Engineers’ math marks don’t add up

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By Barry Hertz

To combat a 225 per-cent failure rate among its first-year students, the faculty of engineering and applied science will introduce a remedial math course next year to teach students math they should have learned in high school.

The voluntary course, called MTH128, is aimed at students with low high school math marks, or those who do poorly on math test that would be given at the beginning of the year.

Stalin Boctor, dean of engineering and applied science, said that students with low math marks were able to get into Ryerson engineering because admissions requirements for the program looked at a student’s top six marks, not math specifically.

“Their average might be very high, but their calculus mark might be low,” said Boctor.

At last month’s Academic Council meeting, the proposal for the remedial math course drew some criticism from members of the council.

True Nguyen, a student representative on the council, said that much of the material covered by the course were Grades 11 and 12 math material.

“If you’re going into engineering, shouldn’t you already know these things?” she questioned Boctor at the meeting.

“You’d be surprised,” Boctor responded.

In an interview, Boctor blamed inflated high school marks for leaving Ryerson with a large number of engineering students who need to be retaught the fundamental concepts of math.

“Some high school marks are very inflated, though we don’t know which,” said Boctor.

Boctor said that the new course would help to increase the faculty of engineering’s retention rate.

Not all engineering students see the relevancy of the course.

“If they’re doing so poorly, they shouldn’t be in engineering in the first place,” said Sonal Bahl, a second-year engineering student.

“In our first year, the first four chapters of our textbook were OAC review and that was enough.”

“You can’t really give them such a coast,” said Chinthaka Molligod, a first-year engineering student. “The course doesn’t seem to be worth it.”

Craig Mosk, a second-year mechanical engineering student and the mechanical director of the Engineering Student Society, agreed.

“It sounds like we’re lowering our standards. At least 80 per cent of first year is review anyways. You shouldn’t have to take an extra primer after high school.”

Stephen Liss, an engineering professor, denied that the remedial math course meant that Ryerson was lowering its standards.

“We don’t want to take in students who don’t meet the minimum requirements,” said Liss.

“We just want to improve the retention of all students. It’s not just about accommodating the lowest end of the spectrum.”

The course was approved by the Academic Council, and will be offered this fall on a pass or fail basis.

It will not count towards grade point averages, but will impact academic standing.

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