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Victoria Uni: The “Mathematics Change Plan”

13 June 2009 2 comments

At Victoria University, Australia, the School of Computer Science and Mathematics was recently merged with the School of Engineering. The result of this amalgamation is the School of Science and Engineering. Here is a post about this. I never thought that when I first started on my mathematics and computer science study that I would be doing so within a science/engineering school. Throughout my years at Victoria University, I’ve witnessed first-hand as a student interested in mathematics the decline of mathematics within this university.

Students of computer science should at least study discrete mathematics as part of their degree. And I’m proud to say that I’ve not only studied discrete mathematics within a computer science degree, but I’ve also used that knowledge to contribute to Sage, a free open source mathematics software package that I’m proud to be associated with. Many of you know that in Sage version 4.0.1, I wrote the class Superincreasing for solving the subset sum problem for super-increasing sequences. The subset sum problem has many industrial applications, too many for me to bore you with an exhaustive list. Suffice it to say that you can search the internet or read about it on Wikipedia. An interesting application of super-increasing sequences is their use in knapsack cryptosystems. Note that all knapsack cryptosystems have been broken, in the sense that there is an effective procedure for cryptanalyzing each of them in reasonable time.

Any discussion about pedagogy at the tertiary level is bound to be confusing to readers and participants. In particular, each country and institution has its own set of vocabulary. See the post Australian-American educational terms for some discussion. After completing my discrete maths unit (in US terms, it should be “course”), the following semesters saw a decrease in the number of topics in that unit. It even got to the point where a student was allowed to study it as a summer “crash course” unit, in which 12-week’s worth of mathematics was crammed into about 6 weeks during the summer holiday.

Now there is a “Mathematics Change Plan”, of which you can read about here. If implemented, the “Plan” would affect the Research Group in Mathematical Inequalities and Applications (RGMIA), staff teaching hours, among other consequences.

Update: Here’s an article in The Australian Higher Education supplement that reports on the issue: Claims VU’s maths cut doesn’t add up.