Early completion of math requirement better than avoidance

Arizona Daily Wildcat


Recent efforts by the UA to become more student-centered have been ill-received. The projected Integrated Instruction Facility building will provide better teaching for first- and second-year students and a significant increase in computer availability, b ut construction will disrupt the Mall, critics complain.

Also being criticized are two plans for upgrading the structure for general education requirements. Both aim to improve the quality of our education, but the status quo is notoriously popular, simply because it's a known quantity.

One area scheduled for improvement is the math requirement. Sorry, it's not being discontinued; it's being tightened up. Any institution of higher learning is failing its mission if it allows students to reach their senior year with no understanding of b asic math. We've been getting away with too much for too long.

The math requirement has always been unpopular with students who place below college level in the UA math assessment test. In Fall 1995, 42 percent of UA students failed to place in college-level math, said Richard J. Kroc II, the student research office director. Barely scraping through three years of high school math ending in your junior year has been enough to get you admitted to the UA, but it probably won't satisfy the math readiness test. The longer you wait to take the test, cautions Donna M. Kraw czyk, math readiness test coordinator and adjunct mathematics professor, the more rusty you'll become.

Humanities students, who don't otherwise "need" math, often take advantage of a disastrous crack in the system that allows them to put off math until their senior year of college. Maybe high schools haven't been doing their job, but continued avoidance ta ctics are not the best solution to any chronic problem.

To non-math-oriented majors, though, math can appear as a sort of apocalyptic monster, best left undisturbed as long as possible. Being one of them, I more than sympathize. On the other hand, I now regret having missed out on space science because of its algebra prerequisite. Less flexible math requirements would have made this and many other classes open to me. Call it weak-minded if you like, but that math monster is very real once you've been avoiding it for a while, and I could have used some enforced help in overcoming it.

Mathematics Professor Elias Toubassi, director of the entry level math program, says changes are on the way. As of 1998, admission to Arizona universities will require an additional year of high school math, changing the total needed from three to four ye ars. Toubassi also said that under the new two-tier scheme for general education requirements, students will have to complete most of their general education, including math, before moving on to take other classes.

Currently, math phobia tends to result in a senior year panic-enrollment at Pima Community College and additional pressure during the most hectic year of your college life.

Marlene F. Hubbard, adjunct mathematics lecturer in charge of the self-paced math program, has seen students abandon a business major rather than take necessary math classes.

"(This) is sad," she said, "if that's really what they wanted to do with their life." Students who aren't afraid of math tend to do well, Hubbard said.

The world is open to us once we graduate. Maybe my major doesn't require math, but I've become very aware since beginning intermediate algebra at Pima that a good math background would have considerably enhanced my college experience. I don't suppose it would hurt my employment prospects either.

Improving the quality of education means introducing new ideas once in awhile. Incoming students should not feel persecuted by the future, less flexible general education requirements. Not all changes are for the worse, and the math you think you don't ne ed just may lead to the job you want.

Maybe a few graphs could illustrate my point more clearly, but you'll have to excuse me. My math is a little shaky. We don't need it in creative writing.

Kaye Patchett is a creative writing senior. Her column, On Reflection,' appears every other Wednesday.