The case against Algebra

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Shanoo, Sep 16, 2012.

  1. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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  3. Math

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    It said the video was currently unavailable...
     
  4. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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    Oh, shoot! I hope it's not available only to those in Canada...

    Anyway, it's an interview with Andrew Hacker, a Political Science professor at Queens College who says that advanced mathematics (specifically algebra) is not necessary for most of the population and should be taught as electives. Apparently he wrote an article about it in the New York Times last month.
     
  5. Math

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    I'll just wait to see what other math teachers on the board have to say about this.
     
  6. Peregrin5

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  7. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I bet you can find a lots of math teachers who would make a convincing case against Political Science.

    Not me, but I bet they're out there.

    Algebra teaches the logical translation of real life problems into equations which can be solved.

    Does my 83 year old mom use it on a daily basis? Nope. Will my 14 year old son ever need to apply the Algebra he's used? Well, my crystal ball is broken right now, so I have no idea. But learning it certainly did him no harm.
     
  8. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    I teach GED to adults. They usually find out that they use a lot of algebra in their everyday jobs, even if they don't realize it. Nurses aids use it, construction workers use it, everybody uses it.

    One of the things that invariably happens as we go through the algebra is they realize 1) I can do this and 2) hey! This is useful.

    What a bunch of hooey. It also smacks of intellectual elitism: oh, it's too hard for THEM (pat on the head). Algebra is not too challenging for anybody.
     
  9. 2ndTimeAround

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    Well then, what's next?

    I'm fairly certain that most of America doesn't use their knowledge of the cell cycle each and every day. Do we get rid of the biology requirement as well?

    Newspapers are written at, what, a 5th grade reading level? Should Language Arts go away once children get to that point?
     
  10. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    But, you know what? If people want to get rid of things, I have a nice long list from my curriculum, especially from the new standards.

    I'm so tired of the whole "increased rigor" movement. They don't know what it means! Increased rigor doesn't mean stuffing in new topics, it means covering fewer things to a rigorous depth. The more the add, the less rigorously I can cover things since I have the same time to fill.

    For example, chemistry now has to fit in an organic unit this year. Very few things were deleted. I mean, really? Do the students need organic nomenclature at that stage? Why not do the basics really, really well so when they get to college o chem, they have the reasoning abilities needed and are successful?
     
  11. Mathemagician

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    EXACTLY. I would imagine that the case against algebra can easily be the case against almost anything taught in high school. On the other hand, I do think we should offer more in terms of vocational programs.

    Yes, this is something I applaud my district for. We removed about 3 and a half chapters from our algebra 2 course, and made the remaining chapters more thorough and difficult. The kids don't love it, but it's better. The only downside is we eliminated a lot of the review.
     
  12. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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    Not saying that I disagree with any of the above. But, for those who do not have access to the interview, one of his reasons is that a great number of students in the US drop out of school specifically because of struggles with math. He states that those who show propensity towards the arts, for example, not be penalized because they cannot do higher level math.

    I find myself torn. Although I was always good at math, and took as much math as I could in high school (including calculus), my background is in Languages and History. Through a number of "perfect storm" type situations, I now find myself teaching middle school math.

    My SO has a background in Business with a minor in History. He has taken much, MUCH, more math than I have, but is teaching Geography, Law and History.

    I'm not sure what I think...
     
  13. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    This guy is a moron. There are so many flaws in his arguments that I can't even begin to list them all without wanting to throw my computer across the room. Maybe he should have taken more algebra. It might have taught him a little logic.
     
  14. Math

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    :lol:
     
  15. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    The number one reason kids can't do algebra is because they did not properly learn the basics. In GED, we start back at the beginning with simple addition and work our way up. Sure, some struggle more with math, but usually by the time they reach the algebra unit, everybody is working at similar paces because the battles were fought back in the early units.

    Just like calculus tends be hard because kids didn't learn algebra!
     
  16. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    molly---so true!

    I am hoping that the common core really helps the elementary teachers and parents to help their children form a deeper understanding of early math concepts (especially place value).
     
  17. McParadigm

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    Math is valuable as a mental exercise, more than it anything else. I'd argue the development of evaluative process, analytic thinking, examination of task, and complex problem solving experience trump ANY fact value that math has. Therefore, any argument for the reduction of math in schools based on future usage is inherently flawed.

    I imagine Math is probably the one subject where it's hardest to get away from teacher-centered and behaviorist structures, though. It's got to be an incredibly difficult job, to teach Math well. :dizzy:
     
  18. Luke8Ball

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    Here's a fun statistic: generally speaking, the people who do the best on the LSAT are math majors. This is especially ironic in light of the fact that writer has a background in political science. Math teaches you how to think critically!
     
  19. Rockguykev

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    As a 7th grade social studies teacher I would gladly accept my students knowing exactly zero history if it meant they understood the logic required to do algebra.
     
  20. KinderCowgirl

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    I guess I see the other side of it. I really struggled to get through Algebra. I actually ended up taking Algebra 1 twice and after getting through that, had to take Algebra 2-it made me really hate math. I was an outstanding student, A's in Honors English, History, etc, except for those classes that made me feel like an idiot for not being able to wrap my head around the concepts. I don't use algebra on a daily basis-not the way it was taught to me anyway. Maybe it is good for logic, but I think you can get that knowledge from other areas, I know I did.

    I do think it might benefit some kids to take different math electives depending on what their interests are-especially if it keeps them in school.
     
  21. Marci07

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    I see how students who struggle with Algebra may not want to take if they feel they don't need it in real life. However, I don't think that the main issue is Algebra in itself. I believe that the main issue is not having a strong foundation in math and this needs to be addressed first.

    Math concepts used in real life, including using formulas are very important in real life. How do you calculate interest rate for your credit cards? How do you determine your car payment? Your mortgage payment? Do we leave it up to the finance department to tell us what we need to pay or do we take control??

    When we bought our car the finance department was very aggressive at determining a monthly payment for us. Luckily because my husband is an accountant and I'm a math teacher, so we didn't even engaged in the monthly payment conversation. Instead we asked for the overall interest rate and demanded a breakdown of everything. They were so shocked that we did this. This has also helped us in our finances because we are able to understand our bills and interest rates much better.
     
  22. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Once, when I was engaged, I went car shopping. Peter came along, but I was buying a car for me; he wasn't yet part of my finances.

    It was a rainy night. I was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, with my hair back in a ponytail. I probably looked like I was 17, though I was closer to 30.

    The salesman tried to convince Peter (but that's a different issue; he addressed every single comment to Peter, even though it was clear that I was buying the car) that I could afford a car far beyond my means. When I told him I couldn't afford the payments, he got out a calculator, and attempted to show the math to the poor clueless little girl.

    NEEDLESS TO SAY, they got quite a letter a few days later.I addressed the whole "speaking to ME" issue. Then I mentioned that I was a high school math teacher with a Masters, and that at that time I was teaching a Pre-Calc course for which my students (all girls at that time) were receiving college credit. And that I would make sure to educate those poor little girls as to the attitude of the salesman and the firm he represented. And that I was quite able to do basic math in my head, without the aid of a salesman with a calculator and instructions on computing monthly payments. And that any of my students could do the same math without the calculator.

    I bought a car I could afford elsewhere.

    Knowledge is power.
     
  23. Marci07

    Marci07 Devotee

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    :clap: Awesome!!!
     
  24. CindyBlue

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    "We removed about 3 and a half chapters from our algebra 2 course, and made the remaining chapters more thorough and difficult. The kids don't love it, but it's better. The only downside is we eliminated a lot of the review."
    We're trying to do this but having a hard time trying to figure out what chapters to eliminate. Which ones did you remove?
     
  25. Mathemagician

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    All the intro/basic equations, matrices, and systems of equations (that ones kind of ouch, but they do in more in pre-calc now with 3 vars instead).

    Now our set-up is this

    MP1=quadratic and polynomial functions

    MP2=rational exponents, inverse functions, exp and log functions

    MP3=rational functions, sequences and series

    MP4=stats/prob and trig
     
  26. Mathemagician

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    Oh, we also eliminated conics except for the focus-directrix parabola, which we cover with quadratics...should be interesting
     

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