Justification of service to other departments

No one who teaches undergraduate mathematics doubts that most of our students are headed for careers other than mathematics. A conservative way to measure our service function is to consider the percentage of course credits in mathematics taken by bachelor's degree recipients with other majors. Of course, this ignores all the mathematics taught to students who never complete a bachelor's degree, including many in two-year colleges. Our back-of-the-envelope calculation is based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Table 255 and Table 312.

From Table 255, we learn that 1.3% of the bachelor's degrees in 1992-93 were awarded to mathematics majors. (More recent data show that this figure has slipped below 1.1%, but '92-93 is the most recent year in the other table.) Table 312 asserts that the mean number of semester credits in mathematics taken by all degree recipients in the same year is 8.3, out of a total of 132.2. If we assume (generously, I think) that the average mathematics major takes 50 semester credits in mathematics, and the average for everyone else remains at 8.3, then about 92% of the course credits go to students whose major is not mathematics.

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