Colleges to promote statistics over algebra for liberal arts majors

The University System of Maryland has come up with a way to help liberal arts students who struggle with algebra.

Encourage them to take statistics instead.

University system administrators are using a $3 million federal grant this fall to launch a pilot remedial statistics course at a dozen two-year and four-year colleges, including Towson University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Coppin State University.

They are hoping a switch to statistics could make it easier for many students to fulfill their math requirement, leading to faster college completion rates and fewer dropouts.

The approach makes sense to Poulomi Banerjee. Banerjee, 21, was a good math student in high school, and jumped right into calculus when she arrived at UMBC.

She says she soon realized she was in over her head. She switched to statistics — which turned out to be more relevant to her degree in health administration and policy.

Banerjee, the student who struggled with algebra before switching to statistics, graduated from UMBC this year. She’s working on campus as a program assistant while she figures out her next career move.

She says she’s using statistics in that job. She would have liked to take more classes that were relevant to health administration and policy.

“A lot of my courses I needed to take didn’t fit with my major and they’re pretty useless right now,” Banerjee said.

Bentley Corbett-Wilson, the student body president at UMBC, took an introductory algebra class in his first semester at the school.

The music education major struggled, and ended up with a D.

The following semester, Corbett-Wilson took algebra again. This time he found it easier, and earned a B.

He said buckling down and mastering something he disliked was a good learning experience.

“I hate math with a passion,” he said. “But it was actually good to be in a math class and actually have to learn the material and make sure that I knew it well.”

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