7
$\begingroup$

Is there any data available on the majors of students taking freshman calculus, including information on changes over time? In the past I think engineering students were probably a hefty majority, but I suspect that that has changed quite a bit within the last 20 years, at least here in California. Circa 1996, the University of California system started requiring its biology majors to take calculus and a new flavor of calculus-based physics (a 1-year survey with calculus as a corequisite). If the population has changed a lot, then one question that could be raised is whether the traditional structure of a one-year calculus course is appropriate for the new population.

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

This should have all the information you need (demographic data as well as possible interventions, etc.) The linked-to file is the summary report of a multi-year multi-institutional study to understand the way calculus is taught in colleges and universities in the US. On page 11 (and coincidentally in Table 11) you will find that the 31% folks taking calculus want to be engineers, 30% want to be in the biological/life sciences and the other (ten or so) disciplines come in at the single digits (2% are math majors, 8% are business majors, etc).

This answers the demographic question, I hope. Your general question about the traditional one year calculus structure is addressed repeatedly throughout the linked-to file but maybe not with particular majors in mind. They make the argument that the challenges Calculus-teaching in the US faces are complicated and are best answered locally (perhaps) through site-dependent methods of placement, student support, curriculum and pedagogy.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Figure 5 on p. 15 shows trends over time, but it seems to be about all students, not just students taking calculus. It shows a massive increase in biology majors (a factor of 3 over 20 years). Presumably the current figure of 30% of calc students being bio majors represents a huge increase over previous years, both because there are more bio majors and because it's more common to require them to take calculus. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Feb 7 '16 at 4:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.