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On Media Coverage of Math
Edited by Mike Breen and Annette Emerson, AMS Public Awareness Officers
In this article, mathematics professor Neal Koblitz makes the case for science, math, and engineering majors to study the humanities. He laments the "weakening of liberal-arts traditions and the corporatization of higher education," which includes the "nationwide trend toward education-on-the-cheap" in entry-level courses. This manifests itself in the increasing number of undergraduate courses being taught online—which he argues is "in most cases not good for the student"—and the increasing number of non-research faculty teaching introductory courses—which he asserts "creates further distance between students and the world of research and innovation." Koblitz's argument in favor of the liberal arts tradition is a simple one: "With few exceptions, in order for people in the STEM professions to have an impact, they must be able to write effectively and creatively." In essense, they must be able to "tell a story." He provides several examples of the importance of this ability, not just for writers of groundbreaking books and articles, but also for "rank-and-file" scientists and engineers: a well-written grant application may have a greater chance of success, and a journal article with an engaging introduction may attract more readers.
"How can a student learn to tell a story well?" Koblitz asks. "First and foremost by reading great literature. Another way students can learn how to analyze content and trace the development of an idea is through the study of history. And finally, one of the most effective ways to acquire a broad perspective and an appreciation for the nuances of communication is through the study of foreign languages and literatures."
See "Why STEM Majors Need the Humanities," Neal Koblitz, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 January 2017.
--- Claudia Clark
Three of the stories included in Discover magazine's annual coverage of the top 100 stories in science describe mathematical discoveries.
See "Top 100 Science Stories, #23, 35, and 48" by Julie Rehmeyer and Jonathon Keats. Discover, January/February 2017, pages 31, 41, and 54.
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