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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

College creates statistics major

<esponse to student opinion and the needs of 21st century statisticians, the math department will eliminate the math/stats major and instead offer two distinct majors: mathematics and statistics.

The class of 2019 will be the first class able to declare statistics.

Every 10 years, departments undergo an independent review process by the college.  A review completed two years ago of the math department found that it is highly important for statisticians to have familiarity with computer science. As a result, introduction to computer science will be a requirement for the statistics major.

A two-credit course where students analyze data sets from the Northfield community will also  be required for the new major.

As a result of these requirements, the statistics major will be more applied than the current math/stats major, according to Laura Chihara, chair and professor of mathematics and statistics.

Currently, more theoretical courses like math structures are required. According to Chihara, students interested in statistics do not usually need this theoretical coursework.

Some students, however, are apprehensive about the move away from “pure” mathematics.

Janna Wennberg ’19, an intended math major, understands that many math/stats majors are not interested in taking proof-based math courses. She feels, however, that they might be cutting themselves short.

“I was disheartened that there is no longer a math structures requirement,” said Wennberg. “Beyond just proofs, it teaches you how to do math well.”

Alice Antia ’18, a math/stats major, also feels nervous about the lack of theoretical math requirements.

“I think the intention was to make it more accessible to people who don’t like math as much,” said Antia. “But, I think it’s good for stats majors to be able to write good proofs. They should take math structures.”

Yet, Chihara did not share the same concerns about the lack of proof-based courses.

“Mathematics is a different discipline from statistics,” said Chihara. “Mathematics is a deductive system of thinking, and statistics is more inferential.”

According to Chihara, many math/stats majors are more interested in applied statistics.

This separation raises concerns over the future dynamic of math and statistics majors. The theoretical math courses are often where community develops.

“Something I hope is that the math and stats major will keep interacting,” said Wennberg. “I wonder about the dynamic.”

Professor Chihara said that based upon senior exit interviews, math majors on the statistics track already feel somewhat separate from the pure math majors.

“Some students have said they feel like second-class citizens,” said Chihara. “Because they are interested in applied stuff, the pure mathematics majors sometimes look down on them.”

Currently, a statistics major is quite rare at undergraduate institutions. There are many liberal arts colleges that do not offer statistics coursework.

The current math/stats major was developed in Fall of 2009. According to the Carletonian, professors in the Math department hoped at the time that it would eventually turn into a statistics major.

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