Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Algebra II

From Joanne's blog:
Advanced algebra should be an elective for motivated math students, not a requirement, argues novelist Nicholson Baker in a Harper’s cover story (subscribers only), Wrong Answer.

Baker isn’t the first to question whether future arts majors need advanced math, notes Popular Science.

In 1950, only 25 percent of students in the U.S. were taking algebra, while the Soviet Union was churning out mathematicians, writes Baker. The National Defense Education Act, passed in 1958, raised math requirements, “creating a lot of unhappy students who, as they struggle through required math course after required math course, become discouraged and learn to hate school.”

The Common Core won’t help, Baker argues.

Algebra 2 Common Core is “a highly efficient engineer for the creation of math rage: a dead scrap of repellant terminology, a collection of spiky, decontextualized, multistep mathematical black-box techniques that you must practice over and over and get by heart in order to be ready to do something interesting later on, when the time comes,” he writes.
What's even more ridiculous is the new craze of making every student college-ready, as if that's a reasonable or even a desirable goal.  Here in California it's known as requiring every student to take the "A thru G requirements", the minimum for entry into our state university system (4 years of English; 3, preferably 4 years of math including Algebra II, etc).  It's more than a pipe dream, it's an absurdity.  It ranks right up there with making every student "philharmonic-ready", and as instruments go, I can barely play a CD.


maxutils said...

I don't disagree ... I think the main problems we have are a) pushing kids in to math classes they aren't ready for, then passing them when they don't really understand the material, and b) not offering alternatives to college oriented education. Not everyone needs to go to college, and many shouldn't. Everyone should be able to do basic math and be able to communicate verbally and in writing ... but beyond that? We should be striving to let people succeed in whatever trade or profession they are best suited to. And we aren't. Because, if you don't go to college, you're a failure...

dmjole said...

Maxutils, I agree--it's just common sense (i.e. reality) that not everybody needs to, or should go to, college. We need to de-stigmatize the non-college track--plumbers and electricians (for example) pay a lot better than a degree in Grievance Studies ever will. Why don't we produce more welders than people with social work degrees?