As of a few weeks ago, a Hillsdale student could graduate without ever walking through the first floor of DOW Science — i.e., the math department — if he achieved an ACT math­e­matics score of 27.

Not any longer.

In a faculty meeting Feb. 4, pro­fessors voted unan­i­mously to abolish the ACT standard as acceptable ful­fillment of a student’s math­e­matics pro­fi­ciency. Now, more incoming stu­dents will be required to take a math course to satisfy the math­e­matics pro­fi­ciency requirement for grad­u­ation.

Stu­dents and faculty alike should rejoice over this expansion of the core. This requirement will give stu­dents the oppor­tunity to see how math is not simply cal­cu­lation, com­pu­tation, finding “x,” and manip­u­lating equa­tions; it is logic, sym­metry, argu­men­tation, and even beauty. Now our core cur­riculum better attains a true liberal arts edu­cation.

Math­e­matics grounds the quadrivium, but it also has a more fun­da­mental role within the liberal arts: Math solid­ifies the logical skills and deductive rea­soning nec­essary to pursue other dis­ci­plines. Plato required that his stu­dents know geometry before they entered his academy. Medievals like Mai­monides saw math­e­matics as a nec­essary pre­req­uisite for studying physics, the­ology, and meta­physics.

In Book VI of Plato’s Republic, Socrates presents the divided line of knowledge to Glaucon. The third segment, dianoia, rep­re­sents knowledge of math­e­matical objects, the ability to reason from premises to sound con­clu­sions. The fourth and final segment, noesis, rep­re­sents knowledge of the intel­li­gible forms, the ability to inquire into the causes and nature of a thing without any assump­tions. Math­e­matics proudly occupies that third segment — if one cannot par­tic­ipate in math­e­matical, deductive rea­soning, how can one par­tic­ipate in phi­losophy?

Though dianoia may occupy a lower level of the line of knowledge than noesis, this dis­parity does not make math a lower dis­ci­pline. Far from it. It instead tes­tifies to how fun­da­mental math­e­matics and math­e­matical rea­soning are to our thinking.

Besides the the­o­retical jus­ti­fi­cation of this core change, why is this addition good prac­ti­cally? This solid foun­dation of rea­soning and math­e­matical thinking can enrich the entirety of a student’s Hillsdale edu­cation and make him an even better student of the liberal arts. Refining one’s skills of logic and argu­men­tation through proof-writing can easily per­meate one’s logic and argu­men­tation in paper-writing for other classes.

Stu­dents will be happily sur­prised that math­e­matics is more inter­dis­ci­plinary than they may think. For example, Math­e­matics and Deductive Rea­soning (MTH 105) will con­tinue to satisfy the math­e­matics pro­fi­ciency requirement, and this course explores Euclid’s “Ele­ments.” To study such an influ­ential thinker of the Greek world and the Western tra­dition will give stu­dents a more holistic under­standing of our Greco-Roman her­itage.

Finally, we cannot deny math’s prac­tical applic­a­bility. Math­e­matical skills, con­cepts, and rea­soning pervade our daily lives, from the most basic bud­geting tasks to reading sta­tistics in a news­paper article, or to the more com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tions of choosing the best job or graduate school. Math’s utility, along with its the­o­retical order, logic, and beauty, helps us under­stand the world around us.

To the incoming stu­dents and all of campus: Do not fear math because it is hard. Embrace it because it is good in itself, good for our minds, and good for our liberal arts edu­cation.