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Is Algebra Necessary?
New York Times ^ | July 28, 2012 | ANDREW HACKER

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? I’ve found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldn’t.

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. (I’m 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, we’re 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 nation’s 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 I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason.

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: algebra; college; education; highrteducation; math; mathematics
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To: reaganaut1

Geeez, we had algebra I-II-III starting in 6th grade 50s Jr HS (6-7-8); then geometry, trig and calc in 60s HS (9-10-11-12). Plus Latin and Classical Greek. Wasn’t easy; just required S-T-U-D-Y, something most kids refuse to do these days.

No wonder we have a country of *takers* and so few *makers*, anymore.


21 posted on 07/29/2012 6:19:17 AM PDT by carriage_hill (All libs and most dems think that life is just a sponge bath, with a happy ending.)
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To: Dr. Sivana

Latin helped me understand a foreign sailor’s directions to get to a bar in Rome.


22 posted on 07/29/2012 6:19:26 AM PDT by meatloaf (Support Senate S 1863 & House Bill 1380 to eliminate oil slavery.)
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To: reaganaut1

Liberal wet dream: If we can only eliminate logical thinking then we can avoid those grumpy old conservative arguments and base decisions on fallacies and feelings.


23 posted on 07/29/2012 6:19:26 AM PDT by Raycpa
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To: Tijeras_Slim

Can’t even build a deck without the answer to that one.


24 posted on 07/29/2012 6:19:53 AM PDT by Ramcat (Thank You American Veterans)
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To: There You Go Again
“Git ride of spelleng two. Thate wass harde subjek four me.”

Agree. We need more classes on how racist the Founding Fathers were; and of course more PE classes; and also more sports.
Not math or advanced English. Because they are just too hard.

25 posted on 07/29/2012 6:20:23 AM PDT by HereInTheHeartland (Encourage all of your Democrat friends to get out and vote on November 7th, the stakes are high.)
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To: Dr. Sivana

That is correct. My son took 4 years of Latin in high school and tested into junior level Latin in his first year of college. This is the one that had to tech himself high school math.


26 posted on 07/29/2012 6:20:36 AM PDT by yldstrk ( That is corrMy heroes have always been cowboys)
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To: There You Go Again

LALAL!


27 posted on 07/29/2012 6:20:40 AM PDT by carriage_hill (All libs and most dems think that life is just a sponge bath, with a happy ending.)
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To: reaganaut1

I think the real answer here is to take kids in the sixth grade and just plain drop math and algebra entirely... giving them a dose of business. You ought give each kid an entire year of projects relating to business math and making them ask questions over profit and loss. Make them consider the idea of moving from a small store-front with 2k square feet to a store with 6k square feet. They ought to analyze things and give you a number in regards to a relationship. This six plus six equal twelve deal is fine...but you need to ask yourself if you can make a true profit off two tractor rigs of apples. If you can’t make a profit....then why bother making the deal.

We are missing the real boat here....numbers matter, but you need to associate them with real things.


28 posted on 07/29/2012 6:20:47 AM PDT by pepsionice
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To: reaganaut1; Cincinatus' Wife; wintertime

“As I wrote in a previous FR thread Requiring Algebra II in high school gains momentum nationwide a large fraction of the population does not have the capacity for abstract thinking to do Algebra II.”

I’ll agree that SOME fraction of the population cannot handle Algebra 2, just as some cannot handle arithmetic.

The problem is that when you throw calculators at little kids and teach them the “Lattice Method” for multiplying and dividing, they WILL end up being useless in higher-level math, and the WILL appear to be incapable of handling it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y29XL99qM6s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tr1qee-bTZI&feature=related

The problem is that there’s nothing to compare it to. Perhaps a controlled study of identical twins. One of the pair gets taught using the methods of the “educational experts”, while the other is taught correctly (i.e., no calculators, paper and pencil, and memorization). Then you compare the results after a 5 years. Most likely, the conclusion would be that the first batch is not able to handle higher-level math, while the second batch is more than capable.

Of course and experiment like that won’t happen (even though it actually did, once, by accident - but that’s for another post), because the Establishment will not like the conclusions. And the this type of experiment should NOT even be permitted, due to ethical concerns - i.e., crippling the futures of the first batch to be successful in society - because, in reality, this experiment would be no different than giving one batch of kids a good education and keeping the other batch of kids at home, doing nothing.


29 posted on 07/29/2012 6:20:47 AM PDT by BobL ( It's easy to be a saint when you have nothing on the line)
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To: BRL
The universities should not allow any student into college (borrowing big $) if they cannot pass basic competency tests.

I don't disagree, but do you understand what you're saying?

The majority of college students are borrowing money from the federal government. The more students borrow, the more indebted they are to Uncle Sam, thus making them slaves to the Fed. Make it harder to get into college, the government loses future wage slaves, thus losing future revenues.

Second, the colleges have essentially created a pipeline of funds from DC to their coffers. The higher their standards, the fewer students who attend, thus less money in their coffers to pay liberal, tenured professors.

Universities would allow 5th graders into their classrooms if they were paying to be there. College are no longer about the pursuit of higher education but about the pursuit of bigger buildings, more staffers, and more money.

30 posted on 07/29/2012 6:21:19 AM PDT by rarestia (It's time to water the Tree of Liberty.)
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To: yldstrk

The little secret is all math is self taught, it requires DISCIPLINE which is a four letter word for liberals.


31 posted on 07/29/2012 6:21:43 AM PDT by central_va ( I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
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To: Baynative

Same here. Me and higher math never, ever, ever gelled.

My sister thinks algebra, calc, trig, and the like are funny and would burn right through problems.

However she would melt down at moderate to complex accounting problems. I tended to do rather well.


32 posted on 07/29/2012 6:21:51 AM PDT by wally_bert (It's sheer elegance in its simplicity! - The Middleman)
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To: Baynative

10 to 1 your teacher was a complete idiot


33 posted on 07/29/2012 6:22:10 AM PDT by yldstrk ( That is corrMy heroes have always been cowboys)
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To: central_va

Its one of those things where you don’t need it until you need it. And, when you don’t have it, you find yourself poorly suited for lots of jobs (typically the well paying variety).

Of course, it looks like the Dems want 50% of the population to just be on the dole anyway, staying home and watching the TV all day.


34 posted on 07/29/2012 6:22:19 AM PDT by rbg81
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To: rbg81

A computer program is just algebra.


35 posted on 07/29/2012 6:24:17 AM PDT by central_va ( I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
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To: pepsionice

I would have gone for that in 6th grade. School was boring and easy (except for algebra) until HS Auto Mech.


36 posted on 07/29/2012 6:24:23 AM PDT by wally_bert (It's sheer elegance in its simplicity! - The Middleman)
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To: There You Go Again
“Git ride of spelleng two. Thate wass harde subjek four me.”

Besidz, now we have spellchik.

37 posted on 07/29/2012 6:24:35 AM PDT by pieceofthepuzzle
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To: rbg81

I used geometry to center pictures on my wall


38 posted on 07/29/2012 6:25:40 AM PDT by yldstrk ( That is corrMy heroes have always been cowboys)
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To: reaganaut1

Don’t need math at all by your reasoning.
Just use a calculator.
Who needs to know anything anyway?

Sheesh!


39 posted on 07/29/2012 6:26:14 AM PDT by bill1952 (Choice is an illusion created between those with power - and those without)
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To: reaganaut1
Even cooks need and use algebra.

/johnny

40 posted on 07/29/2012 6:26:14 AM PDT by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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