Friday, June 06, 2008

Are universities failing undergraduate Maths students?

"When students come to university they are hyped about studying mathematics. Then when they leave, why are they glad to have got shot of maths?"

I post the question alone today, so it can be pondered over! My reply to it will be posted in due course, in the mean time feel free to discuss this.

PS: As you have gathered, my old posting habits are back. The blip was due to a non-trivial reason which doesn't belong to this post. It's good to be back though!


Jean-Noël said...

I'm not really sure that students actually come to uni hyped about maths. At least I didn't even remotely have that impression about the majority of other students in the first year.

I think a lot of them simply picked maths because they were good at it/couldn't think of anything better to do.

Let's also not forget that exams have the ability to drain the fun out of even the most interesting course.

Starting from these assumptions it is probably not much of a surprise that they'll gladly leave uni when done with their degree. Also I'm not sure most of the students really knew what maths at uni was going to be like. It is definitely very different from what one does at A-level.

Beans said...

Hi Jean-Noël,

I think there exist some students who are hyped about maths; but as you rightly say, others now come for the "university experience" first.

Students can be good at maths and enjoy studying it, without really knowing what it is about. So I guess the question is, are universities failing such students?

But exams are endured during college and schools too. (However, going on my revision this year, when I actually revised and explored the subject as I should have during the year, I was wowed by quite a lot of things.)

Your last paragraphs grabs what I'm saying in a nutshell. Most new undergraduates will have their eyes closed (as I did myself), but we can't really criticise schools or colleges for this.

Shouldn't universities design suitable courses, so that students can enjoy maths whilst having their eyes opened? Isn't it up to the universities to make the most out of the students' abilities (which are obviously there, but unprocessed?)