Liberal Arts

 

An overview of the liberal arts track in mathematics across the CONNECT institutions shows that courses are offered at five out of the six schools and that the format is unanimously a 3-credit course at the introductory level1.  These courses aim at providing an exposition of mathematical study to college students who major in liberal arts programs. Our findings in 2006 conclude that the group of courses is very diverse and under the category of mathematics for liberal arts.  This report summarizes their major differences, in hope of paving the way for a subsequent effort by CONNECT to homogenize a very important area of our curriculum.
 

Liberal Arts Math Table


Topics covered in the course2 are often at the discretion of the instructor, with the exception of one course at UMASS Dartmouth (UMD) and for one of the two courses at Massasoit Community College (MCC). Currently, liberal arts majors at UMD take a more algebraically intensive course focusing on “functions and change.” In contrast, liberal arts tracks in the other four institutions allow various degree of flexibility in topic selection, with Cape Cod Community College (CCCC) and Bridgewater State University (BSU) being the most flexible. The depth of the coverage in each topic is very much subject to the instructor’s preference, despite great similarities in the textbooks adopted. As a result, the CONNECT Math group concludes that a comparison of student’s learning from the contents standpoint is not very useful.  It is our opinion the liberal arts track should be examined from the outcomes standpoint.  We intend to tackle this task in the 2011 – 2012 academic year.

There are substantial differences in the learning outcomes formulated by the five institutions, as well. UMD uses one set of departmental outcomes for all of its courses, while others state the outcomes at the course level. The group observed a lack of common topics, which made comparing the remaining learning outcomes from the remaining Liberal Arts mathematics courses.  Nonetheless, a few key outcomes did emerge as predominant threads once our data was entered into a spreadsheet. For example, four out of five mathematics departments in CONNECT have stated that producing logical (deductive) arguments is a demonstrable student learning outcome in the liberal arts track. Other common threads include appropriate use of statistical methods, technological proficiency, effective communication in mathematics, as well as problem solving. These threads could serve as our building blocks as the CONNECT group continues to move towards closing the gaps between existing courses in the liberal arts track this year.

Being a staple within the general education (graduation) requirements in every school, the liberal arts track in mathematics is annually taken by hundreds of students who later transfer from community colleges to BSU or UMD. Any uniform changes ultimately suggested by our study also impact the general education requirements (and vice versa)! With the ongoing dialogue among the CONNECT institutions, the CONNECT Math group is committed to assuring our students experience a seamless transfer in the liberal arts track by setting more coherent standards for general education in mathematics for college students in southeastern Massachusetts.

For further information on the Liberal Arts Mathematics track, please contact:

Aaron Wan

awan@capecod.edu

508-362-2131, ext 4340

  

1          The prerequisite is a demonstrated proficiency in high school algebra via Accuplacer.

2          Henceforth, the course under consideration belongs to the category of mathematics for liberal arts as described in the introductory paragraph.