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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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18735 clicks; posted to Main » on 30 Jul 2012 at 4:44 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-07-30 06:11:12 PM  

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


I don't understand how you could teach stats without algebra, so here's a picture of a book that teaches The Calculus without limits:

i158.photobucket.com
 
2012-07-30 06:11:50 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.


How on Earth do you plan on teaching stats to kids who can't do algebra?
 
2012-07-30 06:12:48 PM  

EvilEgg: Relevant TED talk


The correct answer is you go to the right lane because paying takes more than 4 times the time scanning an item does, giving us: (3 + 5 + 2 + 1)x + 4(4x) > 19x + 4x. Pay attention and you'll notice that scanning an item is done in a second or two while paying (cash and plastic) takes up at least 10 seconds. Switching tasks (scanning to processing the payment to going back to scanning) takes some time to, which should be added as should people who aren't moving on. But for simplicity's sake I left those out.
 
2012-07-30 06:13:18 PM  
There are a number of draconian mathematical concepts that are taught for little reason.

Algebra is not one of these concepts.
 
2012-07-30 06:13:37 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!


No, you just multiplied by 3. That's not algebra, its basic arithmetic
 
2012-07-30 06:14:09 PM  

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

I don't understand how you could teach stats without algebra, so here's a picture of a book that teaches The Calculus without limits:

[i158.photobucket.com image 640x819]


or better yet..

ck-12 org
 
2012-07-30 06:15:31 PM  

Gyrfalcon: buckler: 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.

Math doesn't have "creative" answers, dear. Math is. You can be as "creative" as you want, but 2+2 must ALWAYS equal 4. And in an equation where 2 + x = 4, solve for x, the answer better not be, "Well, if you consider that 2 is a relative number, depending on whether you're talking about two people having sex and one of their partners is in the closet spying on them, it could really be three, so my answer is three."

The ability to think "outside the box" doesn't count in hard science.


When I say "accurate", I mean in the sense that the answers may not make sense from a mathematics point of view, they make perfect sense from a language point of view. It's the clash of two disciplines.
 
2012-07-30 06:16:09 PM  

Sticky Hands: fark it.
the Chinese have won.


Only until you need to think up something original. Then you need a Westerner, and preferably, an American.
 
2012-07-30 06:16:31 PM  

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

I don't understand how you could teach stats without algebra, so here's a picture of a book that teaches The Calculus without limits:

[i158.photobucket.com image 640x819]

or better yet..

ck-12 org


This book has limits in the first chapter. Isaac Newton would be displeased.
 
2012-07-30 06:16:47 PM  

KrispyKritter: i regret not being proficient with numbers. it has cost me greatly in life, in both dollars and hobbies like music.

/a million Brazilian dollars


$489,799.09
 
2012-07-30 06:16:48 PM  

Oznog: red5ish: Russky: A study from Georgetown University listed the five college majors with the highest unemployment rates (crossed against popularity): clinical psychology, 19.5%; miscellaneous fine arts, 16.2%; United States history, 15.1%; library science, 15.0%; and military technologies and educational psychology are tied at 10.9%.

Unemployment rates for STEM subjects? Astrophysics/astronomy, just about 0%; geological and geophysics engineering, 0% as well; physical science, 2.5%; geosciences, 3.2%; and math/computer science, 3.5%.

Do they also publish the % of people graduating in these disciplines? You don't even need to study statistics to know that without that information the above figures are meaningless. Take for example a case where 100% of all graduates are engineers; wouldn't a larger percentage of them be unemployed? All you're doing is giving an example of supply and demand.

"LIBRARY SCIENCE"?? How is that even a thing? Libraries are already obsolete. We don't organize information this way anymore. I'm not saying that in any way we don't NEED books, but we don't get physical books out of a lending library. Even publishers don't care for that anymore. I don't see any use for a "Library Scientist" unless the term is grossly misleading and describes something else altogether.


The term is grossly misleading and describes something else altogether in many ways. Don't kid yourself though, there are still huge libraries that require librarians, and a lot of library science is learning how to do research which is quite useful.
 
2012-07-30 06:17:04 PM  

dopekitty74: 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!

No, you just multiplied by 3. That's not algebra, its basic arithmetic


x = 2.99

3x = ?

/yup, no algebra there!
 
2012-07-30 06:18:06 PM  

mr lawson: welders can make a heck of a lot more than that


But on average, they don't. Regardless, the point is that if you don't want a well-rounded education and just want to learn a trade, there are trade schools available. Colleges are not and should not be in the business of cranking out tradesmen.

However, if you want to be one of the big-timers - a Fortune 500 CEO, a neurosurgeon, a high-powered lawyer - you need a strong, well-rounded background and a flexible mind and that's what colleges are for. Colleges give you those things by exposing you to a wide variety of topics that require a wide variety of mental skills to understand and absorb. Part of that involves maths that you may not, ultimately, have any practical use for. The point isn't the maths, that point is the exposure to that sort of thinking so that you have that general flexibility.

Higher level math should be taught in public school to expose kids to their options. It should be taught across all college programs to some extent to expose students to the type of thinking required. To argue that it should be pulled back because some people aren't good at it is absurd. The purpose of high school and college isn't good grades.
 
2012-07-30 06:18:53 PM  

red5ish: Russky: A study from Georgetown University listed the five college majors with the highest unemployment rates (crossed against popularity): clinical psychology, 19.5%; miscellaneous fine arts, 16.2%; United States history, 15.1%; library science, 15.0%; and military technologies and educational psychology are tied at 10.9%.

Unemployment rates for STEM subjects? Astrophysics/astronomy, just about 0%; geological and geophysics engineering, 0% as well; physical science, 2.5%; geosciences, 3.2%; and math/computer science, 3.5%.

Do they also publish the % of people graduating in these disciplines? You don't even need to study statistics to know that without that information the above figures are meaningless. Take for example a case where 100% of all graduates are engineers; wouldn't a larger percentage of them be unemployed? All you're doing is giving an example of supply and demand.


It's a mistake to view this exclusively in the light of % of people getting JOBS exclusively in that discipline. You don't score the value of people knowing history by the % of jobs created in the "History" field.

One thing I heard Sandra Day O'Connor lament on the Daily Show was that NCLB had placed value exclusively on math and reading, to the detriment of civics. Consequently it appears fewer and fewer people understand the basic structure of US govt, that the POTUS does not direct the Supreme Court, nor does he "make laws". And that "activist judges" is truly an absurd term indicative of a basic misunderstanding of the Judicial Branch. "Activist Judges" determined the very principle of segregation was inconsistent with the US Constitution, despite a quagmire of laws created by Legislative and signed by Executive, all with popular support. To say that they should not overrule Legislative/Executive decisions is to nullify their basic check-and-balance power and basically say that "a law cannot be wrong", because legislature is infallible. Like the Pope.
 
2012-07-30 06:18:54 PM  
Also, I read the headline in this guy's voice:
images.hollywood.com
 
2012-07-30 06:19:09 PM  

saintstryfe: Sticky Hands: fark it.
the Chinese have won.

Only until you need to think up something original. Then you need a Westerner, and preferably, an American.


This is true. Not strictly a "Westerner", though, someone of Northern European heritage.
 
2012-07-30 06:19:25 PM  
Algebra and Computers are racist.
 
2012-07-30 06:20:03 PM  
I taught part-time (homework center help) at a small college where the students were by and large unimpressive.

The ones who needed the most help were in what I guess was basic algebra. Fractions with variables, stuff like that.

It's really, really hard to teach factoring to kids who have trouble grasping negative numbers. I'm still stumped at how to explain it, since to me it's been an intuitive / guess and check sorta thing.
 
2012-07-30 06:20:08 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.


This.

As someone in a STEM field, have I used "algebra" much in my career? No. Have I used deductive logic that was introduced to me at a young age through the vehicle of Algebra? Yes, hourly.
 
2012-07-30 06:20:31 PM  

andrewagill: This book has limits in the first chapter. Isaac Newton would be displeased.


Nah. he would be very pleased. Newton wuz no pussy!
YO! He wuz badazz, bro.
/unlike kids today.
 
2012-07-30 06:20:36 PM  

Grand_Moff_Joseph:
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.


Might want to be careful about slinging around absolutes there. I certainly agree that most people don't care, but I certainly enjoyed learning the 'why's behind that wonderful logic system we call math in my theoretical math courses in college. Definitely agree that there's no point in bringing it up earlier, tho, especially in lieu of more practically-based math.
 
2012-07-30 06:20:38 PM  

moravaman: Algebra and Computers are racist.


baptistplanet.wordpress.com
 
2012-07-30 06:21:30 PM  

Explodo: 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.


No, that's division. A basic math skill, generally taught by fourth grade or so.

/Again, not saying we don't need to be teaching algebra - we should - but we definitely don't use it very much. (Well, except where all these farkers seem to think that if the potential for a variable exists, it must be algebra and not applied math.
 
2012-07-30 06:22:04 PM  

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

Maybe per capita type stuff, but confidence intervals and margin of error would be difficult without algebra.


"Per capita" implies a ratio. Ratios and proportions are algebra.
 
2012-07-30 06:22:23 PM  

saintstryfe: Sticky Hands: fark it.
the Chinese have won.

Only until you need to think up something original. Then you need a Westerner, and preferably, an American a German Scientist taken after WW2.


FTFY

//sorry just watched Nazi Hunters, amazed how much the German Scientists moved things forward in the US.
 
2012-07-30 06:22:48 PM  

Russky: That's exactly the problem isn't it, there is no demand for 'fine arts' degrees but people keep taking it instead of a career where there is demand like the sciences. Everyone wants to be a farking movie star i guess.


No, that's not the problem. You are ignoring the problem, which is supply and demand. If everybody studied engineering there would soon be no demand for engineers and other fields would be in demand. This is basic economics.
 
2012-07-30 06:22:55 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 guy disagrees...
 
2012-07-30 06:23:19 PM  

Vegan Meat Popsicle: Regardless, the point is


Lol..dude...trust me...i know (and agree) with the point your were making. No argument on that here.

Major: B.S. Economics
Minor: B.A. Poly Sci
 
2012-07-30 06:24:12 PM  
Do we need algebra? Yes. Personally, i find that i use more trig in my day to day life, but i do a lot of woodworking/metal fab.
 
2012-07-30 06:24:20 PM  

Dafatone: I taught part-time (homework center help) at a small college where the students were by and large unimpressive.

The ones who needed the most help were in what I guess was basic algebra. Fractions with variables, stuff like that.

It's really, really hard to teach factoring to kids who have trouble grasping negative numbers. I'm still stumped at how to explain it, since to me it's been an intuitive / guess and check sorta thing.


I always found language to be interpretive, but math to be incomprehensible. The "one right way, one right answer" approach just never clicked with me. I always wanted to ask "but why is that the case?", and found "because it's a fundamental property of our universe," to be unsatisfying as an answer. I'm not saying that isn't the case, but the way in which my brain approaches problems just doesn't seem to mesh with it, for some reason.
 
2012-07-30 06:26:14 PM  
I may not use calculus directly in everyday life, but the understanding is there and I feel I understand the world a bit better because of it. Algebra even more so. Just because most adults don't solve for X on a daily basis, doesn't mean there is not a benefit from a fundamental understanding of it that influences their thoughts and actions. It is utterly irresponsible to deny kids that same learning. "Because it's hard" is simply not a valid excuse.

Mathematical literacy is even more important than ever in day to day life. Companies routinely obscure costs with tricks (cellphone and cable companies...I'm look at you, you assholes!). Your employers no longer give a damn about your retirement via pensions...here's a 401k program...good luck to you!

/I can't believe someone is trying to make a case for getting rid of any math education.
 
2012-07-30 06:26:40 PM  
"I always found language to be intuitive..." Damn me.
 
2012-07-30 06:27:04 PM  

Babwa Wawa: 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.


This.

If you think that the failure rate of college algebra is negatively affecting your retention, your priorities are totally backwards. The point isn't to get more people out the door with degrees, it's to get people out the door with worthwhile degrees. For instance, most social science majors need to understand stats, and any stats class requires mastering algebra. But go ahead and keep graduating economics majors without any math skills.
 
2012-07-30 06:27:51 PM  
Okay, math is hard so you want to lower the standards. That's always been a great move. Increase the success rate for kids in school by making everything easier and getting rid of the hard subjects. That when added to the "don't keep score, everyone's a winner" attitude already out there in schools, and our future is farked.
 
2012-07-30 06:28:24 PM  

buzzcut73: I -really- hated being shown something, understanding it, and being told I needed to do it 50 more times every night.


I hate that, too. I got in trouble in middle school because I wasn't doing the homework. I wasn't doing the homework because I didn't like to waste my time on something I had already mastered. My dad had a discussion with them. They switched me to a more advance curriculum, except they didn't have anyone who could teach us the work and there was only three of us, so they couldn't justify hiring another math teacher.

/not Asian
 
2012-07-30 06:28:53 PM  

red5ish: Russky: That's exactly the problem isn't it, there is no demand for 'fine arts' degrees but people keep taking it instead of a career where there is demand like the sciences. Everyone wants to be a farking movie star i guess.

No, that's not the problem. You are ignoring the problem, which is supply and demand. If everybody studied engineering there would soon be no demand for engineers and other fields would be in demand. This is basic economics.


I'm not ignoring it at all, the point being there is a higher demand right now for scientific degrees but people aren't taking those. Obviously if everyone studied engineering there wouldn't be as much of a demand and if I stopped breathing I'd die, but both these points are well......obvious.
 
2012-07-30 06:31:17 PM  

lockers: If college algebra and trig are to complicated for you, you have no business having a degree. If high school algebra and trig are too complicated for you, you have no business being a high school graduate. Saying you don't need basic numeracy is like saying you don't need literacy. But since this fail-the-children ideology permeates modern America, the percentage of people needing remedial english and math at universities is on the rise.


I never took, and do not have much knowledge of trig. Heck, I got kicked out of advanced algebra. And I've done just fine in life.

Everyone thinks differently. You may use trig to solve a real-world problem... I would probably use something completely different made up in my mind.
 
2012-07-30 06:31:20 PM  

tortilla burger: 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.


the purpose of algebra is to resolve complex mathematical concepts into a series of logical steps that lead through an process to an answer

it is to reduce the macrotic difficulty into simple microcity.

or, since you are SO STUPID... its like washing 20 plates one at a time instead of having to figure out how to run a dishwasher. (not precise but accurate)

The problem with algebra is simply that these stupid little shiat kids are never required to THINK IN AN ORDERED MANNER.
 
2012-07-30 06:31:39 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.


3.bp.blogspot.com
 
2012-07-30 06:32:55 PM  

EvilEgg: Relevant TED talk


Wow, thanks for that. Very very good stuff.
 
2012-07-30 06:33:22 PM  
The Problem with American schools is that we basically have the same program of study for 12 years.

I'm in a PhD program, and the Americans are 10% of the cohort. The Other 90% have at least 8-12 more semesters of math than we do. They get it Earlier and they get it deeper. At Age 10 or so, most of them are asked to pick from three or four "focus streams" that direct them towards jobs in Technical skills, arts, literature or Theory. They then cut the items that are 'least useful' to their focus pool and double-up on the items that are more important. Doing this while students still have enormous mental plasticity Allows a level of achievement in those realms that is genuinely surprising.

It's not that they have taken more math - they are acculturated to mathematical culture.

While I think the goal of having well-rounded students is important, I think you do that by letting them take what they want, not taking subjects that they don't like and will probably stink at. I hated taking lots of stupid pointless classes in College and High School. I wanted to take another language, or art, or shop or Math. Screw Literature - I'd been reading at a college level since 3rd grade.and Screw the Hell out of Gym. More music classes? I'd love that.
 
2012-07-30 06:34:21 PM  

Gyrfalcon: buckler: 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.

Math doesn't have "creative" answers, dear. Math is. You can be as "creative" as you want, but 2+2 must ALWAYS equal 4. And in an equation where 2 + x = 4, solve for x, the answer better not be, "Well, if you consider that 2 is a relative number, depending on whether you're talking about two people having sex and one of their partners is in the closet spying on them, it could really be three, so my answer is three."

The ability to think "outside the box" doesn't count in hard science.


Math isn't hard science. The "proofs" side of algebra, i.e. proving that 2 + 2 = 4, is all about being creative.
 
2012-07-30 06:34:40 PM  

rockforever: Bring back shop


The machinists I have known did algebra and trig on the fly, even if they didn't call it that. "The toolholder on this lathe reads radius rather than diameter, and it's angled at 30 degrees, so to take another 10 mils off of the diameter I have to take it in just a bit under six mils according to the dial..." (I have forgotten what the controls are called; it's been years.)

On another occasion, I brought my International Harvester Scout into a shop, and informed the mechanic that if he took in out on the highway, he needed to know that the last shop (which didn't know squat about Harvester) had installed a speedometer cable that read 85% of what it should. He asked "So, if the speedometer says 60, you're really doing 70?" I said "Yep."
 
2012-07-30 06:35:10 PM  

dopekitty74: 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!

No, you just multiplied by 3. That's not algebra, its basic arithmetic


Welcome to Linear Equations.

Come for the Algebra, stay for the Pi (or 1/2 Tau, if you prefer)
 
2012-07-30 06:35:29 PM  

rubi_con_man: They get it Earlier and they get it deeper.


I uh...

erm...
 
2012-07-30 06:36:23 PM  
Teaching the poor to make correct change is capitalism.

Teaching the poor to calculate compound interest is communism.

The banks have spoken, and they are our gods.
 
2012-07-30 06:36:34 PM  

Meesterjojo: Pi (or 1/2 Tau, if you prefer)


If you prefer Tau, you don't get to do The Calculus.
 
2012-07-30 06:36:53 PM  
State regents and legislators - and much of the public - take it as self-evident that every young person should be made to master polynomial functions and parametric equations.

For the record, this argument applied to English would be:

"State regents and legislators - and much of the public - take it as self-evident that every young person should be made to master two-syllable words and telling a verb from a noun."

This is pretty basic stuff that's vital to basic functioning in society here. It's the technical version of functional literacy. Things like calculating your gas mileage and creating a personal budget so you don't go into debt require algebra, which makes the "this isn't personal finance" comment rather puzzling as well.

//A 700 on an SAT subject test isn't quite the unreachable high bar the idiot writer seems to think it is, either. It's decent, yes, but the SAT is a literacy test, not a competence test, and to get into programs that actually specialize in some form of math you're not getting anywhere without an 800. 700 for a general program is a bit high for a general knowledge requirement, but only a bit high. I didn't get out of the English proficiency requirement for general knowledge for going into a chemistry program, the logic of requiring some roundedness of students isn't limited to the liberal arts.
 
2012-07-30 06:36:54 PM  

Oznog: One thing I heard Sandra Day O'Connor lament on the Daily Show was that NCLB had placed value exclusively on math and reading, to the detriment of civics. Consequently it appears fewer and fewer people understand the basic structure of US govt, that the POTUS does not direct the Supreme Court, nor does he "make laws". And that "activist judges" is truly an absurd term indicative of a basic misunderstanding of the Judicial Branch.


Roger Taney and Charles Hughes beg to differ.

\Granted, doing so destroyed the legacy of both.
 
2012-07-30 06:36:58 PM  
While we're on the topic lets get rid of english class as well. Reading and writing are way overrated, plus it's causing kids distress when they don't succeed.
 
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