By Nick Servi, The Circuit.
Starting in the Fall of 2018, Benedictine College students are required to take one three-credit hour math class in order to graduate.
The BC faculty approved a motion written by the Curriculum Committee to add a new Mathematical Reasoning Foundation to the college’s General Education Requirements on October 18, 2016.
The faculty also voted to abolish the “Qualitative Analysis” requirement from the “Skills and Perspectives” list and approved the creation of a new math course, “Mathematics as a Liberal Art,” to help fulfill the Math Foundation.
In researching the proposal to add a math foundation, BC surveyed 35 colleges in the area and found that 90 percent of them required students to take at least one predominantly mathematical course.
The original idea for a new math requirement was first brought up by the Assessment Committee, which tracks the effectiveness of the college’s curriculum.
The Assessment Committee discovered in the “2014 National Survey of Student Engagement” that the number of students having trouble using numerical information to solve real-world issues was significantly low, as well as the number of students who said their college experience helped their ability to reason quantitatively.
Assistant Professor of Theology Dr. Andrew Salzmann, Former Chair of the Curriculum Committee, believes the new math requirement will help promote the liberal arts at BC since numeric literacy is essential to understand the world.
“In the Middle Ages, Catholic thinkers divided all possible fields of study into three categories: the mechanical arts, which perfect objects to make them useful; the fine arts, which perfect objects to make them beautiful; and the liberal arts, which are called “liberal” because they do not aim to perfect other objects, but rather perfect the person who studies them,” Salzmann said.
“As Hugh of St. Victor said almost 900 years ago, the ancients considered the liberal arts to be by far the most useful because ‘anyone who had been thoroughly schooled in them might afterward come to a knowledge of the others by his own inquiry and effort rather than by listening to a teacher.’”
Salzmann also believes studying the liberal arts is important to help students prepare for life after college.
“The ability to teach ourselves new things is more important today than ever before, because the average American changes jobs every 4.6 years,” he said. “There is no way to predict the benefits you will receive over a lifetime from the years you spend studying the liberal arts, precisely because they do not prepare for any specific position. Instead, they are the best preparation we can offer for any possible endeavor.”
Senior Elizabeth Kelly agrees that the Math Foundation is important.
“I think math skills are an essential part of the liberal arts curriculum, so I am supportive of the college’s decision to require a math class,” Kelly said. “I, myself, am not strongly suited in math and I think this sort of requirement could help me improve my own skills.”
Senior David Herbst believes students should not be required to take a math class in college.
“If a student doesn’t want to take a math class but is required to, they are more than likely going to take the easiest course available,” Herbst said. “This course is not going to be much different from material learned in high school, so why should a student spend their credits on a class that won’t help them learn something new?”