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 ...
“Everyone go get the book Ramanujan: The Man Who Knew Infinity’.”
Or at least go to the Wikipedia page.
Unbelievable guy - he has virtually no resources, so he starts discovering this stuff in math. He passes it on to the best mathematicians in the world, which were in London (yea, those were the days). The guys in London laugh at his work - it had already been discovered and published. Then they keep reading and say...
...holy crap, this stuff is ground-breaking! He was the smartest mathematical mind in his day, and he had some serious competition. It would up that he no idea what had been published (with his limited resources in India), which is why he repeated that work (which was no trivial feat in itself).
She's obviously an individual with exceptional ability.
A couple of our kids are in engineering and computer programming and received merit scholarships, but another of our kids works relentlessly at math yet can't seem to rise past the average level. On the other hand, the first time he took the SATs he got an 800 on the verbal side of the test. We have a 9 yo who breezed through algebra I, and an 8th grader who struggles with pre-algebra. All taught at home, so can't blame the differences on instruction, or bad materials, or lack of time on task. I agree that practice is essential (particularly in our weak areas) but don't believe it can raise us above our natural limits.
Why do liberal educators think that practice in sports and music is good but homework (i.e. practice !) in academic subjects is bad?
I've been under the impression that kids are getting lots of homework these days, and that it's the parents who are complaining. My niece (in kindergarten!) has nightly homework, which seems ridiculous.
Ultimately when parents (such as yourself) value education, their children will absorb their values.
I just graduated from high school. I can now count to 21, naked.
Convert those numbers to inches and I can tell you! ;-D
1) don't know how to open a bank account
2) don't know how much money they will end up paying out in total on their student loan
3) don't know about investing and saving money when you are young instead of waiting till the last minute
4) don't know how mortgages work and how to get one.
5) don't know why it's important to have a good credit score and how to achieve one.
6) don't know how to stay out of debt.
If you go to the grocery store, you do algebra. If you have to do laundry, you do algebra. If you have a loan, you do algebra.
And if you fish or go to the beach, you witness Trig and engage in. Also true if you sail or watch the ocean.
If you watch the stars, you do astronomy.
If you golf, you do physics.
And if you listen to how close a storm or anything else is, you are engaging in the Doppler effect.
What is wrong with people that they don’t want to learn about the applications of the things that have sound basis in math? It’s ONLY math.
I’m a history teacher. I tutor pretty much every subject except foreign languages, and that’s exactly what I do. :)
It’s really not that hard! Take a couple weeks and keep working at it and you’ll wonder why it gave you so many problems!
I wholeheartedly agree that our students should have to take financial math. They should learn the equations for loans and be able to understand how the stock market works, including reading and comprehending financial terms.
There is no reason not to.
Taxes is different. Most tax accountants are very sequential thinkers and do not make good financial accountants.
As a history teacher, I’d be thrilled if I had to pass a GED including the math portion. Got a 1540 on my SATs - 800 verbal and 740 math. :D
And yes, I also have Calculus I, as well as Calculus II and III, Linear Algebra, differential equations, etc.
That is I get a kick out of doing my taxes...not paying them.
Sorry about that.
The odd thing is that you use Algebra every time you have to calculate what your expenses would be if ......
And when you see the lines left by waves on the sand, you are witness to trig.
Ablative has reached the data of FR!
“The Science teacher was a tyrant but any time school is mentioned in my hometown, the conversation always turns to him and everybody who ever took a class under him has a tale to tell. My dentist said that those HS science classes got him through dental school.”
I wouldn’t doubt it! Sounds like an excellent teacher, but man, that must have been a wakeup call!
Yep, and employers are no longer allowed to give aptitude tests (disparate impact and all of that), so they rely on precisely those academic proxies to tell them who is smart—and sufficiently conscientious.
I have to find the article from a few years ago, but it correlated success in high school math and success in college. Of the students who failed to complete Algebra (and went no further in math) in high school, less than 2% graduated college.
You’re a smart guy. So?...Here’s a math problem for you.
If teachers, on average, have the lowest SAT, ACT, and GRE scores on campus, and you have a very**high** score, then what sort of scores to other teachers have in order to reach a **low** average?
Scary, isn’t it to think about those who are teaching our nation’s children?
By the way, given that you are so smart how can you stand being surrounded with ignorance?
Sounds very similar to my experience. I took biology and chemistry to start with in high school. It wasn't until I took physics that I understood where the maths came into play. That's not to say that chemistry doesn't have some math involvement, but physics is VERY math heavy.
When I "get" something, I go full-bore into it, and once I "got" math and physics, I became a devotee. Despite my having degrees in English, I use math every day in computer programming, network pathing, and even home remodeling. I recently built an archway into a room after taking out a door and had to use trig to figure out how to make it work. I now have a beautiful archway into another room, and my wife has delegated me as the official math teacher for our yet-to-be-born homeschooled children.
“If teachers, on average, have the lowest SAT, ACT, and GRE scores on campus, and you have a very**high** score, then what sort of scores to other teachers have in order to reach a **low** average?”