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(The New York Times)   The problem with American schools is that they teach too much math   (nytimes.com) divider line 573
    More: Stupid, Americans, Appalachian State University, Advanced Placement, university system, City University London, trigonometry, School of Medicine, high schools  
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18708 clicks; posted to Main » on 30 Jul 2012 at 4:44 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-07-30 03:03:06 PM
I told that teacher lady the only numbers I need to know are U, S and A.
 
2012-07-30 03:04:26 PM
You misspelled meth
 
2012-07-30 03:06:17 PM
I think it's more a problem of not knowing how to teach math, or teaching it in a way that's supposed to help students pass the four or five standardized tests a year rather than really understanding mathematical concepts. Reduce the emphasis on testing and emphasize actual knowledge, application, and critical thinking and you'll see students improve.

That said, I don't think I use much math beyond the stuff you learn in elementary school, except maybe some geometry now and then, and I think that's probably a pretty typical thing. Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives. Their definitely not using trig or calculus, unless they pursued careers that use those things. The problem is, the author's argument can be applied to lots of subjects. People don't need history everyday, either, but that doesn't mean those subjects aren't valuable.
 
2012-07-30 03:06:53 PM
They're, not their. Damn.
 
2012-07-30 03:12:03 PM
 
2012-07-30 03:15:49 PM
I was told there would be no approved links about this subject
 
2012-07-30 03:17:59 PM
As much as I hated algebra (and still do), I wouldn't want to abandon teaching it. Geometry is useful, statistics can be useful. However, forcing pre-calc and college algebra on college students that will never need either is a waste.
 
2012-07-30 03:20:12 PM

slayer199: As much as I hated algebra (and still do), I wouldn't want to abandon teaching it. Geometry is useful, statistics can be useful. However, forcing pre-calc and college algebra on college students that will never need either is a waste.


Forcing the Red Badge of Courage and the Great Gatsby on students is a waste also. Have you ever need to know anything about those books?
 
2012-07-30 03:21:21 PM
LAUGHTER OL if you cannot understand the simple algebra then you do not deserve to get to second base at all. That clasps are on the front of those silly.
 
2012-07-30 03:23:30 PM

meow said the dog: LAUGHTER OL if you cannot understand the simple algebra then you do not deserve to get to second base at all. That clasps are on the front of those silly.


Why would algae wear a bra? They have no boobies.
 
2012-07-30 03:26:13 PM
I went into that article thinking you could get rid of algebra if you replaced it with something more relevant like statistics.

The nation would be much better off if everyone had a basic understanding of stats.
 
2012-07-30 03:35:53 PM

slayer199: As much as I hated algebra (and still do), I wouldn't want to abandon teaching it. Geometry is useful, statistics can be useful. However, forcing pre-calc and college algebra on college students that will never need either is a waste.


I disagree - a university degree should (but usually doesn't) indicate a person with a well-rounded education.

Allowing people to focus exclusively on their degree is job training, not university education. You end up wit scientists who can't write, and historians who can't analyze data.
 
2012-07-30 03:45:57 PM
It's not that we teach too much math, it just seems like a third of every year of math is spent reviewing the previous year. If we'd just go with a "get it or don't" mentality, we might be able to teach something useful someday.
 
2012-07-30 03:54:42 PM
John P. Smith III, an educational psychologist at Michigan State University who has studied math education, has found that "mathematical reasoning in workplaces differs markedly from the algorithms taught in school."

No shiat. That's because you aren't supposed to learn the algorithms; you're supposed to learn how abstraction and reasoning lead to the algorithms. We don't need any more people in the workforce who are experts in applying the quadratic formula, but that simply isn't the point. Mathematical reasoning in workplaces takes the form of abstraction and identification of relationships between abstractions. These are the skills you are supposed to begin to develop in high school "algebra" and geometry. And if you can't, you should be a barrista or some kind of clerk. You have no business making decisions. Or you could be a political science professor, who's work depends heavily on numbers he doesn't understand. You could do that, too.
 
2012-07-30 03:54:47 PM

Babwa Wawa: I went into that article thinking you could get rid of algebra if you replaced it with something more relevant like statistics.

The nation would be much better off if everyone had a basic understanding of stats.


Wait. How exactly do you propose to teach statistics without algebra?
 
2012-07-30 03:56:04 PM

EvilEgg: Forcing the Red Badge of Courage and the Great Gatsby on students is a waste also. Have you ever need to know anything about those books?


Nope. But reading/writing skills > math in the real world (unless you actually have a job that requires and uses arithmetic).

I never said there shouldn't be a math class requirement in college. I said pre-calc and college alegbra were a waste of time for most people (especially pre-calc). There are plenty of math classes that would be more useful (statistics, financial economics) and would still allow for students to receive a well-rounded education.
 
2012-07-30 03:58:40 PM
The problem, in my opinion, is not with Algrebra, but with math education in this country, starting from grade school on. In college I had many classes in common with Education majors, and with virtual unanimity they complained about how hard it was to pass basic college math courses, and that what they taught wasn't necessary in life. Several of then went on to become math teachers, because that's what was hiring.

These people had no facility for or appreciation of mathematics, and simply acted as parrots for textbook course plans designed to have the fewest kids fail the standardized tests. Any time a kid had a conceptual problem, they simply could not help because they did not understand the theory, either. And any time a kid showed a facility for mathematics and a desire to learn more, they had nothing to give, thus potentially stifling a future mathematician.

In my opinion the solution is to make teaching a respectably paid vocation, such that it will attract people who could easily get work in the business sector, but might choose to become teachers if it didn't mean settling for a life of extraordinarily limited earning potential.
 
2012-07-30 04:07:53 PM

wingedkat: Babwa Wawa: I went into that article thinking you could get rid of algebra if you replaced it with something more relevant like statistics.

The nation would be much better off if everyone had a basic understanding of stats.

Wait. How exactly do you propose to teach statistics without algebra?


I get your point, but my point would be (from my experience in high school in the 1990s) is that most everything is taught much more rote than practical real-world situations. Yeah, you need some rote learning (2x - 4 = -3... solve for x)... but it would be better to move on to some sample real world situations.

As a completely random example, but something that irks me personally... so many people cannot uderstand crime statistics. Not even to the point of understanding that per capita must be applied to any number, or its generally meaningless. Of course thats basic division, not even algebra.

All in all I just remember never having real-world situations taught to me in high school.
 
2012-07-30 04:10:53 PM

Kimothy: Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives.


Hamburger meat is $2.99 a pound, how much is three pounds?

Oh shiat! You just used algebra!
 
2012-07-30 04:14:53 PM

wingedkat: Wait. How exactly do you propose to teach statistics without algebra?


downstairs pretty much captured it. Yes, college-level stats course would and should need at least some foundation in algebra. But not all stats, and certainly not all interpretation of statistics needs an algebraic foundation. And interpretation of stats is something that everyone in every walk of life can benefit from.

I suppose my suggestion would be having statistics drive the education around algebra.
 
2012-07-30 04:18:41 PM

Thoguh: Kimothy: Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives.

Hamburger meat is $2.99 a pound, how much is three pounds?

Oh shiat! You just used algebra!


That's applied arithmetic (multiplication).
 
2012-07-30 04:25:49 PM
The guy who wrote that is a Political Science professor.

Who's subject matter is useless?

And there is no "Science" in political science, the only reason it gets the word "science" in the subject is because of politics.
 
2012-07-30 04:29:01 PM

Thoguh: Kimothy: Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives.

Hamburger meat is $2.99 a pound, how much is three pounds?


$4.71
 
2012-07-30 04:29:51 PM

Babwa Wawa: Thoguh: Kimothy: Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives.

Hamburger meat is $2.99 a pound, how much is three pounds?

Oh shiat! You just used algebra!

That's applied arithmetic (multiplication).


Total cost is 3X, where X is the price per pound. You have to use algebra to know where to plug in the variables.
 
2012-07-30 04:29:52 PM

Thoguh: Kimothy: Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives.

Hamburger meat is $2.99 a pound, how much is three pounds?

Oh shiat! You just used algebra!


This is an algebraic word problem:

Meat is $2.99/lb. Last week it was 15% less, and you could afford 3 pounds. How much money did you have last week.

And that's elementary algebra - I don't think anyone here is arguing that you don't need that level of education. Certainly the author didn't argue that. The question is whether people need to actually master abstract algebra in order to graduate HS.

I personally think the requirement is a bit weird - sure you want people heading off to university to have no less than trig, and you'll probably want calc once you get there.

But if someone just wants to go to nursing school or whatever, a mastery of basic stats is far more useful than a mastery of abstract algebra
 
2012-07-30 04:41:01 PM

downstairs: As a completely random example, but something that irks me personally... so many people cannot uderstand crime statistics. Not even to the point of understanding that per capita must be applied to any number, or its generally meaningless. Of course thats basic division, not even algebra.


Yeah, they do teach algebra abysmally in most places. After all, the understanding of when to apply basic division is something generally gained by learning algebra (or should be, at least).

I think two big changes need to be made:

1. Math majors shouldn't teach math.
2. Algebra, geometry, etc needs to be taught along with all the basics way back in grade school. Algebra especially is basically just math grammar, nothing that should be pulled out and made a big deal of.
 
2012-07-30 04:42:45 PM
I hope that mathematics departments can also create courses in the history and philosophy of their discipline, as well as its applications in early cultures. Why not mathematics in art and music - even poetry

no
there is no need to teach ANY of these useless topics. history? worthless. science? useless. philosophy is for morons. literature, writing, reading? only librarians would need these useless skillz.

school should require only recess, lunch, sex, internet stuff and how to get cheat codes for video games.

/LOLOLOLOL I love when morons think that the topics that they hate are worthless
 
2012-07-30 04:44:45 PM

Thoguh: Babwa Wawa: Thoguh: Kimothy: Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives.

Hamburger meat is $2.99 a pound, how much is three pounds?

Oh shiat! You just used algebra!

That's applied arithmetic (multiplication).

Total cost is 3X, where X is the price per pound. You have to use algebra to know where to plug in the variables.


Technically correct but it's no more difficult than those presented to my kids last year (elementary school). The article is about whether you should need to master algebra in order to get a HS diploma.

When people talk about algebra, they usually mean polynomials or something like "find the dimension of a rectangle whose length is 9 less than twice its width if the perimeter is 120 cm."

I don't normally nitpick on terminology, but in this case it's important. Of course the author was not saying that HS grads shouldn't need to be able to solve for x in 2.99 * 3 = x.
 
2012-07-30 04:48:36 PM

EvilEgg: Relevant TED talk


You got there before me.
 
2012-07-30 04:50:18 PM
Better headline: "Yes."
 
2012-07-30 04:50:47 PM

Babwa Wawa: I went into that article thinking you could get rid of algebra if you replaced it with something more relevant like statistics.

The nation would be much better off if everyone had a basic understanding of stats.


Can you really teach statistics without an understanding of algebra?
 
2012-07-30 04:50:56 PM

Babwa Wawa: I suppose my suggestion would be having statistics drive the education around algebra.


That could work. Maybe something more interesting. I'd advocate for a variety of applied math classes, like "interior design" "carpentry" "sports statistics" etc, followed by a mandatory "life statistics and applied probabilities" class of some sort, which would cover population, media, and political statistics. Let people do and learn things that are interesting to them while also learning algebra.

/plan fails when passing standardized tests is the #1 goal
 
2012-07-30 04:51:11 PM
The NYT being dumb? Stop the presses!(literally)
 
2012-07-30 04:52:14 PM
Liberal Arts major typing detected in article.

FTFA: "Andrew Hacker is an emeritus professor of political science at Queens College, City University of New York"

CONFIRMED
 
2012-07-30 04:52:28 PM

EngineerBoy: The problem, in my opinion, is not with Algrebra, but with math education in this country, starting from grade school on. In college I had many classes in common with Education majors, and with virtual unanimity they complained about how hard it was to pass basic college math courses, and that what they taught wasn't necessary in life. Several of then went on to become math teachers, because that's what was hiring.

These people had no facility for or appreciation of mathematics, and simply acted as parrots for textbook course plans designed to have the fewest kids fail the standardized tests. Any time a kid had a conceptual problem, they simply could not help because they did not understand the theory, either. And any time a kid showed a facility for mathematics and a desire to learn more, they had nothing to give, thus potentially stifling a future mathematician.

In my opinion the solution is to make teaching a respectably paid vocation, such that it will attract people who could easily get work in the business sector, but might choose to become teachers if it didn't mean settling for a life of extraordinarily limited earning potential.


IMHO, algebra is too often incorrectly taught as a series of steps rather than a concept.
 
2012-07-30 04:52:49 PM

pciszek: Can you really teach statistics without an understanding of algebra?


You can't teach stats without a basic understanding of algebra. But you can teach basic stats to someone without a complete mastery of algebra. You can also use statistics to drive understanding of algebra.
 
2012-07-30 04:52:49 PM
I am terrible at math. I tried and tried in school, but I just couldn't wrap my head around it. My brain just isn't wired that way. However, I excel when it comes to language and interpretive arts, and I did very well in visual arts. Aside from the occasional grammar-Nazi snark here, I don't put down those who don't do well in English or related fields, because I know my own limits when it comes to math. I had a roommate who admitted he never learned to read, and I helped tutor him until he had at least the basic skills.

The important thing for me is that I was necessarily exposed to both fields. I found I did well in one, and not so much the other; I would expect to find that there are those who excel in math, but maybe not so much in language skills. I don't value them less that anyone else. Indeed, these people are vital in the STEM fields, which our country needs people in now more than ever. This guy's thesis is bunkum.
 
2012-07-30 04:53:46 PM
You can't get rid of algebra. You need it to count to potato.
 
2012-07-30 04:54:31 PM

wingedkat:
1. Math majors shouldn't teach math.



I found some of your homework.

filehurricane.com
 
2012-07-30 04:54:50 PM
If I didn't know algebra, I wouldn't know how to buy enough hot dogs and buns so they would equal up.
 
2012-07-30 04:54:55 PM
I hated math in school and now looking back on it the reason I hated it so much was the way it was taught to me. Funny thing is I did great in science and the math that was taught to me in there. I think it was because I was shown in physical terms how the math worked and could use it. I dunno maybe I just sucked at math I know I was really bad at fractions. Dividing and multiplying them was a nightmare.
 
2012-07-30 04:56:52 PM
cdn.buzznet.com
 
2012-07-30 04:57:03 PM
Problem with american schools? Lack of 2 parents and or lack of involvement.
 
2012-07-30 04:58:00 PM
If critical thinking is a goal of algebra education then we'd probably do better by replacing it with formal and informal logic. It might cut down on the series of fallacies I read on Fark, or what are commonly called arguments by morans.
 
2012-07-30 04:58:09 PM
I would say they do teach too much math and they teach it wrong.

My issue with math was first going from ordinary addition subtraction type stuff to Algebra. It simply throw me off. We should be introducing Algebra at an earlier age.
 
2012-07-30 04:58:16 PM

pciszek: Babwa Wawa: I went into that article thinking you could get rid of algebra if you replaced it with something more relevant like statistics.

The nation would be much better off if everyone had a basic understanding of stats.

Can you really teach statistics without an understanding of algebra?


Probably, yes. I'd argue that that's more of a sociology or political science class than a math class, if you're focusing on interpreting numbers or defining terms.
 
2012-07-30 04:58:52 PM
The aim would be to treat mathematics as a liberal art, making it as accessible and welcoming as sculpture or ballet.
Bwahahahahahah we should BAN art and theater from all schools. Worthless skillz are worthless.
 
2012-07-30 04:59:07 PM

rumpelstiltskin: No shiat. That's because you aren't supposed to learn the algorithms; you're supposed to learn how abstraction and reasoning lead to the algorithms. We don't need any more people in the workforce who are experts in applying the quadratic formula, but that simply isn't the point. Mathematical reasoning in workplaces takes the form of abstraction and identification of relationships between abstractions. These are the skills you are supposed to begin to develop in high school "algebra" and geometry. And if you can't, you should be a barrista or some kind of clerk. You have no business making decisions. Or you could be a political science professor, who's work depends heavily on numbers he doesn't understand. You could do that, too.


+1
The important skills to learn in algebra are how to manipulate numbers, not just how to solve for x. I work in accounting and finance, and while I seldom use actual algebra, I constantly manipulate numbers in ways that I learned while being taught algebra. While algebra itself might be replaceable in schools, some form of intermediate mathematics needs to take its place. I got through Calc2 in college and I have only once used that knowledge for any practical purpose. I would note that I described that application during the interview for the great job/career I have now - so perhaps I should give higher math a bit more credit. Having mathematical skills does make an employee more valuable.
 
2012-07-30 04:59:11 PM

Babwa Wawa: Thoguh: Babwa Wawa: Thoguh: Kimothy: Most people aren't using algebra in their everyday lives.

Hamburger meat is $2.99 a pound, how much is three pounds?

Oh shiat! You just used algebra!

That's applied arithmetic (multiplication).

Total cost is 3X, where X is the price per pound. You have to use algebra to know where to plug in the variables.

Technically correct but it's no more difficult than those presented to my kids last year (elementary school). The article is about whether you should need to master algebra in order to get a HS diploma.

When people talk about algebra, they usually mean polynomials or something like "find the dimension of a rectangle whose length is 9 less than twice its width if the perimeter is 120 cm."

I don't normally nitpick on terminology, but in this case it's important. Of course the author was not saying that HS grads shouldn't need to be able to solve for x in 2.99 * 3 = x.


I would defend my statement, but Baba Waba did a pretty good job of that. I could have used different terminology, but I still stand by my statement, most people do not use algebra in everyday lives. Answering for x in the above example is basic elementary word problems. Most people can figure that out, it's applied mathematics. But algebraic concepts like quadratic equations? Not used.

I'm not arguing that algebra shouldn't be taught - I said the problem was with the way it's currently taught, with an emphasis on testing, not application.
 
2012-07-30 04:59:51 PM
A huge part of the problem is that math isn't being taught correctly, even by the (many) good teachers out there. I spent far too much time in math classes working on the "theory", the "whys" of math, and little time on the practical application thereof.

For example: No one (and I mean NO ONE) cares "why" 2+2=4, or "why" limits and log functions work the way that they do. Why are spending half of a test writing proofs for these concepts? We should be using those tests to apply the ideas to problems, and find reality-based ways to solve them.

Also, while I understand the pervasiveness of calculators and computers today (my TI83 got me through Trig and Calc), calculators need to stay out of the classroom until at least high school. I'm not a math whiz, but I can make change in my head. When the power went out in the WalMart I worked at in College, half of the cashiers had to use their phones to calculate change amounts because they couldn't do it manually.
 
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