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  • WHO NEEDS IT?

    Filed at 8:23 am under by dcobranchi

    Joanne Jacobs has a take on high schools requiring algebra for graduation. It seems that a lot of kids flunk Algebra I several times and then drop out. Joanne blames a lack of basic skills, but doesn’t question the need. Why do all kids need Algebra? Yes, it’s a college requirement. But that could always be “fixed” later at a community college. Other than getting into college, what good does it do? Does one need algebra to balance a checkbook? Or to fill out one’s taxes? Or, to put it in terms of citizenship, to understand the federal budget? (I’d argue one should conceentrate on imaginary numbers (Calculus) for that last one).

    Joking aside, algebra is useful only in opening doors to higher math and higher education. For kids who aspire to neither, why should they be labeled dropouts just because they can’t solve two simultaneous equations in two unknowns?

    I want my kids to learn Algebra. But if they don’t care to (or can’t seem to), I’d be happy to help steer them to a career where it isn’t required. One size education does not fit all.

    9 Responses to “WHO NEEDS IT?”


    Comment by
    Jason
    January 31st, 2006
    at 9:03 am

    It’s interesting that you bring this up. I was part of the ‘bright but lazy’ group in my high school. My group was strong in the ‘soft’ liberal arts (history, language, literature) and somewhat weak in the math & science department. I’ve always regretted not working harder in math and science, if only because it would have made economics much easier later on. While I agree with you that algebra itself is of limited utility for most people, wouldn’t you agree that it offers young minds a good opportunity to sharpen their analytical skills for stuff like statistics? Or is there a better way that I’m not thinking of?


    Comment by
    Lioness
    January 31st, 2006
    at 10:52 am

    Part of the problem is that Algebra is no longer taught the way we learned it. As of 1990 it became a “survey” course, and “Introduction to Algebra” that tries to introduce the major sub-topics with fewer problems and using graphing calculators. Consequently there’s less time to teach the basic concepts of algebra (“x means this in this problem and that in that problem” and so on.) Intro courses are fine at the college level, but in high school they need more meat. It’s no wonder there’s more kids flunking. At the school where my husband teaches, all the algebra teacher did for years was drill them in the state test. She taught absolutely none of the basic concepts.


    Comment by
    Jason
    January 31st, 2006
    at 11:59 am

    Ah, the old ‘teaching the test’ approach. Never a good thing, never. My only problem with math classes in H.S. and college was that they tended to be taught by people who were good at math (so called ‘math types’), and those people tend to communicate in a way that non-math types – especially bratty H.S. kids like I was – are unable to relate to or connect with. Conversely, literature courses tend to be taught by people who communicate ideas in a way that leaves ‘math types’ cold. I realize there are strong elements of stereotyping in what I’m saying here, but I think you see what I mean.


    Comment by
    Hal
    January 31st, 2006
    at 12:47 pm

    There was a course in our high school called “Math for Citizens”, similar to the infamous “cookbook chemistry” course at college — just enough to demonstrate some basic concepts for those likely never to go further in that field.

    I’d agree that most citizens will get along fine without knowing how to resolve a matrix of simultaneous equations, and even as an engineer the only need I’ve had for differential equations was to pass licensing exams. However, I see a screaming lack of understanding of the basic tools of algebra — how to analyze a problem, define your knowns and unknowns, and then solve it for a desired single variable. That skill applies to cooking, carpentry, pest control, any number of trades or household tasks (and even political questions). If there _are_ going to be requirements, I’d support basic algebra for that discipline alone.


    Comment by
    Spunky
    January 31st, 2006
    at 5:24 pm

    Algebra is a part of the new definition of “rigor” in the curriculum standards. All the reading I have been doing over the past month or two put the two words in the same paragraph if not the same sentence. I agree with you. But the educrats have to come up with new ideas to perpetuate the myth that they are doing good by our children.


    Comment by
    mlc
    February 1st, 2006
    at 8:51 am

    In Pittsboro, NC (that’s close to Chapel Hill, Daryl) — one high school is offering parents algebra classes so that they can help their children.

    newsob...1.html


    Comment by
    Richard Rybarczyk
    February 1st, 2006
    at 3:40 pm

    We need to have 12 different kinds of high school diploma: “Showed up more than half the time diploma”, “Can balance a checkbook diploma”, “Can keep from drooling diploma”, etc. Once these are in place, there will be no dropouts.

    Then we can establish the “Received an Education Diploma” for those who learned more than just how to get by in life.


    Comment by
    Annette
    February 1st, 2006
    at 8:31 pm

    After finishing the 8th grade level “Math-U-See” last year, my daughter and I thought we would revert back to Saxon for Algebra. Well, here it is Feb. and we find ourselves in Lesson 1 in MathUSee. Good program if we didn’t have it, I’d have to give up on my daughter doing Algebra at least this year for sanity reasons. I’d encourage anyone to look at this before deciding to cut Algebra out because a child is struggling with it.


    Comment by
    Annette
    February 1st, 2006
    at 8:43 pm

    Richard,
    Right after I read your comment, I came upon this article:

    msnbc....m/RSS/