Monday, January 05, 2009

Engineering/Technology - Math = What?

Interesting report commenting on the lack of success reaching a broader audience with economics courses because the material is too technical - too much like a science. We're facing the same challenge in engineering and technology courses. Some have even suggested reducing the math requirements to make engineering and technology more appealing to a broader range of students. Unfortunately, when you remove the technical and science from a technical science you have nothing left.

Here's one of the comments to the article, followed by part of the article (I've fixed the spelling mistakes in the comment - see aside below):

“Too technical” is code for too mathematical. Yes, by all means make economics like those oh so useless subjects of Communication, Sociology and “Gender Studies”.

The central problem here is the growing mathematical illiteracy of students and faculty. My college has ALGEBRA as a math standard. That is introductory high school math. As a college standard? Guess what, we have to make economics easier for the idiots the university wants to admit but who graduate in “how to be unemployed.” Economics majors get jobs. The Dean says, “Let’s make more economics majors.” We need to make it less technical to let the sociology students in. Crazy logic.

Undergraduate Economics Major Mustn't Become Too Technical, Report Urges
The undergraduate major in economics is generally healthy, but it would be stronger if faculty members had better skills in presenting the discipline to the vast majority of their students who do not want to become academic economists. That is the verdict of a draft report to be discussed here Saturday during the annual meeting of the American Economic Association.

But the authors fear that as doctoral education in economics becomes more technical and abstract — a trend Mr. Colander has criticized elsewhere — new faculty members are badly prepared to teach economics to undergraduate students with diverse interests.

Doctoral economics programs, the authors write, are “more and more reliant on mathematics and statistics and less and less focused on ideas relevant to teaching undergraduate majors who are interested in a liberal education, rather than learning economics as a technical science.”

The danger, Mr. Colander and Ms. McGoldrick write, is that the undergraduate major will start to mirror the doctoral programs, becoming “far more technical than it currently is,” which would in turn make it “a much smaller undergraduate major with fewer direct links to liberal education goals.”

The authors suggest that some undergraduate programs might divide into an “economic science” major and an “economic policy” major. They also urge doctoral programs to offer more training in pedagogy.
Aside: Generally not good practice to have spelling mistakes in a comment about the growing mathematical illiteracy of students and faculty.

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