College must expand number of courses eligible to fulfill COLL200 NQR requirement

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When I first began attending classes at the College of William and Mary two years ago, I had bright visions for my future in the mathematics department. My older sister, a self-confessed math dork, had pursued upper-level abstract algebra and proofs-based courses during her time at the College and thoroughly enjoyed them; so as many naive freshmen do, I followed the advice of a trusted elder and enrolled in linear algebra, MATH 211, during my fall semester.

Learning matrix multiplication and delving into Euler’s Method was surprisingly delightful, and by the end of the class, I’d grown affectionate towards the mathematics department and began mapping out my quest to acquire an applied math minor. I took multivariable calculus, MATH 212, the following semester, and while I enjoyed the subject material, I found myself growing increasingly attached to the economics and government courses I’d simultaneously been taking over on Old Campus. By the time sophomore year arrived, I declared my double major in government and economics. Seemingly overnight, I transitioned from jaunting around Jones Hall to trudging around Tyler Hall.

While I do not regret taking linear algebra or multivariable calculus in the slightest, it is frustrating that these courses fail to satiate a single graduation requirement. Despite being 200-level courses in a STEM department, neither class fulfills the COLL 200 NQR domain requirement. This is utterly nonsensical given the College’s statement regarding the purpose of the NQR requirement.

According to the College’s informational website about the COLL 200’s three ‘Knowledge Domains’, the NQR requirement challenges students to examine the natural world and physical sciences using empirical, mathematical techniques. By the very nature of being offered in the mathematics department, linear algebra and multivariable calculus clearly employ mathematical techniques. When I took them two years ago, both subjects frequently referenced their practical usages, whether it be in hard sciences including chemistry and biology or in social sciences like economics. Given these factors, as well as the relative rigor associated with 200-level university mathematics curricula, the College should recognize them as viable ways to fulfill the NQR.

The College already has a track record of recognizing specific mathematics courses as sufficient in satisfying the NQR requirement, so adding more options from within the department should not be controversial in the slightest. Math-Powered Flight, which is almost universally known as an easy A among students at the College, is a 100-level mathematics course that counts towards the NQR requirement.

I would have gleefully signed up to take it to rid myself of the NQR domain, but because I have received credit for a mathematics course numbered above 210, I am ineligible to take Math-Powered Flight and thus cannot check off my NQR requirement through enrollment in the course.

If the goal of the COLL 200 system is to expose students to rigorous course material and challenge our conventional thought patterns, then it makes no sense to refuse granting NQR credit for classes that are more substantively challenging than Math-Powered Flight. Since the College is willing to grant NQR credit for students taking a 100-level mathematics course, it baffles me why they decline to do so for students who have taken 200-level ones that go further beyond proficiency requirements. Revising the system to allow for greater flexibility benefits many students but harms none; I don’t need math to know that’s an ideal outcome.

Email Ethan Brown at ewbrown@email.wm.edu.