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(The New York Times)   The problem with American schools is that they teach too much math   (nytimes.com ) divider line
    More: Stupid, Americans, Appalachian State University, Advanced Placement, university system, City University London, trigonometry, School of Medicine, high schools  
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18763 clicks; posted to Main » on 30 Jul 2012 at 4:44 PM (3 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-07-30 05:21:20 PM  
He is farking joking. Right?
 
2012-07-30 05:22:39 PM  

Voiceofreason01: conceptual level how to solve that problem


a: apply brakes

or

b: JUMP!
 
2012-07-30 05:23:53 PM  

Graffito: Kimothy: Their definitely not using trig or calculus, unless they pursued careers that use those things.

My brother cannot understand the different between growth at a slower rate and shrinking. This impacts his ability to understand all manner of social and economic issues. Even if you don't solve trig and calculus problems everyday, mastering those concepts allows you to better understand the world around you.


Most farkers don't understand the difference either. Thus the Politics tab.
 
2012-07-30 05:24:10 PM  

TheBeastOfYuccaFlats: 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.

Maybe, but everyone should be forced to take Probability and Stats in college.

/hell, in HS


Poker teaches those and additional useful life skills.
 
2012-07-30 05:24:42 PM  

Kimothy: 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.


I'll bet you use algebra more than you think. Any time you see a package of 10 somethings for y dollars you might think about how each one of those things costs y/10. That's algebra, Bud.
 
2012-07-30 05:25:29 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.


Totally agree about stats! Especially considering the fact that 95% of the statistics publicly presented are completely made up.
 
2012-07-30 05:25:45 PM  
I got to the line in the article with the nerd snipe, and I stopped reading. It was very difficult, but I also refrained from doing the math.

/WTF is wrong with these morons that can't understand basic algebra?
 
2012-07-30 05:25:55 PM  
I would say that we teach advanced mathematics (beyond "counting out change") because by the time one student out of fifty decides he wants to study something actually challenging, it's too late to start teaching him real math. If everyone gets algebra crammed into their skulls in middle school, the ones who discover they need calculus and statistics in high school will be ready to take them.
 
2012-07-30 05:26:28 PM  

wingedkat:
I guess, you could make it like a detective story:
"A detective is investigating a robbery and the suspect was seen leaving the supermarket and throwing away the receipt, which would have his finger prints. There are 4 receipts, but they only indicate the price spent/item. The clerk doesn't remember the price of the meat, but does remember that the suspect bought 3 pounds of beef, currently $3.99. There was a 15% sale on all items in the store which ended recently. Which receipt has the suspect's fingerprints?"

That's probably too long and complicated, but at least more interesting.


This fits in the narrative better, and also makes detail important to the story/problem.

/No more word problems with Ida and Susan building quadrilateral walls around their garden.
 
2012-07-30 05:26:33 PM  

downstairs: wingedkat: Babwa Wawa: Yeah, you need some rote learning (2x - 4 = -3... solve for x)...


X = 1/2
 
2012-07-30 05:26:47 PM  
University education, especially liberal arts education, is more important than you might think. Requiring engineering students to learn a foreign language and understand philosophy makes them better engineers because it allows them to think about things in different ways (at a potentially fundamental level), as well as just making them better people in general. Besides, engineers need to be able to write well and read well to perform research.

Also, many 18 year olds don't even know what they want to do yet. Some aren't even aware that there are options out there. I know plenty of people who started out as CS majors and turned into pure math majors, or EEs or philosphy majors (and not just to get an "easy degree"). I'm lucky in that I've known what I wanted to do for as long as I can remember, but that's not true for everyone.

If you only want to take classes that are relevant to your career, fine, go to ITT Tech. The problem is that you'll miss out on the whole universe of knowledge and information that would have (a) made your life richer and (b) made you a better network engineer in incalcuable (but real) ways.
 
2012-07-30 05:27:13 PM  

Kimothy: Reduce the emphasis on testing and emphasize actual knowledge, application, and critical thinking and you'll see students improve.


I absolutely agree. This is where Montessori school excels -- the kids not only understand the concepts behind math in an intuitive way, they tend to like the subject.
 
2012-07-30 05:28:00 PM  

Lord Dimwit: 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.


I had a music teacher in seventh grade who decided to lecture the class on the need for attaining a well-rounded education (just to be clear, I actually agree with the sentiment). His example was that we could compute the odds of winning the pick-4 lottery by multiplying 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24, so its 1 in 24. In summary:

1) He completely botched the math (the real odds are 1 in 10,000)
2) Based on this math, he came to the wrong conclusion (If the jackpot were anything over $24, and we used his math, we'd be buying as many lottery tickets as we could)

Even at age 12, the stupid hurt.
 
2012-07-30 05:28:26 PM  

mr lawson: Voiceofreason01: conceptual level how to solve that problem

a: apply brakes

or

b: JUMP!


At what point will brake application result in insufficient reduction of momentum to avoid collision requiring you to calculate the proper trajectory and starting velocity in which to disembark the train with statistically the least likely result being farked up beyond all recognition?
 
2012-07-30 05:28:48 PM  

slayer199: 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.


I had to take college bound English before I went to college to major in Engineering. You can take a little bit of math, cupcake. It won't kill you.
 
2012-07-30 05:29:22 PM  
Interesting problem I saw on Youtube the other day.

If you are traveling at 80mph, how long would it take to travel 80 miles? Take into consideration all factors such as rotation speed of the tires and the average running velocity of a human being.
 
2012-07-30 05:29:46 PM  

umad: slayer199: 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.

I had to take college bound English before I went to college to major in Engineering. You can take a little bit of math, cupcake. It won't kill you.


Tell that to number nine. There's a reason seven is scared of him.
 
2012-07-30 05:30:22 PM  

Lord Dimwit: umad: slayer199: 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.

I had to take college bound English before I went to college to major in Engineering. You can take a little bit of math, cupcake. It won't kill you.

Tell that to number nine. There's a reason seven is scared of him.


Dammit. You know what I meant.
 
2012-07-30 05:30:23 PM  

FloydA: 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


BZZZZT! Incorrect! The correct answer in the liberal agenda education system is: MEAT IS MURDER!!!
 
2012-07-30 05:30:26 PM  

Lord Dimwit: LordOfThePings: Lord Dimwit: My high school honors (!) geometry teacher told me that pi is an irrational number because we can't measure it because we can't draw a perfect circle. If we could draw a perfect circle, the exact value of pi would be known.

Duuuuude! Your teacher ever share the bong?

And just to be clear, I mean that she thought that pi was irrational because every time we measure a circle, our measurements are slightly off. She thought there was a finite decimal expansion of pi, we just hadn't discovered it yet.

I stopped paying attention in class after that.


It's really just a matter of notation. Pi = 10 (base pi)
 
2012-07-30 05:30:37 PM  
up-ship.com

Gotta give it to the NYT, they know how to troll the interpopulace. First the "Should we do journalism?" article. Then the "Journalism is hard" article. Now this.
 
2012-07-30 05:30:52 PM  

AverageAmericanGuy: Interesting problem I saw on Youtube the other day.

If you are traveling at 80mph, how long would it take to travel 80 miles? Take into consideration all factors such as rotation speed of the tires and the average running velocity of a human being.


That's exactly the sort of question you see on those late night talk show "humiliate the man on the street" segments, and I'm amazed people get that kind of stuff wrong.
 
2012-07-30 05:31:20 PM  
"The problem with American schools is that they don't teach too much math anything to anyone"

FIFY

I went overseas to an international school for my sophomore year in high school. It was waaaaay harder than my HS here in the states (I guess those damn Europeans wanted their kids to be educated or something). When I returned for my junior year, I discovered that my Sophomore English text book over there was the Senior AP English text here.

That was 30 years ago, and it's only gotten worse.
 
2012-07-30 05:31:42 PM  
 
2012-07-30 05:33:39 PM  
FTFA: "But it's not easy to see why potential poets and philosophers face a lofty mathematics bar."

disagree completely. math is prerequisite to coherent philosophical reasoning.
 
2012-07-30 05:34:03 PM  

Surool: "The problem with American schools is that they don't teach too much math anything to anyone"

FIFY

I went overseas to an international school for my sophomore year in high school. It was waaaaay harder than my HS here in the states (I guess those damn Europeans wanted their kids to be educated or something). When I returned for my junior year, I discovered that my Sophomore English text book over there was the Senior AP English text here.

That was 30 years ago, and it's only gotten worse.


And I bet kids were held back if they couldn't pass too.
 
2012-07-30 05:34:12 PM  
Yes, by all means let's volunteer to become more ignorant.
 
2012-07-30 05:34:16 PM  

MooseUpNorth: It should be noted that a BSc-Math degree doesn't qualify one to start an elementary certification program under typical state NCLB standards. You would need an extra year or so of general arts credits beyond your degree to qualify. Basically, you'd have to hybrid into the equivalent of a BA (Math). Math majors generally certify at middle or high school.

The converse is not true. One or two math credits are sufficient for an Arts or History major.

Worse, most teacher college professors appear to have been drawn from the huge pool of English/History majors. You're very lucky if you have a math or science background professor who can teach that aspect of education to the elementary school teacher candidates.


No no, I don't want liberal arts majors teaching math. I want science, engineering, and accounting majors to teach math.

The problem with the way we teach math is that it propagates itself... people who are capable of understanding it the way it is currently taught do well, learn to love it, study it in college, then go on to teach it the same way they learned it, leaving far too many of the students confused as to how it could ever be useful in their lives. I want to break the cycle, let people learned math to use it because it works teach it.

I don't advocate those programs that grab random engineers, give them a month's course in "how to teach", and throw them into problem schools. Teaching is a hard skill, and requires a lot more than just knowledge of the subject matter.

I just think "I Love Math" > "Math Major" > "Mathematics Education" is more often a bad idea than a good one.
 
2012-07-30 05:34:36 PM  

All_Farked_Up: Surool: "The problem with American schools is that they don't teach too much math anything to anyone"

FIFY

I went overseas to an international school for my sophomore year in high school. It was waaaaay harder than my HS here in the states (I guess those damn Europeans wanted their kids to be educated or something). When I returned for my junior year, I discovered that my Sophomore English text book over there was the Senior AP English text here.

That was 30 years ago, and it's only gotten worse.

And I bet kids were held back if they couldn't pass too.


Yup. Those were the days...
 
2012-07-30 05:35:09 PM  

Surool: "The problem with American schools is that they don't teach too much math anything to anyone"

FIFY

I went overseas to an international school for my sophomore year in high school. It was waaaaay harder than my HS here in the states (I guess those damn Europeans wanted their kids to be educated or something). When I returned for my junior year, I discovered that my Sophomore English text book over there was the Senior AP English text here.

That was 30 years ago, and it's only gotten worse.


What the deuce are they teaching in math that's so hard? HS level math is fairly trivial. Fark man, my second year integrals course in University - there's nooo way you could teach that in HS.

I suppose they could teach matrices. OTOH they're pretty easy but very useful.
 
2012-07-30 05:35:16 PM  
I'm taking college algebra (and have a solid A going 2 days from the final) so I'm getting a kick out of these replies. Wish I'd have done it earlier in life, but I -really- hated being shown something, understanding it, and being told I needed to do it 50 more times every night. Fark that method, I like this one better...here's some problems to try, solutions are in the back so if you get stuck, you can figure out why that answer is the right one.

There is a quiz at the beginning of class covering the previous day's stuff. If you didn't quite have it when you left and didn't work some problems that night, you're going to be screwed. If you did understand, and didn't have to work the problems, you'll be golden. I think that's a better model, at least for me it is.

/There is, no shiat, a middle schooler in my class-had to get instructor permission because they're too young to enroll at the university for HS credit.
//Yes, it's an Asian kid.
 
2012-07-30 05:35:31 PM  

LordOfThePings: [img189.imageshack.us image 400x433]


2/(x+1)
 
2012-07-30 05:35:39 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 use the computer for all my math and language translation needs.

"As far as what he hates algebra (and still do), I would not give up teaching. Engineering is a useful statistics can be useful. However, before forcing Calculate College Faculty and students of algebra than ever in need of either a waste."

Run it thru a few languages and it comes out just perfect. Sea ?
 
2012-07-30 05:36:42 PM  

rumpelstiltskin: 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.


I agree that it isn't about solving specific complex problems. There are people with a home project, like remodelling a bathroom, that can't do the simplest of mathematical reasoning. How much tile is needed? How about paint? What angle should I cut this board? I can't imagine going through life without the math skills I have. It'd be like not being able to read.
 
2012-07-30 05:37:18 PM  

ElLoco: 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.

That's funny... I was just having a discussion maybe 2 days ago about the reasoning behind why stats isn't a required part of a high school education. Not necessarily a whole semester of stats, but all the basics. I even discussed a single semester of algebra and stats combined. Advanced material from either one of them is all but useless to most students, but the basics learned from both carry on to a number of things in the job market that are not science related.


The difficulty is that survey-level stats is about as useful as pre-calculus physics -- can may be able to memorize the formulae, but you don't have the first clue where they come from, why, or what they mean. Stats really requires and understanding of calculus, and is often even opaque with that.
 
2012-07-30 05:38:01 PM  

wingedkat: Because People in power are Stupid: wingedkat:
1. Math majors shouldn't teach math.

I found some of your homework.

[filehurricane.com image 494x371]

hmm.... uh huh... yeah, turns out I don't see what you did there.

It would make more sense if you had not made it *my* homework.


hmm... uh huh... yeah, turns out that I don't care about who you are.

You said something fundamentally stupid, so I objectified you as someone who would put a fundamentally stupid answer on a math test... possibly because you are 'living the dream' of having people who don't understand math teach it to you.

But this objection that it doesn't really apply to you is moot because (as earlier stated) I don't really care about you or want to know that you are an AP Political Science major *.

* Or something

Here's some more

edge.ebaumsworld.com
 
2012-07-30 05:39:28 PM  
Christ, did a cow crap in here? Figures the article would come from a liberal arts major. Know what, take David Copperfield and shove it up your bung hole! If you can't learn a concept that is a few hundred years old, you're an idiot. Math, at its core, is about problem solving whether it is useful for you in life or not, it builds cognitive skills in looking at a problem, breaking it down and finding a solution. It trains the brain to solve problems. Painting happy trees every day will not help you tackle problems you might encounter in the workplace (though they will make your cubicle friendlier).
 
2012-07-30 05:39:34 PM  
www.anonymouspundit.com
 
2012-07-30 05:39:35 PM  
School teaches you a bunch of mathematical operations, like adding, multiplying, integrating, etc. While useful in their own right, it leaves a bit of a gap in math-like thinking. The entire purpose of math is to make things easier, not more difficult. I think students need more examples of how math makes complex problems easier to describe, instead of solely increasing the repertoire of operations they know how to perform.
 
2012-07-30 05:39:36 PM  

degenerate-afro: Sticky Hands: fark it.
the Chinese have won.

Not as long as Raptor Regan has a say in matters

[i.imgur.com image 850x478]

The communists will never succeed!


I love how it's supposed to be a "America, Fark Yeah!" pic, but he's wielding a german SMG and has a russian RPG on his back.
Communism strikes again!

/the velociraptor is mad cool, though
 
2012-07-30 05:40:51 PM  

Because People in power are Stupid: wingedkat: Because People in power are Stupid: wingedkat:
1. Math majors shouldn't teach math.

I found some of your homework.

[filehurricane.com image 494x371]

hmm.... uh huh... yeah, turns out I don't see what you did there.

It would make more sense if you had not made it *my* homework.

hmm... uh huh... yeah, turns out that I don't care about who you are.

You said something fundamentally stupid, so I objectified you as someone who would put a fundamentally stupid answer on a math test... possibly because you are 'living the dream' of having people who don't understand math teach it to you.

But this objection that it doesn't really apply to you is moot because (as earlier stated) I don't really care about you or want to know that you are an AP Political Science major *.

* Or something

Here's some more

[edge.ebaumsworld.com image 400x216]


I find those to be creative (and accurate, in a sense) answers to math questions that might be given by liberal arts majors. I wonder if there are similar answers to English problems submitted by math majors.
 
2012-07-30 05:40:53 PM  

nacho cheese sauce: FTFA: "But it's not easy to see why potential poets and philosophers face a lofty mathematics bar."

disagree completely. math is prerequisite to coherent philosophical reasoning.


Next you'll tell me that Achilles could catch a tortoise if he gave it a head start.
 
2012-07-30 05:41:10 PM  
(_8(|)

@@@@:-)
 
2012-07-30 05:41:18 PM  
Instead of math, they should teach Chinese. So at least you'll be able to understand your Overlords in 10 years.
 
2012-07-30 05:41:21 PM  

umad: I had to take college bound English before I went to college to major in Engineering. You can take a little bit of math, cupcake. It won't kill you.


Taking statistics would be much more useful for non-STEM students throughout their lives. Pre-calc is a waste of time if you are not going to learn calculus. Taking a college bound English course before majoring in Engineering seems useful. I've met a lot of engineers who couldn't write coherent instructions and some who bragged about never reading, even in college.
The point is not to avoid math, but to teach useful math skills, which means calculus for some and statistics for others.
 
2012-07-30 05:42:03 PM  
FTA: "And if there is a shortage of STEM graduates, an equally crucial issue is how many available positions there are for men and women with these skills. A January 2012 analysis from the Georgetown center found 7.5 percent unemployment for engineering graduates and 8.2 percent among computer scientists. "

Let's see... bust your balls taking the hardest courses, the most units (and some of the highest debt because you don't have time to work) and still get paid like sh*t while watching your back (if you can even find a job) because your idiot potential employers would rather H1-B or outsource your ass as soon as they can... or skate though taking business courses, have a life and work on Wall Street for moar money than gawd...

decisions, decisions...
/college kids can do cost-benefit analysis too
 
2012-07-30 05:42:19 PM  

weiserfireman: I think that we have been trying to find "easier" ways to teach math for over 40 years

Evidence is that for the most part, the easier ways are failures.

The key to being good at math is the same as being good at reading. You have to do it and do it and do it and do it. In other words, those old fashioned work books that were full of excercise problems are the way to go. Teach the concept, show some sample problems, have the students do 20 problems over night. Check their work, if they don't have the idea, find common threads in the lack of understanding, assign 50 more problems designed to address the problems. Check them the next day, if they have it, go to the next concept.

The other problem is that many teachers, especially at the elementary level, don't really understand math well enough to understand whether their students get it or not, much less why they don't get it.


This is how I learn math down to a tee. Understand the ideas and methodology, and then practice the heck out of it until it clicks. After a little while I tend to get a a ha moment and it is easily understood from then on.

Most people at college didn't want to sit down and practice. They wanted a life and chase girls. I was married, so that wasn't a problem.
 
2012-07-30 05:42:40 PM  

wingedkat: Ah, so this is an argument about degrees of algebra.


Yeah - technically my kids were taught basic algebra in first grade. This is about how much algebra should be required in order to graduate high school.

Mimic_Octopus: there are no scientists that cant write.


Horseshiat. I used to work with a floor full of PhDs who couldn't write their way out of a paper bag.
 
2012-07-30 05:43:05 PM  
Hopefully you are talking about Abstract Algebra. If you are taking Elementary Algebra in college you are a dumb ass.
 
2012-07-30 05:43:07 PM  

pushpinder: Christ, did a cow crap in here? Figures the article would come from a liberal arts major. Know what, take David Copperfield and shove it up your bung hole! If you can't learn a concept that is a few hundred years old, you're an idiot. Math, at its core, is about problem solving whether it is useful for you in life or not, it builds cognitive skills in looking at a problem, breaking it down and finding a solution. It trains the brain to solve problems. Painting happy trees every day will not help you tackle problems you might encounter in the workplace (though they will make your cubicle friendlier).


This ^^
 
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