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Posts Tagged ‘mathematics’

Sigh.  Although my students do the best they can with the background they have, I continue to be stunned at the low requirements of the American education system. A sizable portion of college and university classes here are basically remedial high school. I’m getting lots of people in their second or third year in a four-year engineering program who have never had any statistics at all. They will have to take one stats class before they graduate, but it’s not prerequisite to many other classes so they tend to take it late in the program. It seriously limits their tools and understanding.

Let’s compare:

Requirements to graduate from Polytechnique of Montreal:

  • Need to have enough high school math, physics and chemistry to take the 2-year Pure and Applied Sciences program at a CEGEP (junior college)
  • There, 3 physics classes, 6 math classes, 3 chemistry classes, 1 bio class, plus 4 PE classes, 4 philosophy classes, 4 French classes, and some English (60 units total).
  • Polytechnique: 120 units of solid, wall-to-wall engineering.  No relief from any GEs or electives.

Requirement to graduate here:

  • No requirements on high school classes, though math, physics and chemistry are recommended.
  • 27 units of GE
  • 106 units of sciences and engineering including the same math, physics, and chemistry I had to take in junior college.

Conclusion: Canadian engineers graduate WAY more prepared.  I cringe when I hear people talking about how difficult the program or a class is.

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Principia title pageThis day 321 years ago, Sir Isaac Newton published Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, better known as Principia. It gave us Newton’s laws of motion — the very foundation of classical mechanics, his law of universal gravitation, and a derivation of Kepler’s laws (which had originally been empirically obtained) of planetary motion.

Interestingly, although Newton had developed calculus as a mathematical tool to derive these laws, he largely left it out of Principia, and instead re-created most of the proofs for his laws using geometry. Presumably, calculus was too much of a newfangled or obscure field of mathematics.

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