I have run several pieces and letters on the education op-ed page by people asking why students need algebra, including some by math teachers who contend that few employees will be called upon to use higher level math skills in their jobs. (Take a look at this good piece — You Will Never Use This Math Again — by local math teacher Ken Sprague Sr. )

The Washington Post attempts to answer the Algebra II question in a long piece this week. This is a very even-handed and well done article. I am sharing an excerpt, but please read the whole piece if you have the time.

I put key paragraphs in bold. I think these issues are relevant to the Georgia debate under way on how to teach math and what to teach. If you search this blog, you will see several pieces in the last few weeks on math, including this one on the fact that math will be more demanding no matter what Georgia calls its courses.

Of all of the classes offered in high school, Algebra II is the leading predictor of college and work success, according to research that has launched a growing national movement to require it of graduates. In recent years, 20 states and the District have moved to raise graduation requirements to include Algebra II, and its complexities are being demanded of more and more students.

The effort has been led by Achieve, a group organized by governors and business leaders and funded by corporations and their foundations, to improve the skills of the workforce. Although U.S. economic strength has been attributed in part to high levels of education, the workforce is lagging in the percentage of younger workers with college degrees, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

But exactly how to raise the education levels of the U.S. workforce is a matter of debate. And whether learning Algebra II causes students to fare better in life, or whether it is merely correlated with them doing better — because smart, motivated kids take Algebra II — isn’t clear. Meanwhile, some worry that Algebra II requirements are leading some young people to quit school.

The District this year joins other states requiring high school graduates to meet the Achieve standards that include Algebra II; Maryland and Virginia do not. But no state has pushed Algebra II more than Arkansas, which began requiring the class last year for most graduates and assesses how well students have done with a rigorous test — one of only two states to administer the test. Only 13 percent of those who took the Algebra II test in Arkansas were deemed “prepared” or better, but state officials said they are aiming to raise that figure rather than lower standards.

One of the key studies supporting the Algebra II focus was conducted by Anthony Carnevale and Alice Desrochers, then both at the Educational Testing Service. They used a data set that followed a group of students from 1988 to 2000, from eighth grade to a time when most were working.

The study showed that of those who held top-tier jobs, 84 percent had taken Algebra II or a higher class as their last high school math course. Only 50 percent of employees in the bottom tier had taken Algebra II. “Algebra II does increase the likelihood of being employed in a good job,” they reported, although warning that many factors come into play.

To check the Algebra II findings against the “real world,” the Achieve researchers then asked college professors and employers to identify which skills are necessary to succeed.

Somewhat to their surprise, they found that whether students were going into work or college, they needed the skills taught in Algebra II. Other independent studies backed them up. One conducted by U.S. Department of Education researcher Clifford Adelman found that students who took Algebra II and at least one more math course attained “momentum” toward receiving a bachelor’s degree.“There was a fair amount of judgment that went into this,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve and a former assistant secretary of education in the Clinton administration. But “it turns out to get the skills needed, students had to reach Algebra II.”

The push for Algebra II had begun, and it was embraced by many states.

But not everyone is convinced that Algebra II is the answer. Among the skeptics is Carnevale, one of the researchers who reported the link between Algebra II and good jobs. He warns against thinking of Algebra II as a cause of students getting good jobs merely because it is correlated with success.

“The causal relationship is very, very weak,” he said. “Most people don’t use Algebra II in college, let alone in real life. The state governments need to be careful with this.”

The danger, he said, is leaving some kids behind by “getting locked into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.”In Arkansas and elsewhere, educators worry that the class requirement could lead students to quit.

“Some students, who’ve gotten behind over the years, are never going to pass Algebra II,” said Teresa George, a veteran teacher, after a morning coaxing students through rational functions. If it becomes an obstacle to graduation, “then you’ve lost them. And what’s their next option?”

For proof of the usefulness of Algebra II, students need look no farther than the largest employers in Conway.

Acxiom, a database company that employs 2,100 in the town, hires software and database developers, most of whom have bachelor’s degrees in technical fields. For them, Algebra II skills are a prerequisite. Similarly, at Snap-on Equipment, a plant that employs 170 making the sophisticated gears that garages use to align and balance tires, most production jobs require associate’s degrees in electronics.

By contrast, at the Kimberly-Clark plant, which makes feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products, production workers need only a high school education. The jobs pay 11 to $20 an hour, and when 70 spots recently came open during an expansion, about 2,000 people applied.

“We’re looking for people with the ability to think critically,” said Jeremy Cannady, until recently a manufacturing efficiency coordinator at the plant. But “not the ability to do exponential functions or logarithms.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog.

## 98 comments Add your comment

MannyT

April 5th, 2011

11:41 am

All students need some level of critical thinking & decision making. As adults require more test based proof of achievement, we lose out on the development of analytical skills. Wihout the ability to analyze, people are less effective.

Examples of analysis questions that impact many adults:

Which item should I buy, the more expensive one in the larger package or the cheaper one inthe smaller package?

How much farther can I drive before I run out of gas?

Should I take the job farther away from home that pays $2/hr more or the one close to home?

Because many of these questions may not make the CRCT, they get devalued in school, but are worthwhile in life. Higher level math classes may be one of the few places a high school student can practice decision making & analysis.

Not I don’t need Algebra 2 to get one of the 50,000 jobs at McDonald’s, but maybe I do need it if I want a job creating the software used in their cash registers.

http://www.ajc.com/business/mcdonalds-wants-to-fill-897269.html

Paige

April 5th, 2011

11:44 am

As a math challeged person and the mom of the same, I think that there needs to be math for reqular people. Do you know how many kids can’t balance a check book, make change or figure out the interest? Those are the skills you should have for everyday life.

I have taken college algebra 3 times and have yet to pass so that I can move on. The career path that I want will NEVER require any of the things you are supposed to learn in that class.

CL

April 5th, 2011

11:56 am

“Do you know how many kids can’t balance a check book, make change or figure out the interest?”

You don’t need Algebra II to do these things.

MannyT

April 5th, 2011

11:59 am

@Paige

A basic understanding of personal economics should be a part of the K-12 learning process…especially in a country that has capitalism as a primary part of its foundation. I always thought it was odd that for all the things that are taught, basic economic survival is not one of them.

However, as a society, we work around many of those problems. The cashier at McDonald’s knew how to make change in 1971. Now, the cash register is sophisticated enough that the user has to know almost zero math. Even self checkout at a grocery store is controlled enough that the biggest lesson needed for the user is to leave your items on the check out area because the built in scale tracks what you have put there after scanning which is only a problem when you buy packages of Kool Aid

Tony

April 5th, 2011

12:02 pm

Oh, the math dilemma. One problem with the study that you referenced is that it infers cause-effect between Algebra II and better jobs. There may be a strong CORRELATION but they did not conduct an experimental study that would support CAUSAL findings. That said, the strong correlation is enough evidence for us to push and challenge all students to achieve higher levels of mathematics.

People are too quick to make excuses for poor math performance by students. Parents say they were “math challenged” or they allow their children to skip homework practice to build fluency in basic arithmetic. The first challenge for all students to achieve higher levels of math is to quit making excuses for them and set higher expectations.

Second, the curriculum is more challenging and it should be. The problem now is that too much emphasis remains on the “analytical math” approach rather than the “relevant math” approach. Too many math classes spend time solving for x without ever spending time showing where the relevance is. That is why so many people say that you will never use this math again. Truth is, there are many applications that use the concepts taught in Algebra II, but the problem remains that too many students are never shown the connections to real life.

Finally, we still have to change some of our attitudes about how math should be taught. Practicing rows and rows of problems will NOT teach the underlying concepts of the mathematics. This practice has a valuable place, but simply to solve the problems should not be the end result of the instruction. Students must be expected to apply the concepts to real world problems.

Once we cross these bridges, and the most important one is that we set higher expectations and stop making excuses, then we will be able to raise achievement in mathematics.

Me

April 5th, 2011

12:21 pm

When was it decided that MORE is better when it comes to math?

Trial by fire isn’t necessary in most degrees, so who benefits? The institutions? If our common goal is to encourage more kids to pursue higher learning, why then would we place such obstacles in our kids path? Priorities people!

Lets instead make sure our kids can read, write and not only speak, but speak WELL. It’s an embarrassment to us as a community/state/nation that graduating students(barely) pass their advanced math courses, but are unable to form complete sentences, spell correctly or speak clearly and with confidence.

Bloggers and posters across the internet dismiss complaints from people that point out grammatical errors, and in the big scheme of things isn’t all that “important” in everyday life, but when you NEED to be able to do these things (job interviews for example!) it’s not so funny anymore. Yesterday I visited an internet home page for a local councilwoman that has been in the news lately. I wanted to know who she was, what she stood for and her perspective on the events that have been reported. I was appalled by the number of spelling and grammar mistakes, and it contributed to my change of heart on my opinion of her as a professional. So laugh and dismiss now, but it really DOES matter.

Kelle

April 5th, 2011

12:28 pm

I’ve read about schools/districts partnering with surrounding businesses to produce workers of the caliber needed. Maybe it would make sense to push Algebra II in areas where local industries (or industries predominant in the state) would require a lot of workers to have that knowledge base.

That said, I don’t think just letting a poorly performing math student “off the hook” because they can’t do the math is a good idea. Unless it’s been proven that some kids in mainstream classrooms just don’t have the brainpower to comprehend Algebra I and Algebra II, I’m more inclined to advocate remedial education and new learning strategies. In fact, I like many of Tony’s recommendations about changing the teaching approach to math.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

April 5th, 2011

12:41 pm

Tony,

Well-stated.

Ben

April 5th, 2011

12:51 pm

Appears to me that math people are trying to justify their math. I worked as an engineer and used math frequently. Best math class I ever took was technical math. Solving real world problems. Problem is that many math teachers never did anything real world. Me thinks that upper tier jobs because they took Algebra II is overllooking the fact that these same students took other top level classes as well. No kudos to those other types of classes? Math people are really self centered and ego centric.

name

April 5th, 2011

12:53 pm

Might as well skip English II while we’re at it, since the Internet and texting are completely destroying the language. Since the Indians are doing all the programming now, there’s no need for American kids to learn advanced math I guess, huh? Seriously, the future of this country is screwed if the next generations keep getting coddled.

I blame the ridiculous “everybody is a winner” mentality and those godawful “trophy for participation” sports leagues. There is nothing wrong with losing….it drives one to do better. 2nd place is still 1st loser, and that’s not a slight….it’s just logic.

pubicx scoools

April 5th, 2011

1:00 pm

Not if they work at McDonalds, just need to see the pretty pictures

Hmmmm

April 5th, 2011

1:03 pm

Ask yourself one question. What are the Chinese learning??? Sip on that cup of tea.

Midtown_DD

April 5th, 2011

1:10 pm

What high school kids really know what they want to be when they grow up? For many of us, its not until we go to college that we start to figure that out.

I originally thought I’d be in liberal arts, but my school required I take a certain level of math (up through alg II or trig). As it turns out, this extra math and science pushed me into more of a technical field as I realized I was actually good at it….would I have if it weren’t required? Maybe…maybe not. Gotta set the bar somewhere, people. Better to set it high.

GT Student

April 5th, 2011

1:11 pm

Taking these classes are more about learning how to think critically. If you want to become an engineer, scientist, computer programmer, etc. you will need those math courses. You may say “Well not everyone is going to be an engineer or scientist.” While that’s true, without taking those courses in high school, students may not be exposed to those higher level subjects and may not develop the interest to become an engineer. The courses are difficult, I know. Algebra 2 was my only B in high school, but the knowledge is important, and it is used. Dumbing down our high school curriculums is not the answer to improving our schools. The graduates may look better on paper, but they won’t be smarter.

MM

April 5th, 2011

1:17 pm

Of course, Tony (above) is right about correlation vs. causation. The fascinating thing is that our beloved “educators” seem to not understand this. Algebra II will not help them because they lack the most rudimentary reasoning skills.

Like many, the “educators” and politicians look to the educational system to take the blame for poor students instead of cultural factors such as the deeply embedded anti-intellectual mindset most prevalent here in the South. Tea party anyone? Fundamentalist religious thinking anyone? We get what we deserve.

MrJimmboolie

April 5th, 2011

1:19 pm

Do kids NEED algebra 2? No. Do they need Linear Algebra? No. Do they need to develop their logical thinking skills? Yes. What helps that? Advance math. In most cases with our current crop of graduates, they need to learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide – in their head’s. Then they can worry about advance math.

penguinmom

April 5th, 2011

1:25 pm

I teach Algebra2 and PreCalculus at a home school tutoring program that caters mainly to arts-oriented students. Are any of them ever going to use this information again? Probably not. They take it only because it is required to graduate and so they can pass College Algebra once they enter college. So far, all of my students have passed both classes but for some that means redoing chapters until they understand enough to pass the test. It also can involve extra tutoring sessions.

I was a math/computer science major in college. I did use what I learned in my Algebra 2, Trig, and Calculus high school classes… in college. Once I got out of college, I did Not use that information again even when working in the computer field. You do not need to know logs or rational equations or trig to write a cash register program or pretty much any program besides an engineering one. I didn’t pick Algebra 2 back up until I entered the teaching arena and started teaching the concepts again.

Besides the general logic skills learned from solving the problems, I really don’t know of a lot in Algebra 2 that will translate into real world usage for the vast majority of the students. Graphed a line or parabola recently anyone? Used the quadratic formula? Solved a Trig equation?

I think it would be Much better to require strong Economic, Personal Finance, Business Accounting and (usable) Statistics courses for every student. That information would be used in just about any field. Figuring interest or profit. Understanding (at least somewhat) what poll numbers actually mean. Keeping a budget and balancing a checkbook. Those are all useful skills.

For now though, I will continue to teach the Algebra 2 concepts in the most understandable way I can, giving hints and tips to make it as simple to do as possible. My students love my class because they know I am working with them to get them through these concepts so they can graduate and be successful in early college.

penguinmom

April 5th, 2011

1:28 pm

@MrJimmboolie – “they need to learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide – in their head’s. ” AMEN to that! So frustrating how much these kids lack the basic math skills that would actually make their upper level math so much easier. You can’t easily solve an Algebra problem if your brain is spending too much time trying to figure out what 42/7 is. And they have no concept when their answer is wildly wrong (goes back to logic skills). If you are asked to find the number of donkeys and you end up with 4 and 1/2 as your answer, logically it is clear your answer is Wrong since 4.5 donkeys makes No sense! *sigh*

Uh-oh!

April 5th, 2011

1:36 pm

Half these kids can’t do simple multiplication.They can count out eighths and quarters tho. Forget Algebra 2.

southern jackass

April 5th, 2011

1:42 pm

Can’t pass simple algebra 2? That sort of solves the whole HOPE issue doesn’t it? No need to even attempt college when you can’t pass 8th grade math.

Ashley

April 5th, 2011

1:47 pm

Are we determine in 2011 to dumb down school curriculum? Bad enough they don’t relish history or english in schools anymore, of course they can always find what they need on the internet. It seems to me the schools are always trying to find a way to make school and the course they take less challenging. I was always taught the best and the brightest, cultivating knowledge and enriching the mind was the best way to succeed in life. A students educational prowlness should’nt depend on the click of the mouse. Taking Algebra II or any other challenging course can only broaden their way of thinking, sounds to me like certain schools are trying to stifle it. I’ll admit using advance math for every day activities isn’t really feasible for a lot of people, but taking these course requires discipline and clear thought process , which we do need in every day life. We should be asking more of our young people in schools and not less. In this world we live in I’m always amazed how people will say; they want to drive the lastest automobile, wear designer jeans and shoes, the latest technology, swank all the way, but when it comes to school and educating our children we fall short.

jd

April 5th, 2011

1:49 pm

Oh, its too tough. I couldn’t pass it, so no one else needs it. Whine, Whine, Whine… meanwhile, emerging countries are eating our lunch, sending their best and brightest to graduate schools here as there are no Americans qualified to take the seats in class.

Another view

April 5th, 2011

1:54 pm

I’m not a special ed teacher, but I do have a gaggle of psych training in addition to being a statistician, and the reality is that there are LOT of students in the lower cognitive capacity ranges who might not be served well by forcing them into A2. The current disastrous math standards (not to be confused with curriculum) are a good case in point; I’ve seen several 25+ year superb teachers leave simply because they ethically and emotionally could no longer stand being forced to force kids to fail daily. NOT the kids’ fault. Premature birth, lead poisoning, nonexistent health care, single or no parent home life, the list goes on. Not everybody gets to be raised by Ozzie and Harriet. What’s our poverty rate? Something almost 1 in 4, as I remember. Finland, our new standard (socialist with no minorities to speak of, by the way), apparently, was 1 in 25. And you guys want to blame the kids and teachers.

OneFreeMan

April 5th, 2011

1:54 pm

I have a BS (Computer Science major) which required over 25 hours of math. I have taken everything from Trigonometry to Abstract Algebra. After working in the IT field for the past 28 years, I have NEVER had to do anything other than BASIC Math.

I have worked as an employee or contractor for (NASA, IBM< Mercedes Benz, Delta Airlines, Nabisco, General Motors and numberous others and NEVER used any math other than Basic Math.

Complete waste of time. What is a derivative.

MB

April 5th, 2011

1:54 pm

When I graduated from high school in the late 70s, in rural south Georgia, the expectation was that you would take Algebra II (most had advanced math and trig) if you were going to college. Thirty-plus years later, we want to LOWER the expectation? And people wonder why we fall further behind the rest of the developed world in STEM??? As said multiple times above, it’s more about the expectation that you will learn to think critically and analytically – which many people find challenging and therefore avoid…

The will-you-use-it-later argument just doesn’t hold water. How often in adult life have most people used literary criticism? But you write papers – MLA-formatted with in-text citation – in every English class, correct? Most careers don’t require that you differentiate between macro- and micro-economics, or that you explain the causes of world wars. So why learn those in school?

If it were all about practicality, we wouldn’t have eliminated family and consumer science and shop classes from many schools, would we? (I’m in the camp that those should still be electives rather than career paths, as many students would benefit from – and enjoy – them, but that camp obviously hasn’t been the successful one.)

Finally, have to disagree about the need to balance a checkbook. NO student I know uses a checkbook – they use ATM, debit and credit cards. They DO need to understand ATM charges, overdraft fees, interest rates (including student loans), etc.

williebkind

April 5th, 2011

1:56 pm

What jobs in an agriculture state need algebra II?

jeas3

April 5th, 2011

1:58 pm

Math is about much more – much more – than just memorizing formulas and graphing parabolas, etc. Being fluent in higher math allows you a way to develop skills in problem solving and analytical thinking, skills that come in very handy when your checkbook doesn’t balance or your paycheck is wrong. Sure, you probably won’t have to use logarithms after high school or college, but the skills that you pick up during these classes will serve you well for the rest of your life. @Penguinmom – economics, finance and statistics are ALL based on some of the most advanced mathematical concepts. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the job requirements to be an economist at the Federal Reserve. The fact of the matter is that math is about much more than memorizing your multiplication tables or knowing how to make change at McDonald’s – it’s a critical life skill that our society needs to be successful, and I’d rather set the bar higher than lower.

Several people have commented that there is a chance that requiring Algebra II would cause more students to drop out of high school. Does that mean that we keep dumbing down our curriculum until everyone gets a diploma? If that’s the case, simply have a graduation ceremony for everyone who has paid their county taxes each year.

Tired of BS

April 5th, 2011

2:11 pm

Really folks. Most of your bright children need algebra, trig, and calculus. The fact that kids are dropping out of high school to avoid advanced math is BS! They’re dropping out because of their parents have not instilled high educational standards… mostly because they themselves are barely educated.

Ashley

April 5th, 2011

2:13 pm

I agree@jeas3… since they want to dumb down school curriculum, why don’t we just give them a “Jethro Bodine” diploma, a sixth grade education will do. In the 70’s when I graduated students got what they needed and not what they wanted, the opposite can be said thirty years later.

catlady

April 5th, 2011

2:13 pm

The algebra 2 they teach now is vastly different from algebra 2 from 1967. I think it is much more involved, must more theoretical, than I recall from back then. I was an excellent math teacher, and I think the math I had served me well in all areas, including systematic reasoning, but I don’t know that the level of algebra 2 that is taught now is really necessary.

What I do know is that too many kids are poorly prepared in math. They have not mastered even the basics, and there is certainly no move in my system to require that before proceeding. At some point, certain things have to be automatic, and when you have “normal” 5th graders who are still having to “discover” that 8+7=15, or that 12-8=4, it is pretty much fruitless to expect them to do two digit multiplication. Every single step is a major chore!

Until we demand mastery before moving kids on, we will continue to have students struggle with the most basic concepts and processes.

JL

April 5th, 2011

2:17 pm

It’s for the same reason that people learn history and geography and take arts education and musical education and learn about biology and chemistry. The idea is to create a country of educated individuals who are able to make decisions about a variety of things, not a country filled with morons who are only capable of performing a small set of actions required to keep them alive.

Does the physicist need to study the depths of Transcendentalist literature? Of course not, but learning a variety of subjects leads to a higher intelligence. Do you really want to have to depend on the Chinese for an explanation of how to use your new technology?

catlady

April 5th, 2011

2:19 pm

jeas3: We have already been doing that, AND giving them a HOPE scholarship, to boot!

True story: When my daughter was taking algebra 2 17 years ago, I offered to help her, and asked what she was studying. She told me they were working on “imaginary numbers” and I thought she was joking! I figured that was numbers like “ten-teen”. It turns out that since I had taken algebra 2, a whole load of other math constructs had been discovered and added to the curriculum. (I knew, and understood, that when my dad, an EE graduate of Duke, was helping me back in the 60’s, he was used to using a slide rule, the math equivalent of a corset to me!)

Tony

April 5th, 2011

2:21 pm

OnFreeMan – the definition of derivative change just a couple of years ago. It is now means “a worthless investment based on bad mortgages”.

PS: you may not use derivatives in your line of work, but I use them. And now that “value added measures” are coming to the forefront of education, I’m glad I took that graduate level course in applied linear statistical modeling with calculus. I’ll know what kind of junk they’re trying to pass off as “measures of effective teaching.”

Tony

April 5th, 2011

2:24 pm

catlady, you are hilarious! I used a slide rule in the late 70s and early 80s. Glad electronic calculators came along, though! I also recall the use of imaginary numbers in Alg 2.

Dr NO

April 5th, 2011

2:24 pm

Taking, passing and learning Algebra II will hurt no one and probably help many. Algebra TODAY, TORMORROW and FOREVER!

“An Algebra book and a chicken in every pot”

Tony

April 5th, 2011

2:26 pm

Dr. NO you finally said something I can agree with, except I would prefer not to put the book in the pot.

Dr NO

April 5th, 2011

2:26 pm

Dropping out to avoid advanced Math. Well thats a shame but nonetheless we best divert some school funds to prison construction funds because thats is where these flunkies are headed.

Dr NO

April 5th, 2011

2:26 pm

Tony…

Math Regrets

April 5th, 2011

2:33 pm

I’m not stupid. I have a Bachelor’s degree, earned mostly A’s when I attended university, and manage my personal finances well, but I’ve always been challenged by math.

It began in the third grade. Though I had an excellent memory and was able to learn my multiplication tables by rote, I had no real understanding of the basic concept. The teacher, finally exhausted by my need to really understand it, gave up. It was only when the little girl who sat next to me showed me visually that two threes make six that the light bulb came on.

When I went to high school, the logic of algebra was lost on me and everyone’s suggestions to just accept what they told me instead of trying to make sense of it didn’t help. Geometry was better because I could SEE the solution in the circles and angles we made. Since students were not required to take Algebra II as long as they took additional science courses, I thought I had dodged a bullet!

In college, I was able to avoid algebra by taking an honor’s math course that focused on concepts and ‘real-world’ math more than finding the right answer. I wanted to take physics courses in college but avoided those too because I was afraid I couldn’t handle the math. The honor’s math course made me appreciate math and that appreciation has grown over the years. Studying music has increased my understanding, as did my years of working as a graphic artist.

Still, I wish I did have a firm grasp on college algebra. I believe I would have better reasoning skills if I had. I might not feel so limited in my career choices if I had taken those advanced math courses. I probably would have taken the GRE by now and gone on to earn a Master’s degree. Maybe I would understand algorithms and learn how to use them to create my own software, or at least be able to come up with a formula to solve whatever problem I come across.

Students need to be taught an appreciation for math, it’s patterns and relationships to nature and how it is inextricably intertwined with our universe. Perhaps then, they might be more eager to explore advanced math. But we also need really good math TEACHERS who can explain mathematical concepts to students who aren’t immediately inclined to do well in math. I don’t blame my third grade teacher for not being able to help me understand multiplication; math IS a challenging subject to teach and sometimes the people who understand math the best aren’t always the best communicators of that knowledge. I think our schools should approach math holistically so that graduates understand not only how to solve equations, but also how to reason and apply mathematical concepts to other areas. As for how to do that…I haven’t solved that either.

Sopwith Camel

April 5th, 2011

2:34 pm

The only reason most people need to take Algebra II is to show that they have the intellect to get into college. But most people never ever had a need to use it. And then there’s calculus. Somebody PLEASE tell me who ever uses calculus in real, normal, everyday life!! Maybe engineers who work for NASA but who else??? I’ve tried and tried to get calculus teachers to tell me why it’s needed or what use it has and they don’t even have an answer!!

LOL

April 5th, 2011

2:34 pm

If you can’t pass Algebra II in high school, you probably do need to drop out. I always like the “I’m not a math person” lines too. Cut the crap, you mean you’re too stupid to do it.

Euclid

April 5th, 2011

2:37 pm

Poor kids! Math is awesome, and it is so rewarding to find an answer to a mathematical problem. It does teach them problem-solving skills.

I guess they won’t be learning about augmented matrices. It would completely blow their minds.

Math Regrets

April 5th, 2011

2:37 pm

I have only begun this book, but I’m inclined to say that it should be required reading for math students:

http://www.amazon.com/Quadrivium-Classical-Liberal-Geometry-Cosmology/dp/0802778135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1302028543&sr=1-1

Southern Man

April 5th, 2011

2:40 pm

Algebra II? Not necessarily. Problem solving skills? Absolutely. One of the easiest ways to teach that happens to be advanced mathematics. Unfortunately, the curriculum leaves little room to show how the math is relevant or how it can be applied to real world problems. That’s where science comes in but then those classes suffer from poor math skills not developed in the mathematics classes and a focus on factoid memorization rather than science skill processes. When I taught high school science, almost half of my time was spent teaching basic algebra skills despite the fact that the students had already completed algebra. The curriculum emphasizes ability to score well on standardized tests because it’s easier than evaluating skills. I had to get out before the new math kids showed up in my classroom because the 9th graders were already showing ultra-weak math skills carried in from the new math curriculum in the middle schools.

Bring back vocational tech classes. It provides the opportunity to show an actual application of algebra skills. Then maybe some of the kids could do something useful fresh out of high school without necessarily having to go to college. At worst, they could have a decent part-time job while they’re in college if you’re going to insist on college for everyone.

Easy Stuff

April 5th, 2011

2:41 pm

Cut out all the hard stuff from classes and instead, let students take classes in current music, texting fundamentals and advanced texting, internet abbreviation literature (OMG, WTF, LOL…) and sex attraction techniques, using shortcuts (r u hot?). The stuff now in school is just too hard!

Dr NO

April 5th, 2011

2:45 pm

Here is a simple test. In 9th grade ask each student to solve the following problem.

1 + 1 = ?

Those answering 2 get to move onto advanced math classes.

Those answering 11 get to move immediately to a juvenile detention center.

Me

April 5th, 2011

2:46 pm

What catlady said is 100% right on target. Those of you that are comparing your personal experience with Algebra to that of the present day student aren’t comparing apples to apples. Try doing your kids (or grandkids) Algebra I & II homework for a week, then come back and tell us how ‘dumbed down’ it is.

Dr NO

April 5th, 2011

2:53 pm

Me

April 5th, 2011

2:46 pm

Thats no comparison. Just as our parents couldnt do our homework the same applies to us…

team_america

April 5th, 2011

2:56 pm

Algebra 2 seriously? that class was super easy. Its not like we are talking about Multivariable Calculus here. I slept through that class in high school and made an A.

JRev

April 5th, 2011

3:00 pm

I graduate from Georgia Tech and I don’t use most of the stuff I learned there in my career. It’s about learning to think critically. As for learning to balance a check book and interest…that’s basic math learned in middle/grammar school. Just use an interest calculator found online. No one is expected to be a human calculator.