“math anxiety” that leads some students to avoid subjects involving quantitative reasoning and scientific methods through their entire tenure at Amherst
The broader goal of encouraging greater exposure to quantitative forms of reasoning and the scientific method among all students has no simple solution ... further refinements may be necessary to foster the “quantitative literacy” that a thoughtful citizen must deploy in quotidian judgments about such matters as risk, reward, equity, correlation, and causation ... it appears prudent to develop instruments for assessing the quantitative reasoning of our students and for stimulating new approaches to improving their quantitative literacy ...
Many students graduate from Amherst with no course, or perhaps just one, in mathematics and science
The reaccreditation report suggests that given these low percentages, Amherst should "either reconcile the rhetoric of non-mandatory course distribution guidelines, or adopt requirements."
I'm sure with all the honors, AP, IB, and college courses that applicants typically complete, their quantitative literacy is sufficient.
They make me wonder if upgrading the science facilities at Amherst has been slower in coming, when compared to Williams, Swarthmore, & other LACs, in part because of the open curriculum.
I think it's valid to say an open curriculum can have certain effects.
And there are different schools with different cultures and expectations... so, something for everyone.
I've heard a different statistic, that the fraction of Amherst students who graduate without a math or science course is substantial. But I don't have any concrete data.
The Open Curriculum: At Amherst the general education expectation (Catalogue, p.69) is indeed coherent and substantive. It embodies the institution‟s definition of an educated person and prepares students for the world in which they will live (NEASC 4.15). That expectation often unfamiliar to faculty advisors and students has been complicated by new concerns over writing and quantitative and informational skills and needs rethinking and reformulation by CEP and the Faculty. A central challenge noted in the 1998 review and in the 2008 Self-Study remains translation of the expectations into patterns of student course-taking and learning in the context of an open curriculum to which the faculty is fiercely committed.Transcript review for classes of 2002-06 suggests that there has been little or no progress toward greater breadth of course-taking by Amherst students since 1995-96. Whereas, 63% of students a decade ago took math or computer science courses, only 56% did in 2002-06; the same pattern holds for lab science courses (60% vs. 44%) and creative arts (<50% vs. 42%). Even the percentages taking three or more courses in the humanities (99% vs. 88%) and social sciences (90% vs. 87%) declined. These patterns continue to be inconsistent with Amherst‟s clear aspirations for breadth articulated in the Catalogue.
This issue was a central point of research and discussion in the extensive and impressive Report of the Special Committee on the Amherst Education in 2003. In addition, that report also emphasized the fundamental competencies of writing and quantitative analysis and both the challenge and importance of finding ways to assist students to undertake broad educations and build those skills in the context of that open curriculum. The CEP currently is examining ways of establishing a clearer accounting of student progress toward achieving curricular breadth and anticipates a rethinking of the broader aspirations for a liberal education that have long been inscribed in the Catalogue.
A comprehensive review of pre-major advising appears also to be on the CEP agenda. Advising for first- and second-year students continues to be widely viewed as not fully successful in encouraging students to explore the curriculum as widely as the College hopes they will. We highlight the importance of moving forward in conjunction with review of expectations for general education.
I agree -- and I also think that schools with such a curriculum, like Amherst, should be candid about those effects.