[MathSoc Council] Breadth & Depth Requirements

Sean Hunt scshunt at csclub.uwaterloo.ca
Sat Feb 11 13:08:02 EST 2012


Hey Council,

There has been some discussion recently in CS about the purpose of or
suitability of breadth and depth requirements.

For those of you who don't know, breadth and depth requirements are
additional rules that apply to CS students (honours and joint honours)
with regards to their non-math courses, and date back to the creation
of the BCS back in 2002/3. The requirements are:


The 5.0 non-math units must either be used to satisfy requirements for
a minor or a joint honours plan outside the Faculty of Mathematics, or
must satisfy the following elective breadth and depth requirements.
(Alternate plans must be approved by a CS advisor.)

Elective breadth requirements

    1.0 units from the humanities (subjects from ARTS, CHINA, CLAS,
CMW, CROAT, DAC, DRAMA, DUTCH, EASIA, ENGL, FINE, FR, GER, GRK, HIST,
HUMSC, ITAL, ITALST, JAPAN, JS, KOREA, LAT, MUSIC, PHIL, POLSH, PORT,
REES, RS, RUSS, SPAN, SPCOM, UKRAN)

    1.0 units from the social sciences (subjects from AFM, ANTH,
APPLS, BUS, ECON, GEOG, HRM, INTST, INTTS, ISS, LS, MSCI, NATST, PACS,
PSCI, PSYCH, REC, SMF, SOC, SOCWK, SPD, STV, WS)

    0.5 units from the pure sciences (subjects from BIOL, CHEM, EARTH,
PHYS, SCI)

    0.5 units from the pure and applied sciences (subjects from pure
sciences plus ARCH, ENVS, ERS, GERON, HLTH, KIN, PLAN)
    Note: No course can be used to satisfy more than one of the above
requirements.

Elective depth requirements

    1.5 units with the same subject, including at least 0.5 units at
third-year level or higher
    or
    1.5 units with the same subject forming a prerequisite chain of
length three


The first obvious issue is that of a minor. While it is extremely
difficult, if not impossible, to satisfy the requirements of a minor
without also fulfilling the elective depth requirements, it also is
often impossible to satisfy the elective breadth requirements without
taking more than 10 non-math courses. This is why the minor exemption
exists, but some professors who are in favor of the breadth
requirements do not feel that it is warranted, especially for students
taking a BCS + a minor.

The questions raised here are about the purposes of the breadth and
depth requirements, and what use they serve.

My personal opinion is that we should primarily encourage students to
obtain depth of knowledge in a field outside of mathematics, rather
than just take X 101 for 10 different values of X. As a result, I
think that the depth requirement is valuable---and potentially worth
adding to other major plans (note that students in most Math/Business
programs as well as Mathematical Physics, the most stringent and
complex of our programs, would satisfy these requirements
automatically). At the same time, I do not see the value of telling
students that they cannot focus their knowledge in another non-math
area, so I would personally advocate removal of the breadth
requirement.

I am, however, interested in what others have to say, both the CS
students and the other students. What do you guys think?

Sean




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