Advisers helps students choose correct math

Many students have difficulty choosing their general education math course when registering for classes.

This is particularly true for students in liberal arts programs and social sciences, who often face a menu of options that may include Contemporary Mathematics, College Algebra, and Statistics.

But which one is the right choice?

The answer is “it depends,” said Mary Ann Bodine, Academic Advising assistant director.

Two important factors to consider are the skills needed in the student’s major field and the requirements of the institution where the student plans to transfer.

“Students don’t understand the importance of talking to their transfer institution,” she said.

Students in the same degree plan may find significantly different math requirements at the universities they transfer to.

Bodine said too often students choose College Algebra as their default option when that might not be the best course.

For instance, Statistics may be a better fit for a political science major.

She suggested that students talk to a counselor in the office of Academic Advising for help.

Those who have not selected a major should seek assistance in the office of Student Employment and Career Services in order to choose the best general education math option for the field they may be headed toward.

OCCC offers four math courses that meet the general education requirement portion of any degree, according to the 2010-2011 OCCC Course Catalogue.

Those classes are Contemporary Mathematics, College Algebra, Introduction to Statistics, and Pre-Calculus and Analytic Geometry.

Christine Peck, acting math lab supervisor, agreed that it is important to talk to an adviser.

“Be proactive in choosing your courses,” Peck said.

For many liberal arts majors, Contemporary Math is a good option.

The course is a topics course in mathematics, said Professor Jay Malmstrom, course coordinator. “It is a terminal course, [meaning] it’s not a prerequisite to anything else.

“What happens in Contemporary Math is we pick an area and we talk about why it’s important that somebody knows this and we burrow a bit into how it works.”

According to the syllabus for Contemporary Mathematics, every class will touch on logic and statistics with a wide range of topics that professors can choose from to develop a more customized plan.

For a more in-depth study of statistics, there is Introduction to Statistics.

“I really like the statistics course because it gives you information for everyday life,” said Tamara Carter, Mathematics Department director.

She said it looks at statistics and their applications.

Someone who has taken the course can understand statistics, know if they are meaningful, and know how to judge the methods that created them.

“Psychology, sociology, and political science depend heavily on statistics,” she said.

Carter also suggested students thinking about a graduate degree also consider Introduction to Statistics because it will prepare them for their graduate level statistics class.

Though both College Algebra and Pre-Calculus are general education mathematics courses, they have been designed to allow for a transition into one of OCCC’s two calculus tracks.

These courses are designed for specific degree plans in engineering, mathematics, science, technology and business, said Malmstrom.

College Algebra introduces concepts needed for the Business Calculus path while Pre-Calculus and Analytic Geometry is designed for students who will be eventually taking the Calculus I class according to “General Education Math.”

Whatever general education math course students decide to take, if they need assistance or tutoring, OCCC does have the math lab available.

For more information, contact Carter 405-682-1611, ext. 7167, or visit

Leave comment