Stefan Sultan:Elliott School requires too many math, economics courses

Updated: April 21, 2016 at 10:10 a.m.

Math courses are necessary for majors that involve data or finances. So, on the surface, it makes sense that the Elliott School of International Affairs requires its students to take math-related courses because international affairs students often use math concepts in their careers. However, unlike even some liberal arts majors in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Elliott School students are required to take five math-related courses, including economics.

In addition to the more general math requirement that most students complete for their majors, students majoring in international affairs also must complete three economics courses and a research methods class.

By placing such a large emphasis on math-related courses, the Elliott School is limiting the number of classes students can take in subject areas that interest them. While every student should take some math classes because they can enhance logical and critical thinking, the excessive number required might hurt students academically – especially students who lack advanced math skills.

What’s more, students in the Elliott School take substantially more math classes than their political science counterparts. While the two majors are very similar in upper level policy courses, political science majors are only required to take one scope and methods course – similar to the Elliott School’s research methods course – and the general math requirement for all CCAS students. Political science majors can choose to take six credits of either history or economics.

After having limited options for classes in high school, I was looking forward to creating my own schedule, without taking classes that did not interest me. I had difficulty making a schedule that would allow me to double major and not take summer courses, especially because I came to college without any AP credits. And because of all the math and economics requirements, I had to be sure that every class I took counted.

If officials decreased the number of math-related courses for Elliott students, they would have time to take more thought-provoking classes – like sociology and peace studies. These are classes that would give students more world perspective, which is what a college education should do anyway. As someone who is not entirely sure what kind of career I want to pursue, fulfilling three semesters of economics, a general math requirement and the research methods course makes exploring different areas of study excessively difficult.

Maralee Csellar, a University spokeswoman, said in an email that undergraduates are required to take math courses for the University fulfill the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools’ accreditation guidelines.

“College-level math is important for a well-rounded international affairs education,” Csellar said.

While college-level math is important, the amount of math-related courses Elliott students take is redundant and burdensome – especially on top of our other requirements.

Furthermore, the Elliott School requires far more math-related courses than most of the top international affairs schools. Stanford University requires two economics courses and one statistics course, Princeton University’s course load includes one economics class and one statistics class, and students at the University of Michigan must only take one research methods course.

The large number of math courses undergraduate students in the Elliott School are required to take is counterproductive: It forces students to forgo another class that would benefit them much more in the long run. College should be a time for students to explore their interests and become well-rounded. Therefore, officials should consider reducing the math requirement so students can pursue more courses that interest them.

Stefan Sultan, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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