This Letter to the Editor is written in response to a news article written by Kristina Zheng titled “Students opt to take math classes outside of the University.”
Thank you for the Feb. 18 article headlined “Students opt to take math classes outside of the University” in which you describe some of the issues with STEM and mathematics courses at the University and the complex set of considerations students navigate in deciding whether to take required courses at the University or to transfer credit from other institutions. We are acutely aware of the financial pressures that your article highlight, and sympathetic with the goal of lessening one’s course load during the regular term.
However, we are concerned that none of the individuals you quoted in the article have first-hand knowledge of the courses about which they were speaking. It is difficult for your reporting to be factual when all of the reasons students give for taking mathematics courses at other institutions, save the concerns of cost or course load, are based on hearsay. Students may hear that “Michigan math is just the worst,” especially when this is printed in your article, but if your goal as a newspaper and reporter is to be factual and objective, you should have some support for the assertion beyond unsubstantiated claims from students who have never actually taken the courses in question.
We agree that there is room for improvement in the instruction in all units at the University, which includes mathematics. At the same time, however, the Department of Mathematics works hard to ensure that our students learn as much as possible in our courses. There are many aspects of our program that are recognized nationally as being best practices in mathematics instruction. Moreover, we are currently working with the University’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching and the College of Literature, Science & the Arts to improve the assessment in our introductory courses and the support that we provide our instructors. At the end of the day, our goal is for students to learn mathematics at a deep and fundamental level. Learning at this level is not easy, but we believe that goal is the core of the University’s mission as an elite academic institution. We believe that Michigan students can succeed at this level, and that rising to the challenge is the best preparation to gain the knowledge and tools to ensure their success when they graduate and take on the challenges of the world.
Kristen Moore is Associate Chair for Education in the Department of Mathematics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.