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Why are we well-suited to teach mathematics to scientists and engineers?

Alan Schoenfeld, Professor of Education and Mathematics, UC Berkeley in a letter to the president of the University of Rochester regarding their decision to cut back the math program:

"... there are very serious dangers in placing calculus instruction in the hands of others. After many years of stagnation the undergraduate mathematics curriculum, stimulated by "calculus reform," is undergoing a significant transformation. That reform has come from within the mathematical community, and is rapidly taking hold within it. Keeping abreast of such changes - in particular, major pedagogical and content changes in calculus - requires being connected to the mathematical community. Creating and delivering instruction consonant with reform requires both knowledge and commitment. The odds that faculty from other departments would (a) know about such reforms, (b) be willing to make the effort required to implement such changes in service courses outside their home departments, are virtually nil. Hence, even if you were to take the high road and make use of faculty from other departments, Rochester's students would almost certainly receive mathematics instruction that is increasingly becoming obsolete and inadequate. And if you take the low road, using adjuncts and temporary faculty, the problems would be far worse. One of my responsibilities as chair of the Mathematical Association of America's Committee on the Teaching of Undergraduate Mathematics was gathering data on and trying to fix the "adjunct/temporary instruction problem" in mathematics. I'll be blunt in summary: such instruction is typically cheap, and you get what you pay for. A major instructional and administrative commitment is required to make appropriate use of such staff under the best of circumstances. Expecting temporaries and adjuncts to keep pace with a rapidly changing curriculum that requires significant effort and coordination is ridiculous. I conclude that the changes you propose are almost certain to produce a significant lowering of the quality of instruction in mathematics courses - no matter how you staff those courses. This is the direct opposite of what you intend."


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