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Topic: RE: College Algebra, Statistics, and Intermediate Algebra
Replies: 1   Last Post: Dec 8, 2009 12:01 PM

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Stefan Baratto

Posts: 15
Registered: 12/6/04
RE: College Algebra, Statistics, and Intermediate Algebra
Posted: Dec 8, 2009 12:01 PM
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It's kind of odd, despite the fact that we are so much more flexible in the 2YCs compared to the universities, we still seem to be constantly behind the ball.

I mean, when STEM students didn't attend 2YCs, the only college-level math course we had was college algebra and it was a blatantly traditional precalc course.

More and more, I'm seeing STEM students in the 2YCs and yet, we've tried to move our College Algebra away from the precalc course that they need.

Because it seems that so many of us use the name College Algebra differently, I'm going to go with STEM and non-STEM to maintain the distinction.

Thankfully, in the interim, we've developed some college-level non-STEM courses.

Rob: I think the material we developed for The Right Stuff is absolutely fabulous. In fact, we use some of it, but mostly in our non-STEM college-level math course.

For us, we've adopted many of the AMATYC standards in our developmental math. In particular, we introduce functions pretty early, use the rule-of-four as much as we can, and use graphing calculators throughout.

>From there, students can take a college-level STEM or non-STEM math course.

The STEM math course serves as a prerequisite for a second term precalc course (trig) or as a prereq for Statistics. Many students also treat it as a terminal course to satisfy their degree reqs. Personally, I think this latter group is making a mistake.

The non-STEM math course serves as a prereq for Statistics and is also the appropriate course as a terminal course to satisfy their degree reqs.

The non-STEM math course isn't completely well-defined. There is variability in the content, depending on the instructor. The true requirement is that it is college-level (which is somewhat defined as having Intermediate Algebra as a prereq).

With that in mind, when I taught it, we used the language and notation of functions, but not the theory (e.g. no domain and range). On the other hand, we spent three times as much class time on modeling applications with piecewise-defined functions compared to the STEM math class and we modeled apps with multivariable functions. I also did a bunch of NP-Complete type apps.

Others who teach the course included financial math with Exp/Log functions and probability.

As to the question: What prereq skills does a student need to succeed in a Stats course, that's a tough question. I've always taken the approach the Stats at the 2YC level is not intended to produce professional statisticians. Such individuals need a calculus-based stats course at the level beyond 2YCs. We want to teach students to be statistically literate, to use technology to do some statistics, and to be able to formulate problems, design the experiments necessary to solve problems or answer questions, and interpret the results of a statistical analysis properly. We also want them to have a basic understanding of probability. We have a two-term stats sequence that basically does this.

In truth, I don't know that they need more math than Intermediate Algebra. For us, the college-level math prereq requirement beyond Intermediate Algebra exists to ensure that students have a level of mathematical sophistication and college-level success that enables them to treat such a stats course with the maturity and rigor that we are looking for from such students.

Thank you,

Stefan Baratto
Mathematics Chair, Faculty
Clackamas Community College

Northwest Vice President
Office (S114):  (503) 594-3325
Fax:  (503) 650-6658

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Kimball []
Sent: Tuesday, December 08, 2009 7:42 AM
To: Stefan Baratto;
Subject: RE: College Algebra, Statistics, and Intermediate Algebra

Stefan, et al;

The problem with saying that "Colllege Algebra needs to be reformed" is that C A is so different across the country.
WE (the Right Stuff) moved away from focusing on "refocusing college algebra" to "refocusing courses below calculus".
I totally agree with you that IF CA is part of a pre-calc sequence, THEN it should require more skills in algebra and more/deeper understanding of an algebraic way of thinking.

It appears your school allows the non-STEM student (for whom your CA is not a great fit being that it is equiv to pre-calc) to take a liberal arts math that hopefully provides more appropriate content for the non-STEM student; discreet topics, stat, finance, modeling, ... (with technology).

My question is, and it isn't just for me,
what "math" does a student need to be successful in a stats course?

PS: Our stats courses are Excel-based as well (no surprise)
as is our Bus Calc.

Robert L Kimball
( )

>>> Stefan Baratto <> 12/8/09 10:17 AM >>>
Hey Rob:

At Clackamas CC, Stats is an Excel-based course.

We actually do more algebraic manipulation in Intermediate Algebra than we do in College Algebra. In particular, rational and radical functions are covered in Algebra III, as is an intro to Exponential and Logarithmic Functions. The Algebra III course is a prereq for both, the Liberal Arts Math and the College Algebra course.

College Algebra, for us, is part of a two-quarter PreCalc course (trig being the second quarter).

Our Business majors need Stats, so they can now take the Contemporary Math (aka Liberal Arts) to satisfy the Stats prereq.


PS: We don't quite agree that College Algebra needs to be reformed. We are content with it as a PreCalc type course. We just feel that more students take it than should and are building up enrollment in the Contemporary alternative. Of course, the State Legislature in Oregon hasn't micromanaged to the point of requiring all students to take a course named College Algebra or anything else quite so dumb.

Stefan Baratto
Mathematics Chair, Faculty
Clackamas Community College

<Rob Wrote>

Does an introductory statistics course require the degree of algebra normally found in an Intermediate Algebra course or College Algebra course?

That is,
__could__ a student get by with less algebra but more mathematical maturity succeed in a stat course?

If so,
then how can the student gain that mathematical maturity without having to leap over the barriers presented by "traditional" courses concerned mostly with algebraic manipulation?

Rob Kimball

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