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 ...
Take a look at a 1912 high school math test.
We send far to many 'precious resources' to college when they can't do basic math. Where they waste 4 years.
We went to the moon not because it was easy, but because it was hard.
Git ride of spelleng two. Thate wass harde subjek four me.
Using algebra is fairly handy in day to day calculations for material, etc. I am saddened when I see grown people guessing or concluding that a determination is impossible, when all that is required is a simple algebra equation.
Counting on your digits doesn't count as higher math.
The link for the article is http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/is-algebra-necessary.html?pagewanted=all
I will tell you EXACTLY why they are “struggling”. The math teachers are les incompetents, is why. My son has had teachers making 50G plus or more at the high school level in our “excellent” school district who were dumber than a box of hammers about math or how to teach it. My son is a math natural who was talking about negative numbers at the age of four, so he told me he just taught himself out of the book. When he went to college, he tested into an avanced calculus class freshman year. However, that class was taught by a Chinese “TA” no one could make heads or tails out of what he was saying. So again, my son had to teach the subject to himself.
My daughter, a student at the best private school in the city and had a “genius” woman for a math teacher. The majority of we parents were also paying for tutors for our individual students who knew how to get an idea from teacher to student cogently, unlike the “genius” who was responsible for teaching the class. So on top of exorbitant private school tuition, we are paying taxes and for private tutors just to get middle school math basics. Oh and you dare not say anything about any of the teachers due to possible repercussions.
I’m one of those who just could not grasp Algebra. I the world ever comes to a crisis and I need to know what time a train that left Cleveland at midnight going 60 mph pass a plane from Baltimore, I’m screwed.
Two million college freshman who are paying (borrowing) 30K/year to learn what a "college student" should have known after 11th grade. The universities should not allow any student into college (borrowing big $) if they cannot pass basic competency tests. These basic competencies can be learned in an environment that does not cost $30K, and if they cannot learn these things they do not belong in college.
I stopped reading at this point. The author has no basis for constructing this article.
I have a BA in English and a graduate certificate in professional writing, but I went up to Calc III in college. Algebra is not impossible. We need to come up with more creative, practical ways to teach it.
Fitting article from the NYT.
After all, we know math is not a friend of liberals.
Elementary algebraic topology would be a good substitute.
Michigan state rep (and now republican national committeeman) Dave Agema wants to require constitutional literacy from schools.
Oh AND when she started at the private school, we had to do summer at Sylvan learning center which determined that at our “excellent” public elementary school, she had not been taught decimals or fractions. So much for the idiot “education” degree these “teachers” are required to obtain by the “Education Department” and the NEA which gives them the 50G plus salaries just or showing up
So the free traders want to outsource all of our manufacturing jobs, jobs tailor made for about 50% of the population, so they can retrain to do what?
It sure as heck was at my high school. Guess what? They also had calculus and advanced algebra and trigonometry and physics. so there.
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.
Latin helped me understand a foreign sailor’s directions to get to a bar in Rome.
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.
Can’t even build a deck without the answer to that one.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
The little secret is all math is self taught, it requires DISCIPLINE which is a four letter word for liberals.
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.
10 to 1 your teacher was a complete idiot
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.
A computer program is just algebra.
I would have gone for that in 6th grade. School was boring and easy (except for algebra) until HS Auto Mech.
Besidz, now we have spellchik.
I used geometry to center pictures on my wall
Don’t need math at all by your reasoning.
Just use a calculator.
Who needs to know anything anyway?
The last time I had to find x was junior year at college. The real world doesn’t care where x is.
I don’t think Algebra 2 is needed. To get into certain college programs (i.e. Computer Science or Engineering), sure. Just like certain GPAs are required. But just to graduate from high school, no.
Oh good Lord.....what a bunch of candy-assed, lazy-minded bulls**t. Algebra is pretty basic math and it is NOT that freakin’ hard, folks.
We’ve become a dumbed-down nation of morons.
The shame is that "writers and social scientists" think the solution is to dumb down the curriculum. You don't make muscles stronger by asking them to do less. The same applies to young skulls full of mush.
However she would melt down at moderate to complex accounting problems. I tended to do rather well.
Not trying to diss accountants. I have lots of respect for the profession, especially my accountant. But I do think there are different categories of math that require very different mental skill sets.
Why do most of these students need math at all? All the fast-food registers do the math for them.
I’ll second it about the teachers not being able to teach. I tutor middle school math. The kids are confused, the teachers are either math-illiterate or used to be engineers and cannot remember ever learning math; the math tutors are in high demand. The books are awful, too - seem to be written by drama majors not those who think math. I use the older texts whenever I can.