all simple and included theories that I had never heard of and never used in any of my higher level math studies. I guess now is a good time to mention that I came to college with calc 1 & 2 credit and at college have taken calc 3, diff eqs, stat, calc based stat, discrete math, Intro to higher level math, and linear algebra. I'm a class short of a minor (dual computer science and economics major here...both moderately heavy on quantitative skills that math teaches). Anyway, long story short, I'm not a stranger to college level math and have dabbled in "theoretical math" (intro to higher level math and a theory of comp sci class I took a year ago). Anyway, if I had started with her stuff at college, chances are I'd have left math behind in the dust. Her homework looked unnecessarily hard and as someone who has taken sustainable math classes, useless.

WHY ARE AMERICAN COLLEGES DOING THIS? We need more people in STEM fields, not less.

I was bored, so I looked through my roommates pre-precalc homework while she was away. wowzers, it was not at all simple and included theories that I had never heard of and never used in any of my higher level math studies. I guess now is a good time to mention that I came to college with calc 1 & 2 credit and at college have taken calc 3, diff eqs, stat, calc based stat, discrete math, Intro to higher level math, and linear algebra. I'm a class short of a minor (dual computer science and economics major here...both moderately heavy on quantitative skills that math teaches). Anyway, long story short, I'm not a stranger to college level math and have dabbled in "theoretical math" (intro to higher level math and a theory of comp sci class I took a year ago). Anyway, if I had started with her stuff at college, chances are I'd have left math behind in the dust. Her homework looked unnecessarily hard and as someone who has taken sustainable math classes, useless.

WHY ARE AMERICAN COLLEGES DOING THIS? We need more people in STEM fields, not less.

I think you raise an excellent question. Its an observation that I pretty much agree with. I don't know if these are the correct answers, but its what I have speculated:

1. Math classes are used as "weed out" classes in STEM programs. Perhaps, a 1000 students indicate they wish to major in mechanical engineering at a large university. Hard math classes will reduce this to a number the university believes is more "manageable". Perhaps, 100 students out of that 1000 will not drop out after being subjected to 3 tough calculus classes.

2. STEM professors want to teach small classes. Its easier on them and gives them more time for things they really want to do, like perform research. So, they view it as a positive good to keep the program as small as possible. The more students that "flunk out" the better. Deep down, I think many professors believe their programs are only meant for the top 5%. The rest of the students should be doing something else with their time.

3. Small graduating classes mean higher salaries and incomes for those lucky few who make it through to graduation and a degree. Graduates are more important to a university than students are because its graduates who make donations and graduates upon whom the reputation of the program is based. Those who have graduated love small classes because it insures a ready market for them and high salaries. They have no interest in asking the university to change the current system.

4. There is some disconnect between public high schools and colleges. The college professors will repeatedly insist that the high schools are doing a crappy job with math education and therefore a student with straight A's in every math course through College Algebra isn't necessary qualified to do squat. On the other hand, the high schools will offer programs with wide arrays of electives and tell students about all "the college credits they can waive or get in advance" by going as far as they can in high school. Something is wrong here. Either the high school program is truly deficient in educating students or the colleges are making unrealistic demands on students who go to college. Whatever the case, its the student who is caught in the middle.

I agree. We scream for STEM graduates and than we create "weed out" programs at public universities that are designed to eliminate the vast majority of students from the programs. Business is unhappy. The college talks about "low caliber" of math education in public schools. Nothing really changes.

I'm glad you brought this topic up. It goes a long ways to explaining why there is a dearth of STEM graduates. Nothing will really be done that will change things though.

Sounds like it's the weed out class for that program but if you were sitting in that class, since you seem to be mathematically inclined, learning that information in class, would have really been that hard for you?

As for the disconnect from HS to college, maybe yes, maybe no. I guess it depends on the student and the caliber of the classes they take in high school. I know our son tested into Calc 4 in college, we had him back down to Calc 3 because we were not sure how that transition would go. He had the highest score in his class (mostly sophomores and juniors) and he was the only freshman. Probably would have been ok in 4 but at least the transition was easier. His high school BC Calc teacher also has a 95% rate of kids scoring 4's and 5's on the AP test and rarely has anyone score under a 3 so that helps. Other kids we know that have gone to other schools get "all A's" in BC Calc but score a 1 or 2 on the test so....which is why I am glad I'm not an admissions counselor

I don't think it is a conspiracy... I just think math departments align their courses for their majors, so there is a mismatch between the math that an chemist or engineer or physicist needs and what the math department offers.

For example,the math that a chemist, a physicist, and an economics student need is very different. While the chemist only needs basic differential equations and some linear algebra for thermo, the physicist may need more differential equations, laplace and fourier transforms for data analysis, and some discrete math for modeling. The economist may just need a calculus sequence and then some math modeling and intro differential equations.

The math department just offers a single differential equations course for all the different science and econ majors, and the instructor is told to cover the concepts that accommodate all three students. As a result, the differential equations course becomes a lot harder, and the preceding basic calculus sequence gets tasked with basic linear algebra, some discrete math, and other relatively difficult stuff like loop integrals and fourier transforms just so the diff eq course is manageable. The result: even the basic calc 1-3 sequence gets harder.

I don't think it is a conspiracy... I just think math departments align their courses for their majors, so there is a mismatch between the math that an chemist or engineer or physicist needs and what the math department offers.

For example,the math that a chemist, a physicist, and an economics student need is very different. While the chemist only needs basic differential equations and some linear algebra for thermo, the physicist may need more differential equations, laplace and fourier transforms for data analysis, and some discrete math for modeling. The economist may just need a calculus sequence and then some math modeling and intro differential equations.

The math department just offers a single differential equations course for all the different science and econ majors, and the instructor is told to cover the concepts that accommodate all three students. As a result, the differential equations course becomes a lot harder, and the preceding basic calculus sequence gets tasked with basic linear algebra, some discrete math, and other relatively difficult stuff like loop integrals and fourier transforms just so the diff eq course is manageable. The result: even the basic calc 1-3 sequence gets harder.

I am not talking about the basic cal 1-3. I am talking about classes leading into calc 1. Why are they harder than they need to be?

in a pre precalc class? We should at least give people a chance.

I think you are not understanding the point of "weed out". Like I asked earlier--if you were in that class, learning from that prof..would it be as hard as you think it is?? Probably not.

I was bored, so I looked through my roommates pre-precalc homework while she was away. wowzers, it was not at all simple and included theories that I had never heard of and never used in any of my higher level math studies. I guess now is a good time to mention that I came to college with calc 1 & 2 credit and at college have taken calc 3, diff eqs, stat, calc based stat, discrete math, Intro to higher level math, and linear algebra. I'm a class short of a minor (dual computer science and economics major here...both moderately heavy on quantitative skills that math teaches). Anyway, long story short, I'm not a stranger to college level math and have dabbled in "theoretical math" (intro to higher level math and a theory of comp sci class I took a year ago). Anyway, if I had started with her stuff at college, chances are I'd have left math behind in the dust. Her homework looked unnecessarily hard and as someone who has taken sustainable math classes, useless.

WHY ARE AMERICAN COLLEGES DOING THIS? We need more people in STEM fields, not less.

There will never be more people in STEM subjects than those who enjoy them and are talented with them.

That's like looking at the final test at the end of the semester and saying "Wow, this looks difficult!"

Of course it will look hard if you didn't learn the material. Once you take the class, read the book, practice, and go to class, it won't look as hard as it did when you glanced at the final exam.

Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.