Students, faculty question NYU-Poly’s ranking as school for ‘math whizzes’

October 23, 2013

Courtesy of NYU Poly

Business Insider, in partnership with data website FindTheBest.com, released a study about the top 10 universities for “math whizzes” Oct. 17, with the Polytechnic Institute of NYU ranking eighth. The study purposely chose schools that have a large disparity between the average SAT math and critical reading scores, and NYU-Poly had a difference of 70 points between math and critical reading scores.

Ben Taylor, marketing manager at FindTheBest.com, explained the reasoning behind the study’s methodology.

“Many high school students excel in a few subjects, while struggling in others,” Taylor said. “We see a lot of our users interacting with the slider filters in our college comparison. The thinking is, ‘if I’m a math whiz, but I have a low critical reading score, why should that limit me?’ The research tools on FindTheBest allow you to form a custom list very quickly… in this case, based on your test scores.”

Taylor said FindTheBest users perform this same comparison when looking at options for other areas, such as smartphones and dogs. He said the list was not meant to be a list of the top schools for mathematics.

“The list is not a good representation of the nation’s very best math schools,” Taylor said. “It is a good representation of schools you might consider if your SAT math score is considerably higher than your critical reading score.”

Professor Deane Yang, who teaches mathematics at NYU-Poly, said the study was inane and undeserving of attention.

“It is a clear sign that the overuse of SATs to judge students has gone well beyond what I could have ever imagine,” Yang said. “Here at NYU-Poly, we are more proud of how our students, whether they have high SATs or not, are extremely dedicated and hardworking students.”

Yang said he was disappointed with the study despite NYU-Poly’s strong placement on the list.

“Despite our high ranking, I don’t want either NYU-Poly or me to be associated with this article, since it would only make it seem that we think the article is worth commenting on,” Yang said.

Yang noted that NYU-Poly students take extremely demanding courses that can provide them with real future opportunities that they might not otherwise have had. He said many students at the school came from underprivileged families and did not necessarily go to high schools that prepared them for college.

Yang suggested that students looking at colleges should consider the potential financial return of attendance. He preferred a study conducted by PayScale, which ranked NYU-Poly third overall on the list of schools with the highest returns on investment for students.

“A rigorous college education like the one [students] get at NYU-Poly really does provide them with real future opportunities that they would not have otherwise,” he said. “So they fight to overcome the challenges they face at NYU-Poly and persist despite setbacks they encounter along the way.”

NYU-Poly sophomore Wells Santo, who is in the bachelor of science and master of science program majoring in computer engineering at the undergraduate level and computer science at the graduate level, said the school did not fit into the “math whiz” stereotype.

“A select few of our student population does hate, and is bad at, math,” Santo said. “The math requirement for computer science only goes up to linear algebra … Most courses tell you to ‘plug and chug,’ which I don’t think is something a ‘math whiz’ would do.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 23 print edition. Anjana Sreedhar is a contributing writer. Email her at news@nyunews.com. 

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