College classes that offer Slot Math?
Ever wonder how slot machines produce a profit? There's a college course that covers that topic.
June 1st, 2012
06:32 AM ET

College classes that offer Slot Math?

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - Admit it. You took one or two of “those” classes in college.

It's the kind of class that made your parents stop reading the newspaper and glance up at you with that “Seriously?” look. You convinced them that this was part of the college experience and necessary to a well-rounded education.

To be fair, maybe some of these different curriculum offerings might have been required if you had an out-of-the-ordinary major. But we’re going to guess that most of you took some strange classes for fun – and to keep your sanity.

Put yourself on a college campus today and you might be tempted to take some of these actual courses that we found in college catalogs. (Note to incoming freshmen who are registering now for the fall: You didn’t get the idea here.)

Do you find math dull, uninspiring? There’s a new game in town. Consider Basic Slot Math at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (where else?) The class is an offering of the UNLV International Gaming Institute. Even the course description isn’t the stuff of standard algebraic monotony: “How do slot machines produce a profit, or for that matter, how do all casino games produce a profit?” What are the odds on getting into this class?

Popular culture is awash with zombies. At Chicago’s Columbia College, you can take this fascination to an academic level by taking Zombies in Popular Media. Explore “the history, significance and representation of zombies in horror and fantasy texts.” The course demands look pretty intense, so you may want to hope for the zombie apocalypse to preempt the final exam.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a course in Digital Poetry, where you can experiment with creating poetry for wireless access on handheld devices. Flash-animated poems, digital videos and interactive poems are all elements of the syllabus.
Hypertext haiku?
Never thought it could be done.
An approach to try.

Students who major in culinary arts and food service have the added benefit of being able to eat their work. At Austin Peay State University, they can also carve their way to banquet greatness. There’s a three-credit course in Ice Sculpture that includes fundamentals of ice selection, storage, even handling. (Cheat sheet: Forget the Tupperware, think really cold.) And if that career in food service doesn’t pan out, you could always take your talents to Harbin, China, over spring break.

Speaking of taking a break, the University of Iowa offers a course on The American Vacation. It’s a kind of social history course, an examination of the “cultural significance of contemporary patterns” in where we go and what we do when we decide to unwind. Whether you’re into Disneyland or Wally World, this sounds like a diversionary way to delve into American history. Is there a lab for this one? Sign us up!

If you took philosophy classes, you probably focused on topics like logic, ethics, and reasoning. At Georgetown University you can study all those subjects but you can also sign up for Philosophy 194: Hallucinating. In this class, students will examine different aspects of “reality” - from why we believe false things that people tell us to optical illusions. The course description offers questions that will be addressed: “How can we be sure that we're not mistaken about everything? What kinds of things can we know for sure? What is knowledge anyway?” This is mind-bending stuff. Just thinking about it induces a headache. Why would anyone be obsessed by these things? What if that weren’t a rhetorical question?

A course that seems to make everyone’s annual list of unusual classes is Montclair State University’s How to Watch Television. Fascinated with the antics of real housewives, smooth-talking bachelors, comical office workers and rugged deep-sea fishermen? Fancy yourself a TV critic? Put that hidden talent (and your addiction to all things TV) to practical use as you analyze television and its impact on modern culture. You might discover that you weren’t the only kid who wished his last name was “Walton,” “Huxtable” or “Soprano.”

Feeling smart? Occidental College offers a course titled “Stupidity.” We’re not kidding. Before you congratulate yourself on finding a potential ‘easy A’, read the course description: “Stupidity is neither ignorance nor organicity, but rather, a corollary of knowing and an element of normalcy, the double of intelligence rather than its opposite. It is an artifact of our nature as finite beings and one of the most powerful determinants of human destiny.” Uh…yeah. Looks like it might be worth convincing your Phi Beta Kappa roommate to enroll in this class with you and engage in some ‘collaborative learning.’

Did you take an unusual course in college?  Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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Filed under: College • Curriculum • Practice
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. kathleenrobinson425

    Seriously, for fun and useless courses I took Greek and Roman Lit. and Ancient History. Would have loved a Lord of the Rings class.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  2. kathleenrobinson425

    Basic SLOT Math. got a masters degree in the other.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  3. kathleenrobinson425

    Oh, and sign me up for Basic Sot Math, please. I keep losing.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  4. kathleenrobinson425

    Ha Ha Ha. This article was so humorously written, I had to look up and find the author's name. I want a course from her.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  5. Sara

    Death and Dying in America. It was a history course, my chosen major, but it was given as an elective open to all students.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  6. Impska

    Ten years after graduation, I look back at some of the wasted electives I took. These aren't classes I wish I had taken – they're classes I wish I hadn't taken. How about Apiculture? Since the actual definition of apiculture is "the maintenance of honeybee colonies," I thought I was going to learn beekeeping. You know, how to use the equipment, how to handle and raise bees. How to harvest. How to manage a colony. Has the class actually taught beekeeping, I might have benefited from it and could be keeping bees in my backyard today. Instead the class was solely an entomology class. Bee vascular system. Bee nervous system. Bee eyes, bee mouth, etc etc. Total memorization. Total waste of time. Never even saw a live bee. Never saw a hive.

    How about the Influence of Music on Culture. Half the class was about Bob Dylan. It was totally ridiculous. When I took back at the fact that I spent money on this class, I groan.

    You know what I needed to have taken? Accounting. Horticulture. Cooking. Useful classes. Not BS waste of time and money classes. Thankfully, I learned my lesson early. After those two classes, I did not so much as glance at "fun" classes.

    June 4, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  7. Tim Herndon

    Major: Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. Christian Brothers College 1980 (Now Christian Brothers University. Degree requirements: 136 hours in 8 Semesters.

    With all the requirements from the college, the Engineering Council for Professional Development (ECPD) now known as the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) In my 136 hours I had 3 credit hours I could do anything I wanted to do. For 7 semesters, I had a course load of 17 or 18 hours, plus the non-credit activities required by the school. With the 3 ‘fun’ hours, I took a course in the design of pavements.

    I cannot imagine doing otherwise. I attended college to enter a profession where I could earn an above average wage. That was why I was there. I was not there to ‘broaden my horizons’ or other such nonsense. My parents did not have the wherewithal to for me to spend $15,000 (a ton of money in 1976) to become a ‘modern renaissance man’ flipping burgers or washing cars. Our sons have entered university. One has a BS degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering, another has 2 semesters to go on a BS degree in Computer Science.

    June 4, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • D.H.

      I am also an engineer and I could not disagree more. The most important critical thinking skills that I bring to my work were learned outside of computer science. What you call the "nonsense" of "broadening your horizons" is better known as "expanding your cognitive toolbox." As just ONE example, I frequently advise students that the best science class I ever took was art history. And they laugh. But art history is not ABOUT memorizing paintings; that's just the data you use to practice the REAL skill: instantly integrating massive amounts of unrelated data to deduce a single consistent explanation. In art history, you use that skill to arrive at a valid interpretation; in computer science, you use it to debug problems that nobody else can. Name a science course that teaches that skill, if you can. I'll wager there aren't any, because I work with some of the best engineers in the Northeast and they don't have this skill. That's why I get hired to join exceedingly successful startups. I'm not tooting my own horn, but rather advocating that anyone can do this and everyone should; aiming for an "above average wage" is far underestimating yourself and your children.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  8. Gandalf

    Lord of the Rings: A Journey Through Middle-Earth at UofT.
    And no, it did not require or encourage the use of Elvish.

    June 4, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  9. Really?

    And they wonder why they don't have jobs now......

    June 4, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  10. ruben

    i took a class called "parasitic media". We learned how the media works by manipulating it. it worked, our class projects made the news:

    June 4, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  11. Carolinus

    I took a class called The Science of Hi-Fidelity at Southern Illinois University in the late 70's. It was a fascinating physics class and I purchased my first stereo components afterwards.

    June 3, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  12. Jim Stanek

    No, CNN, I really do NOT wish I took these classes in college. They would have been a waste of my money and time. My law degree has and will continue to make me quite enough money. I really don't need to learn Digital Poetry to find something to do while living, depressed, in my parent's basement after undergrad. However, your headline aptly describes your intended readership. Good going.

    June 3, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • .

      Yeah, because you would be living in your parent's basement after getting a degree from MIT...

      June 4, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  13. Beelzel

    Two "electives" that I will not forget: 1. Music appreciation ... instructor had a real hard thing for Frank Zappa and 2. Fundamentals of Horse shoeing... I kid you not. Both were interesting and best way to unwind from the class load stress.
    N.B. this was back in the mid-70's

    June 3, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  14. LeiLani

    As an undergrad I took a Phys Ed course in Fencing. It was the only phys ed course I ever had in my entire life that I actually loved. I hated team sports and could never get interested in calisthenics or aerobics–boring. But this class was lots of fun as well as requiring a lot of energy to get through all of the moves. Fencing is a lot more difficult than it looks. The teacher was a former member of the Hungarian Olympic team who had defected after the invasion by the Soviet Union in 1956, and he was able to teach us techniques that really raised the level of our performances. Later as an adult I took up fencing again for a couple of years until I developed an injury that forced me out of fencing. But as for baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, hockey, etc., as soon as I finished my Phys Ed requirements in college, I never went near any of those sports, not even to watch them on television.

    June 3, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  15. Daniel Templeton

    I had two electives left to take in Jan 1972 and took Speed Reading and a Cooking course as well as the first three graduate courses to start my Master of Science degree. Both courses have benefited me my whole life, now 63.

    June 3, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  16. The_Mick

    As a Chemistry major with Physics and Biology Minors, my one off-the-wall course was Aesthetics: a philosophy course about what makes things beautiful, pleasing, etc. and vice-versa. When I interviewed for a position as an industrial research chemist, despite the 50 undergrad and 52 graduate credit hours in chemistry courses on my transcripts, my interviewer said, "I just had to ask: what's aesthetics?" I told him I had taken a course in logic and wanted to benefit from another course with the same excellent teacher: one advantage of a complete college education is that it doesn't just provide you with skills in a certain major, you learn how to think. The same thinking skills involved in the evaluation of beauty can be applied to the evaluation of which combination of synthetic steps are needed to result in the desired chemical. In seminars, especially in grad school, when a professor would ask a dozen of us, "How would you make..." a specific chemical and have us explain it on the board in front of class, every so often one of us would come up with a clever way to do it. And, of course, the rest of us would see how good it was and say, "That's beautiful!"

    June 2, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  17. JMatthew1123

    I took both a History of Rock 'n Roll (self explanatory) and a Play in America (The study of recreation as a part of the American life starting in the late 1800's). They weren't as beneficial to my education as all the biology courses I had to take but they were more interesting than some of them.

    June 2, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  18. Fed Up

    Better yet, the vo-tech's are offering all kinds of courses just to fill the seats in their makeshift classrooms – they're offering student loans to the homeless, which are defaulted on and then carried over to the taxpayers. Nice, huh? It's refreshing that college cannot be the privilege that it is supposed to be. What is being taught is not at all valuable. It's costing more than it will return on the "investment." I encounter college kids everyday working in customer service that cannot count back basic change to customers.

    June 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Muffin

      Maybe you should think about using a credit or debit card so all these college kids don't screw up your change.

      June 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Angel

      I've come across numerous individuals who are 45+ years old who cannot count change, do basic math, etc. It isn't just college kids.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  19. Irv

    You present a 46 minute video and the only incentive you have to watch it is "listen to this"?

    June 2, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  20. Butter

    "How to be a spy" is offered in psychology

    June 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Butter

      "How to ruin a perons life and play the victim "
      Another pyschology class

      June 2, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  21. Iowa City

    I hate these articles that tell me what I wish would have happened. It's insulting and infantalizing.

    June 2, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  22. Saddened

    I am saddened by the dumbing down of academia. I am so thankful that I went through university when the curriculum was not so laughable.

    June 2, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  23. NV Fisherman

    I took a course in Abnormal Psychology at the University of Illinois in Champaign way back in 1966. It helped me enormously in the business world since most people are slightly crazy.

    June 2, 2012 at 5:45 am |
    • J

      UIUC had an excellent balance of classes. I took a "Philosophy of the Matrix" class that was probably one of the most academically stimulating courses I took. It involved a lot of intense philosophy reading, which surprised the people who thought it was just two hours a week of watching Matrix movies.

      June 4, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  24. Eta gaston

    This is awesome,i hope cameroonian universities would emulate....

    June 2, 2012 at 4:52 am |
  25. Ryan N

    Deviance - at the University of Texas at Austin

    June 1, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  26. Jamie

    Country music messages-University of Arkansas

    June 1, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  27. ruirui

    University of Toronto – Witchcraft and the Occult, actual course

    June 1, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  28. Jen B

    Took a class in Body Modification & Dress, and also a class in Pupperty – Illinois State University

    June 1, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  29. ludvig

    Most interesting college course – Alchemy in my Nuclear Reactor operation – got to see what Negative Temperature coefficient of reactivity meant and to turn Uranium 235 into Gold.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  30. ludvig

    Statistics – At an interview, I was asked if I took a Statistics course. I hadn't. If I got that job, I think I'd be a lot better off today financially than I am.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  31. Mike in Houston

    Just heard part of "Science Friday" on NPR today. A professor from Columbia teaches a class (and has written a book on) ignorance. His premise is that ignorance, not knowledge, is the driving force of science. Very interesting discussion.

    My undergraduate school had a history of rock and roll class–never could get in–very popular.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  32. Erik Ray

    I teach a class at Edmonds CC (Washington) on the history and politics of James Bond.

    June 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  33. Peter Parker

    Yep, just shows what a scam university degrees are. They force you to pay for crap like that so you can study in the field you actually wanted to learn.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • seraphim0

      Uhm, you realize these are electives in their own right, don't you? Or did that go over your web head?

      June 1, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Dann Just don't take those courses if you don't want to. I'm fairly certain they're electives. Thanks for playing.

      June 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  34. Sara

    I took a course in Storytelling for my Masters degree!

    That particular school trained librarians, some of whom would be going on to become children's librarians, hence the relevance. It was taught by a professor who was himself an excellent storyteller, and we usually got at least one story per class out of him. Though I wasn't in the library program, it was my favorite class in all of grad school.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  35. acekindler

    Emory University offered a class on the popular television show the Wire, as well as a class about Understanding Reality Television

    June 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  36. Bryan W

    Beer, Cultural & Chemical History (Basically how to brew) - Arizona State University

    ASU also offers a course on Harry Potter.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Jadafied

      ASU!! I'm taking the Harry Potter course this coming fall semester, as well as a Lady Gaga course on The Born This Way Ideology. I can't wait to take these two electives to ease the pain of labs and sciences. I love weird classes like these, they're like hidden gems.

      June 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  37. Paul McNeely

    Introduction to Lego Robotics.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm |