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A New Math Course for Those Who Don’t Love Math

Randolph-Macon Academy Introduces a New Math Course for Those Who Don’t Love Math

With the focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in recent years, Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA) Mathematics Department Chairman Eric Barr noticed an issue: in order to stay competitive for college, students with no interest in STEM careers were taking pre-calculus and often Advanced Placement Calculus, which were not preparing them for the college math they would be taking. And while some took Advanced Placement Statistics instead, others chose not to take math at all. Barr recognized that at R-MA, where students transfer in at almost every grade level, there was definitely a need for a fourth-year class that would better prepare students to take college-level math courses other than calculus. 

The situation was not unique to R-MA, nor was it unnoticed. Still, it took Barr several years of research before he found the curriculum he wanted. He found it in a curriculum that is technically not even published yet: Transition to College Mathematics and Statistics (TCMS), developed by a team of professors and advisors based out of Western Michigan University in conjunction with personnel from several other schools. The curriculum is scheduled to be released in 2016, but Barr contacted the publisher in an effort to obtain it early, and was able to procure about 30 copies.

“Having a class like this allows students who are interested in careers in the humanities or business to take a math that more directly applies to them,” explained Barr. “That in turn strengthens the STEM program because it means the students who choose calculus have both a need for and an interest in that material.”

“Despite the common complaint “How will this help me later in life?” mathematics is important in every aspect of everyone’s life,” observed R-MA senior Jonathan Pederson, who did his own research into the class curriculum and even contacted one of the authors to ask questions. “Stock markets, investment banking, and personal finances are all applications for mathematics.”

Nataliya Self, a new math instructor at R-MA this year, is teaching two sections of the course, and each class already has 12 students. Self described the curriculum as helpful for the SAT and learning to analyze data. 

In its eight-chapter curriculum, TCMS includes Financial Decision-Making, Counting and Probability, Survey-Taking, Cryptography, Voting, and more. Much of the course utilizes online tools, which takes advantage of R-MA’s recent addition of campus-wide WiFi. 
Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational day and boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12.  Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and have the option to participate in a flight program. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.