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 ...
why does this guy look so similar to obama
This article is another chapter in our long national suicide narrative, and the dumbing down of America. Real life: you have do to things you don’t particularly want to do in order to get where you want to be.
Of course algebra is necessary for the 25% of students who are legitimate high school graduation candidates.
The 1912 math exam, and all its cousins, were taken by less than 10% of the population - the smart 10%.
Universal education past eight grade is a failure and a disaster, and until compulsory education stops at age 14, there’s not a whole lot else that can be done to improve the situation.
“That’s the problem: there is no way to subjectively grade a math test, no way for poor academic performance to hide.”
You might want to reconsider that, at least with the way ‘math’ is now being taught at the public schools. They easily got around that problem.
But, yes, your point is correct for tests that actually measure mathematical skill.
All you write about the universities is true: it’s the big bucks they seek, not the dissemination of knowledge.
You sound like a smart person. Do you really believe you can teach it over the IQ range 75-95?
Actually, “Find X, here it is” is correct.
If it was “Find the value of X...
I have an MS in engineering, so I am not some nitpicking social “scientist.” I just understand the difference between what is stated and what is desired.
is thinking necessary in life?
Rocks, ruminants and roots are real things. So are rockets and radios. Algebra won't teach you the difference between the two sets, but then, without algebra there would not be two such sets.
My take is that kids today are no less intelligent and no less capable of learning than their predecessors. What's changed in this country is our definition of what constitutes an "education." As others have pointed out here, there was a time when a high school education was truly an effective education, and not just what it has become today -- a bare minimum "credential" that means nothing except that its holder had the patience to spend 12 years in a public school.
We are going to continue to have these debates until we, as a society, get serious about what "education" means and how we go about promoting it among our citizens.
Good point. Too many math teachers really don't have an answer to a student's question "why do we have to learn this stuff?"
It's really not the teacher's fault. It's the way the material is presented (and in many school districts teachers have no choice in this). A typical lesson might start with 20 repetitious abstract problems, followed by one or two practical examples.
The order should be reversed. Present the practical problems first (from physics, economics, architecture, whatever), then go from there.
I think I take offense at that remark.... I’m an engineer who has a teaching certificate in middle / high school math.
Personally I think engineers make the best math teachers. They have application experience and can bring it alive with actual problems, and labs.
Some math teachers use the state guidelines and simply teach the test or teach the book - which works but doesn’t inspire.
How do you know he wasn't a priest with skinny legs and bad teeth?
You joke about bad spelling, and that’s OK, but why the abysmal spelling ability of the typical semi-educated American?
I was one of those who dreaded math and just didn't think I'd ever get it. It was a sixth-grade teacher who really turned me on to it with a little extra attention and her own enthusiasm. I had trouble later on in high school, but again drew from that foundation I got earlier in sixth grade, and ended up tutoring calculus students in college.
You have my admiration for recognizing that your children were missing a major part of their basic education and taking steps to correct it. ( Very expensive and a great sacrifice on your part.)
Like BobL, I didn't trust the teachers in the government schools and from interviewing principals and teachers in private schools I concluded they were dittzes, too! From the time they were babies I worked on phonics and letter recognition, and counting. They were **years** ahead of their contemporaries. Two finished B.S. degrees in mathematics at the age of 18.
Parents, like you, yldstrk and BobL, are to be commended for recognizing the **you** are the ones who must stand before God and be judged for how well you prepared your children for life.
By the way....I think every government teacher should be immediately given the GED. If they fail, they should be fired. Most would fail the math section. And....I think every government teacher should be required to take and pass with a “B” Calculus I ( the **same** courses as the engineers, science, and math majors) . No, most don't need calculus for what they do, but it would assure that: 1_) they had a high enough IQ to deserve the job, and 1) that they wouldn't be passing on their math phobia to their students.
Not math or advanced English. Because they are just too hard.
You forgot to mention instructions on putting a condom on a cucumber. I am 74 years old and I don't know how I have managed to survive this many years without having been taught the fine points of putting a condom on a cucumber.