Saturday, May 11, 2013

What Math Do College Students Need?

I'm not one who pushes for everyone to take differential equations, but just as a college graduate should be literate, he or she should also be numerate:
Community college students are needlessly assigned to remedial math classes to learn lessons they won’t use during their studies, according to new research from a Washington, D.C. group.

And the study also found that many high school graduates are not learning subjects they will need to use in their careers...

The National Center on Education and the Economy study found that first-year college math work was generally on a level they called Algebra 1.25. That means community college students would have to know most of the concepts in Algebra I, plus some geometry, statistics and other lessons.

But the study found that some students were never taught elementary-level concepts necessary for college-level work, such as geometric visualization and complex measurement.

The authors argue schools need to ensure students master elementary and middle school-level concepts, and that the more advanced subjects, such as Algebra II, are less vital.

Just five percent of workers will use the math taught in the sequence of courses typically required by K-12 schools: Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus.
Just about everyone should have facility with basic math including fractions, decimals, ratios, and linear relationships. College graduates should know more.


Joshua Sasmor said...

"...elementary-level concepts necessary for college-level work, such as geometric visualization and complex measurement." But this sort of math was removed from the curriculum as "drill and kill" and "boring" and "too low on the Bloom's Taxonomy of thought" so no one teaches it anymore. And with discovery learning, you are supposed to uncover the methods for doing all of this yourself - why are we "teaching" them anything at all?

I remember being taught visualization using Legos and Erector Sets. Complex measurements via a ruler, a compass, a Spirograph, and string art. Math was FUN.

I also think that Art Benjamin has it right - the upper level class we should be aiming most students for isn't calculus, it's statistics. Then we can teach calculus, and let them learn that stats is all calc anyways :)

Auntie Ann said...

Somewhere in high school there should be more learning about statistics. Most students won't use calculus, but we all are bombarded by statistics every single day.

Knowing how important "doing xaybcz will double your risk for cancer!" is, depends on what your risk was to begin with. Doubling from one chance in a million to two in a million isn't so bad.

Knowing that a study with only 10 examples isn't worth much is important.

Knowing that you have no chance of actually winning the lottery could come in handy when you're counting on it for your retirement.

PeggyU said...

It always bothers me when people use statistics to support an argument, if they don't provide access to the study they cite. If I can't see the data that was collected, how it was collected and analyzed, how can I begin to know if the conclusions are reasonable?

Anonymous said...

Since when has Algebra II been a "more advance" subject? My daughter took it in 9th grade and had no problem with it. Things have changed a lot since I was in school. I started Calculus in 10th grade, and I was far from being a math whiz.

Auntie Ann said...

They can get away with throwing statistics around because they know most Americans won't ask the most-basic questions about them, don't even know which questions *should* be asked, or know how to judge whether they are being bamboozled or tricked by the lies, damned lies and statistics.