Monday, December 31, 2007

Discussion of Math Education Major

Trying to resurrect this blog...

When I argue that, at almost every college in the country, the math ed major is unnecessarily weak relative to the math major, the response I get is always that because of all the education courses required, there is not enough space left within the confines of a 120 credit degree to fit in all the courses that a math major usually takes. Fine, I will leave aside my opinion that the education courses are not anywhere near as valuable as the math courses they displace. I will work strictly within the confines of this restriction.

Let's look at one school's BS in math ed...

Subject Matter Specialization: Thirty semester hours of mathematics at the 3000 level or above including 3 semester hours in geometry, 6 semester hours in probability or statistics, and 3 semester hours in linear or abstract algebra.

This sounds rigorous, until you start dissecting it. First of all, the calculus sequence is somewhat oddly numbered 3000-level, so there's 12 credits right there. Then 6 credits of introductory statistics (also numbered 3000-level), 3 credits of linear algebra, 3 credits of geometry and 3 credits of history of mathematics, and you're at 27 credits without taking a single substantive upper-level college math class. One class (introduction to advanced mathematics is customary) and you're done.

Let's see if this can be improved...

1) First of all, math majors are expected to complete Calculus I-II-III and Linear Algebra as part of their lower division preparation. Since the math ed major does not require any lower division prerequisites, it should be possible for them to fit these courses into their first 60 credits the same as math majors. I've just freed up 15 credits.

2) Instead of the introductory statistics sequence designed for social science majors, I would require the Mathematical Statistics sequence that math majors are required to take. No change in the total number of credits, but I've just toughened up this requirement.

3) Geometry is fine as is. History of math is a little fluffy for my taste, but it is required by the state. No changes.

4) I would definitely add differential equations, which is a lower division prerequisite for the math major.

5) I would also require Advanced Calculus and Algebraic Structures. Together with introduction to advanced mathematics and mathematical statistics, this will give all math ed majors exposure to at least the common core required of all math majors.

To summarize, we started with the following course selection...

Calculus I-II-III (12)
Linear Algebra (3)
Introduction to advanced mathematics (3)
Geometry (3)
History of mathematics (3)
Introductory Statistical Methods (6)

And we've ended up with

Calculus I-II-III (prerequisite)
Linear Algebra (prerequisite)
Introduction to advanced mathematics (3)
Geometry (3)
History of mathematics (3)
Mathematical Statistics (6)
Differential Equations (3)
Advanced Calculus (3)
Algebraic Structures (3)
Two electives selected from courses that satisfy math major requirements (6)

Quite a difference, n'est pas? And all without removing a single education class.


jsmith said...

I attend Purdue University and I am currently a math major. I know that at this school, I have to recieve a degree in Math and a subsiquent degree in Education. I will leave this school having taken the same amount of math credits as any other Math major here. I believe that this is a really good way to math sure I am qualified in my subject and also in the teaching environment.

ALD said...

Absolutely. I applaud schools like Purdue that do things that way.

Good luck with your studies.