Mahler -gregThe goal of Earlham College is to have each of our admitted students have a successful and transformational educational experience, and to graduate four years after they arrive as a globally aware citizen who understands the value of lifelong learning. We want to do everything that we can do to help them to have the best experience possible.

In recent years we have found that many students are arriving at Earlham with weakness in what we might call their mathematical literacy. This is despite the fact that virtually all of our new students have completed the required three years of math in high school, and despite the fact that they might have a good SAT score in math. Even though students are taking math in high school – and, for the most part, doing well — the content of those classes is not “sticking,” and many students are arriving here with very weak math ability.

It is possible that the reason for the problem with mathematical literacy is one of self-confidence. Some students have a feeling that they just “cannot do” math, and that kind of attitude can certainly undermine performance even when requisite skills/knowledge are present. This kind of attitude isn’t something about which students should be ashamed or embarrassed; it is something that we can help with, and once we do so our students will be better equipped not only to handle certain specific Earlham courses, but as well to deal with the challenges of effective living, both professional and personal.

Because these problems have appeared to be increasing in frequency in recent years, and because we feel that all Earlham graduates should have functional mathematical competency, just as we feel that all Earlham graduates should be able to read and write well, we are requiring all incoming students, regardless of anticipated major or SAT score, to take a mathematical skills assessment as part of New Student Orientation week. This assessment is called the ACT/COMPASS Test.

For further information about the assessment and how it will be administered and used at Earlham, please visit our COMPASS web page.  Our COMPASS page also includes resources for students who want to review their math skills before they arrive on campus.

Greg Mahler
Academic Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs

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