Skip to comments.Is Algebra Necessary?
Posted on 07/29/2012 6:05:38 AM PDT by reaganaut1
A TYPICAL American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal? Ive found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldnt.
My question extends beyond algebra and applies more broadly to the usual mathematics sequence, from geometry through calculus. State regents and legislators and much of the public take it as self-evident that every young person should be made to master polynomial functions and parametric equations.
There are many defenses of algebra and the virtue of learning it. Most of them sound reasonable on first hearing; many of them I once accepted. But the more I examine them, the clearer it seems that they are largely or wholly wrong unsupported by research or evidence, or based on wishful logic. (Im not talking about quantitative skills, critical for informed citizenship and personal finance, but a very different ballgame.)
This debate matters. Making mathematics mandatory prevents us from discovering and developing young talent. In the interest of maintaining rigor, were actually depleting our pool of brainpower. I say this as a writer and social scientist whose work relies heavily on the use of numbers. My aim is not to spare students from a difficult subject, but to call attention to the real problems we are causing by misdirecting precious resources.
The toll mathematics takes begins early. To our nations shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school. In South Carolina, 34 percent fell away in 2008-9, according to national data released last year; for Nevada, it was 45 percent. Most of the educators Ive talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
Amen, FRiend. Root cause: Teachers are the ones who should not be granted degrees for failure. LLE
Can you even imagine having to teach kids to diagram a sentence today? They don’t think or speak in sentenses!!!
"New York Times" is enough to cast doubt on the veracity of any column, particularly on the opinion page.
The are very few real "social scientists", even less competent and honest ones. The rest, >99.44%, are merely useful idiots.
Thanks, it reminds me of Feynmann’s complaint about mathematics textbooks when he was reviewer for the Berkley school department. One book, in particular, consisted of nothing but blank pages. When he called the publisher, she apologized and said that all the reviewers had been accidently sent blank trade show props, with the correct glossy covers. Yet some of the reviewers had already submitted favorable recommendations!
I hated high school math, and in freshman year in college we were taught by a Chinese TA who could barely speak English, and then not intelligibly. (I got 795 on the SAT math level II achievement test, but never did math homework, I was somewhat like Lockhart, but I plugged through the hateful experience, because I needed a j-o-b.)
How much mathematics is needed to swipe an EBT card?
And just because Eric Holder's people can't be held to the same standards as everyone else, don't you dare say they are inferior.
Slide rule? Man, you’re really dating yourself! Did you use a Pickett or a K&E?
but you need to associate them with real things.”
I agree with you 110%. With our current approach we end up with people who are book smart but have absolutely no idea how to apply what they have learned to anything practical.
My oldest grandson had a very difficult time with math but was blessed by having a 4-H leader who was absolutely awesome. Each of the kids in their small group had to design and build a small storage building for the food for their animals. Suddenly things fell into place and made more sense to him. Building was successfully completed and we even had a ribbon cutting session. He was so proud.
What of the claim that mathematics sharpens our minds and makes us more intellectually adept as individuals and a citizen body? It’s true that mathematics requires mental exertion. But there’s no evidence that being able to prove (x2 + y2)2 = (x2 - y2)2 + (2xy)2 leads to more credible political opinions or social analysis.Mathematics is the art of pure thinking. If your brain is not capable of doing math, it is not capable of thinking. And if your brain is not capable of thinking, then any kind of “social” or other “analysis” it comes up with is going to be entirely worthless.
Unless…the kind of “social analysis” this guy is having in mind is the whiny, liberal, illogical emoting you find in the rest of the NYT.
I still don’t know how to diagram a sentence. Completely useless, even to those who have plans to write as a career.
The aim of the teaching of algebra, and other upper-level math classes, is not to give students something they can use later on in life. It is a separator. Something like an aptitude test to see what students will be able to negotiate careers that best utilize their respective brain talents. Let’s just say that if I’m an employer, I’m going to look more fondly on prospective employees who did well in math. High math skills, to be blunt, is an indicator of high intelligence...and I’m speaking as someone who did poorly in algebra and geometry in high school.
I was exactly the same, was told by the teacher to give it up I would never be able to comprehend it. Ended up having to take Algebra in College just to take the programming class I wanted. The first day in class the teacher put an equation on the board that took up the entire board. He said, by the end of this class you will be able to solve this. I broke out in a sweat.
Funny thing was I passed that class with a 4.0 grade. I loved it. What a difference a competent teacher makes.
“The aim of the teaching of algebra, and other upper-level math classes, is not to give students something they can use later on in life. It is a separator. Something like an aptitude test to see what students will be able to negotiate careers that best utilize their respective brain talents. Lets just say that if Im an employer, Im going to look more fondly on prospective employees who did well in math. High math skills, to be blunt, is an indicator of high intelligence...and Im speaking as someone who did poorly in algebra and geometry in high school.”
...and you ‘drifted’ into the real reason for these seemingly unrelated requirements. The FACT is if you hire a college graduate, you expect them to be able to do at least Algebra 1. If they cannot even do that - then they may make some REALLY BAD decisions and screw you over. And it also implies that they don’t have much of a brain...or (more likely) much perseverance. Either way, you don’t want them.
College transcripts have pretty-much taken the place of the now-outlawed pre-employment exams.
vocational training adolescent daycare.
I'll bet you could grasp it easily now. I assume you're appreciably older now than when you took the algebra. When I was a freshman in high school, I was put in a class where every other student had been taught the rudiments of algebra in the eight grade. My school didn't. I struggled to understand the basic concepts.
Jump almost thirty years and I'm attending college. To prepare for a college intermediate algebra course, I purchased a basic algebra primer. I'm sure they had many of the same problems and type of tests that befuddled me when I was thirteen. I found the book to be extremely easy. Because I was thirty years older and simply smarter. You'd probably find it a lot easier too.
Why is it that America is the only land that finds it ‘too hard’? Waaaaaaagh! ‘It takes up too much of my Facebook time!’
The problem with that is the fact that almost every apprenticeship requires algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.
My thought too...what the heck is a college student doing in Algebra??
I had a very difficult time with math in high school and college...all the way through calculus. Was not easy but it is required to earn a B.S. in geology.
Have I ever, ever, used calculus in my career as an exploration geologist of over 30-years? No! Did struggling through math make me a better geologist?? Most definately!
Employment tests haven’t been outlawed - you are required to take at least one and sometimes several for any type of apprenticeship program.
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