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Friday, June 29, 2012
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has recently released a report on the impending shortage of people trained in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. They note that mathematics courses are a bottleneck in this process. In a brilliant example of problem-solving, they have squarely fixed the blame on mathematics teachers, and decided that the cure is to have mathematics courses developed and taught by faculty in ‘mathematics-intensive’ disciplines instead. As I have said on numerous forums, the study of mathematics has been honed, pruned and refined for 2,500 years. I would suggest that we might be doing something right. Perhaps, as some good educational and cognitive psychology studies suggest, ability in mathematics is a fairly rare talent, but nonetheless essential for the training of good scientists?