“Infinity and Beyond” course makes math palatable to liberal arts students
A black background peppered with white mathematical symbols and the text “See You, Space Novo…” in the bottom right corner. (Credit: Mark McDermott)

“Infinity and Beyond” course makes math palatable to liberal arts students

It’s easy to forget the breadth of quantitative courses available to students at New College amidst the surplus of qualitative analysis. In spite of the campus’ focus on the interpretive and the artistic, baccalaureate degree requirements for Novos who fell in with New College during the Fall 2021 semester and after call attention to the satisfactory completion of “one course in Mathematics or Statistics.” While it’s hard to carry on comfortably while dreading math, a choice course exists to ease liberal arts students into practical applications of quantitative reasoning conducive for all Areas of Concentration (AOCs).

Director of Quantitative Skills Programs and Director of the Quantitative Resource Center (QRC) Travis Lee offers a course each Spring semester titled “To Infinity and Beyond.” As outlined in the course syllabus, To Infinity and Beyond is “intended for students with little background in mathematics or those who may have struggled with math in the past, and will prepare students for further quantitative coursework if desired.”

Lee has also recently offered such courses as “Math Tools for the Social Sciences,” “Personal Finance Tutorial” and “Quantitative Methods: A Companion Tutorial for Introductory Psychology.”

Dean of Studies and Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Emily Heffernan had been recommending Dr. Lee’s classes to students who have been struggling to fulfill their mandatory math credit.

“We do not steer students towards particular classes, as AOCs have their own specific requirements and students should be offered a variety of courses to suit their needs,” Heffernan wrote to the Catalyst. “There are state math requirements, however, and courses like To Infinity and Beyond and Dr. Kottke’s course on Mathematical Thinking also serve to meet the state math requirement.”

Despite fulfilling the state math requirements, Lee doesn’t consider his course a math class in the traditional sense.

“To Infinity and Beyond is often a good fit for liberal arts students, as it focuses on very practical quantitative skills,” Lee said.

According to the class’s most recent syllabus, the goals of To Infinity and Beyond are to allow students to “demonstrate skills with a wide variety of topics in quantitative reasoning, perform quantitative analysis in Microsoft Excel and work effectively in teams.” Calculators are also allowed on all assignments and tests. As the Director of the QRC, Lee also uses the class as an opportunity to direct students towards the QRC as a resource.

The QRC is located on the first floor of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library in LBR 119—located across from the Writing Resource Center (WRC), with office hours for individual tutors available online.

“Travis Lee…has been offering To Infinity and Beyond as a course to meet the CYC [Chart Your Course] Math requirement for several semesters now, and he plans to continue to do so in the future,” Heffernan said. With this in mind, there’s no better time to give the quantitative courses on campus a try than perhaps next spring semester.

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