Letter to the Editor: Math Department made poor choice with new computer program, says reader


Dear Math Department staff and The Collegian editor-in-chief,

I am writing today out of disappointment with the new system of Computer-based Mastery Program courses that the Math department has chosen to implement for Math 021 and Math 101 this semester, and apparently will continue with Math 102 next semester. While I believe that the fine professors at the Math Department are doing an excellent job at being available and explaining subject matter after the fact, I believe that it is a massive error to have switched these basic math classes (where people &-like me8212;show weaknesses) from a classic lecture environment where the student has more structure, in addition to an actual classroom setting and a professor to answer doubts right there in the classroom, to an online-based, supplemental instruction system where students are a step short of teaching themselves about a subject in which they needed more individualized attention.

For some, this system may be working, but from the emails sent from the department to my course mail list, there seem to be others who, as myself, have been having issues with this new style of teaching.

There should be a choice to have Math 101 as a classic lecture or as the CBMP course &- not just assume that all will be able to “master” these courses alone, especially when the guidelines for the course are different than for regular lectures. For example, though we’re required to show our work in quizzes and tests, we receive no partial credit, while I understand that students in lecture math classes do receive credit for their work if it is correct. Also, there’s no chance of passing quizzes with a “C” or “average” grade; 80 percent instead is the pass/fail mark. There is no chance for extra-credit or collective in-class exercises, curves or anything to help students further succeed in this class.

I understand technology can be our ally, but there should always be a choice between online and regular lectures, as with many other courses offered at SDSU. The Math department, I reiterate, has done extensive effort to make their staff and tutors available during this transition, yet I don’t think that quite solves the entire problem. Tutoring helps, but it is not designed to replace actual lectures, and this is what I think is missing from the CBMP courses.

There’s also the issue of perhaps opening a course such as Math for Liberal Arts, as is available at universities like Virginia Tech, Florida State University or Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where people in liberal arts majors can have a chance to fulfill their math requirement in a way that will relate and enhance their academic experience.

Taking this course has been very frustrating. There should always be a choice and I can only hope that the Math department will take this constructive criticism to at least consider the validity of my claims.


Vanessa C. Marcano