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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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18764 clicks; posted to Main » on 30 Jul 2012 at 4:44 PM (4 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-07-30 06:37:36 PM  

prjindigo: 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.


Yes they are and have been. PEMDAS.

We were still teaching that useful little term a few years ago to remember the ORDER OF OPERATIONS.
They are required to think in an ordered manner to get the answers correct. However, they CHOOSE not to or are incapable of doing so.
 
2012-07-30 06:38:22 PM  

Vegan Meat Popsicle: Part of having a well-rounded education includes taking classes that don't necessarily have anything to do with your career.


This is profoundly true.

I would stipulate that there is a point where learning more about a subject becomes counterproductive not only to the goal of getting a well-rounded education but also an education that will be useful. Education is, to a certain extent, a zero sum game, since most people have limited funds and a limited amount of time to attain their formal education.
 
2012-07-30 06:38:24 PM  

Because People in power are Stupid: Nilatir: To a certain extent this is true. Think back to college and you'll likely notice that the better a person is at very abstract concepts the worse they are in explaining those concepts to others.

That's the problem. You expect your teacher to "explain" something that is fundamentally visually based.

These expectations are really YOUR issue and not an issue with your teachers.

Blame the teacher if you can't persuade them to give you the grade that you want.


My degree requires courses up through Difficult Equations (with Stats and Combinatorial courses out to the side) so I understand what you mean by visual. But still "to teach" is to pass on information and skills and if the people teaching lack the skills to do that then I can see why, unless you come into a class already understanding the material (which many Engineering and Math students do), it could be frustrating for an Arts and Crafts major to overcome.
 
2012-07-30 06:41:19 PM  

rubi_con_man: 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.


Three questions:
1. You are attending a school in the United States, correct?
2. How many of their less-able countrymen are you not seeing?
3. How often are they cheating in their classes?
 
2012-07-30 06:41:38 PM  

red5ish: 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.


As a librarian myself, I'll take this:

A, libraries are hardly obsolete. Maybe they are for how you used them - big box of encyclopedias and paper journals for school papers - but there are other options. But lots of people use libraries for lots of reasons. Libraries are community meeting places. They're a place many people go - job seekers, parents, children, seniors, people with limited budgets, people who need specialized information, all of them go to libraries. A good public library is the heart and mind of a neighborhood. It teaches its children, informs its public servants, entertains its citizens and enriches everyone.

B, Even how you used libraries still exists. Now-a-days, rather then being gatekeepers for the Encyclopedia, now librarians work to help filter the masses of information. In a world where a google search finds you 100 thousand hits, and maybe a few are relevant and accurate, a lot of people need help, especially when the target is academic or business-related, where accuracy is more important then on Fark.

C, And that's completely ignoring the dozens of non-public/school libraries there are - corporate libraries, for instance. Many companies have internal libraries to look up information related to their business and that of their industry. Archives, Records Management, keeping a history of a place, a company, an organization, that's all under the purview of the librarian. (yes, I know there are RM people who hate being lumped with librarians - tough shat, it's my post).

D, You are right in that "Library Science" is not the most preferred term - some people really hate being called a library scientist or a librarian. These people prefer the term "Information Scientist" - indeed, the school I went to was called the "School of Library and Information Sciences" (SILS for short). Librarian is a more... human word to me, so I prefer it. But I can dig where they come from.

And finally , E, you think we handle just books? Ha. Maybe 30% of my day is paper on a busy day. The rest is digital. Subscription databases, e-magazines, journal databases, e-Lending libraries, digital archives, I handle more tech then some IT guys. Remember: we brought this. We've lived in this world for 20 years now where most people just got it 6 or 8. We've adapted, and will adapt however it goes forward.

So please, don't step. We've been here, we ain't going no where. As long as there is data, as long as it has to be sorted, portioned and doled out, as long as there's students who need to know facts, and business reports to be written, while there's paper that needs to be preserved and digital files that need to be kept, we are going no where. We're Librarians.
 
2012-07-30 06:42:27 PM  
And we wonder why we're broke
 
2012-07-30 06:42:44 PM  
img441.imageshack.us
 
2012-07-30 06:43:09 PM  
I will just leave this here:

The Feeling Of Power by Isaac Asimov

\Dude was right in sooooo many ways.
 
2012-07-30 06:43:22 PM  

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.


Same here. cute, really.
 
2012-07-30 06:44:20 PM  

Russky: 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.


We woulda figured it out - just the Russians took them first, so we matched, we got the better end, so we happened to get there first.
 
2012-07-30 06:48:02 PM  
for shame, biatches

2.bp.blogspot.com
 
2012-07-30 06:48:23 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 only squeaked by with a C+ in pre-algebra and failed algebra my first time around. I simply did not understand how the teacher was explaining the math. Things got better in college, but I still struggle at any sort of general mathematics.

I'm now a senior engineer at a, in my opinion, very nice company.

People who don't understand math can still become successful. I feel mainly because we make up for it in other areas. I taught myself different ways of critical thinking and "taking the form of abstraction and identification of relationships between abstractions" as you put it. I actually have a huge advantage in my field because I can explain processes in ways that both groups can "natively" understand.

Ironically enough, my mother is currently a teacher and has a math degree. We always butted heads because she could never understand how I didn't understand the math being shown to me.
 
2012-07-30 06:48:47 PM  

saintstryfe: So please, don't step. We've been here, we ain't going no where. As long as there is data, as long as it has to be sorted, portioned and doled out, as long as there's students who need to know facts, and business reports to be written, while there's paper that needs to be preserved and digital files that need to be kept, we are going no where. We're Librarians.


I can't be the only one who imagined you standing up in front of a waving flag for this last part, hand on heart, staring off into the distance.... the music building as your fellows appear behind you.
 
2012-07-30 06:49:01 PM  
what no one has mentioned is that the author of this article is probably in a pissing match with his universities math department

also if you have a good teacher and are receptive you can learn almost anything be it writing or math

just because you are good at something doesn't mean you can teach it
 
2012-07-30 06:50:37 PM  
The problem is that we treat education like several things it's not, and no one wants to have an honest conversation about them.

1. Education is not the great equalizer. We waste inordinate amounts of money trying to get everyone the same education, as if the only reason that kids can't all be the next Einstein or the next Mark Twain is that we're just not trying hard enough. Bullshiat. Some people lack the brainpower to aspire to the intellectual or professional class. Some kids don't care to learn, and some are so farked up by poverty, drugs and abuse that they are lost. 50 years ago we would have shaken our head, washed our hands of it, and hoped that the ones that couldn't make it to college would find a useful trade or at least not end up a burden on the system. Now EVERYONE has to go to college. And so we try to teach everyone algebra. Well, guess what? Some of those kids are going to end up as assistant manager at the Kroger down the street, and they don't need trigonometry or calculus to tally out the cash registers at the end of the night. And it's only made worse by (sorry to say this) Affirmative Action. We can't have too many poor black kids failing, so we rig the grading system and teach the test and automatically pass kids to grades and to subjects for which they're not prepared.

2. Education is not a day-care. I understand that times are different and that most mothers have to work at least part time. That's just reality, I guess. But back in the day when most middle-class families had a stay-at-home mom, you had someone to tutor the kids and to teach them basic life lessons. Take the stay-at-home mom out of the equation, and is it any wonder that our schools are full of struggling students and troubled kids? We've tried to shift the responsibility to raise children to teachers, who are doing the best they can just to teach the kids enough so that they pass the No Child Left Behind tests.

3. Education is not a trade school. If you want to run a trade school, run a trade school. That's what Germany does after age 12 or so and they're getting along just fine. College prep and college for the kids who want/are prepared for it, trade school and apprenticeships for the kids that are more inclined to work with their hands. High schools and colleges shouldn't have to have official academic programs and majors for medical billing specialists or communications hacks or marketing. If you've got a good, well rounded education, you can figure those things out on the job.
 
2012-07-30 06:50:49 PM  
This is simply what liberals do when they control the license dept in a city. They make it obscenely difficult to enter a given marketplace. Be it excessive regulations such as cutting hair, or simply by limiting the number of permits, they make it easier for the existing businesses to make a profit. Payola back to the City council.

All this suggests is by dumbing down the future employee pool, there will be fewer competing lions for the lioness (a consumer).
 
2012-07-30 06:51:55 PM  

downstairs: 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.


I still can't figure out how accrued interest works and unless I take a finance class, will probably have to rely on plug in conversions on my computer to figure out the current pay-off before I make early final payments on my financed debt.

If only highschool could give you real world tools instead of having to pay for a college level course to balance your checkbook. Personally, I think I would have enjoyed introductory courses in finance back in HS had they been available- and I don't even like math.
 
2012-07-30 06:54:43 PM  
It isn't that we are teaching too much math. It is that we are failing to teach it properly. Teaching to the test (so that kids pass the state tests) is not beneficial to anyone. People educated under this system lack the ability to use critical thinking, logic, analysis or evaluation techniques.
 
2012-07-30 06:56:37 PM  

Mad Tea Party: How on Earth do you plan on teaching stats to kids who can't do algebra?


As I've stated above, you need basic algebra to get out of second grade, for f*ck's sake. We and the author) are talking about is mastery of algebra.

You can teach basic stats without advanced algebra. You can also use stats to demystify, illustrate the application of, and tantalize kids into learning advanced algebra.
 
2012-07-30 06:57:05 PM  

Sticky Hands: saintstryfe: So please, don't step. We've been here, we ain't going no where. As long as there is data, as long as it has to be sorted, portioned and doled out, as long as there's students who need to know facts, and business reports to be written, while there's paper that needs to be preserved and digital files that need to be kept, we are going no where. We're Librarians.

I can't be the only one who imagined you standing up in front of a waving flag for this last part, hand on heart, staring off into the distance.... the music building as your fellows appear behind you.


You shoulda seen my first draft (yes, I draft my Fark posts, at least when I think they're important).

I was invoking the ancient librarians of Egypt and Rome, the monks of the middle ages... but I thought it was too much. Pull that back for the response, if needed.

This is entirely from being in a family of a professional wrestler.
 
2012-07-30 06:57:45 PM  

Russky: 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.


I'm glad you think it's obvious. I think it's obvious. I also think that it is sometimes necessary to state the obvious to make a point.
Not everybody's minds work the same way. There are people who are completely unsuited to become STEM majors but who have valid and valuable skills and abilities. If STEM graduates are in high demand then that's good news for them, but if a student is at heart a graphic artist you will only make him miserable trying to make him into an engineer (and probably not a very good engineer at that).
 
2012-07-30 06:59:40 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'd agree with you on everything but "Now EVERYONE has to go to college."

No, there are many high school dropouts who continue to bring my food when I go out and others entertain me in other ways.

And the percentage of high school dropouts is increasing! Wow, if you can't get through today's easy public education, I'm surprised you can remember to breathe or walk.
 
2012-07-30 07:01:26 PM  

Because People in power are Stupid: wingedkat: Because People in power are Stupid: wingedkat:
...

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]


Huh. Those are pretty clever, actually.

Based on your profile, I was expecting some sort of pointed sexist attack I wasn't seeing. Now I'm just disappointed, because you are actually just not very good at this. Don't worry, practice makes perfect!
 
2012-07-30 07:02:11 PM  

sigdiamond2000: I told that teacher lady the only numbers I need to know are U, S and A.


This is funny, and it will be hilarious over a bowl of maggotty rice in the Chinese labour camp...sorry, orientation course, in the future.
 
2012-07-30 07:08:29 PM  

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


Wow. That's just, well, wrong.

Of course, the ability to use math correctly is necessary in any scientific field. However, when scientists get stuck in the box, they just keep repeating mistakes without seeing the possibilities in front of them. The ability to think outside the box is where the major innovations come from. We have to be able to see outside of what is expected, to see what is actually happening.
 
2012-07-30 07:11:12 PM  
I agree wholeheartedly. If it is too hard to do, just don't do it. Those are the values that America was built on. Right?

What a crock of shiat. The purpose of high school math isn't to torture the unintelligent, or disinclined, but to teach reasoning and logic.
 
2012-07-30 07:12:03 PM  

Because People in power are Stupid: 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.

There is no right answer because most of those classes are graded subjectively. Math is graded objectively. Which is what most people who hate math are actually hating. The lack of political sway that their "feel good" best intentions can muster -don't matter when solving a math problem.

Which is exactly why this article was written.


My friend, I think you hit the nail on the head.
 
2012-07-30 07:14:31 PM  

Valiente: sigdiamond2000: I told that teacher lady the only numbers I need to know are U, S and A.

This is funny, and it will be hilarious over a bowl of maggotty rice in the Chinese labour camp...sorry, orientation course, in the future.



Emphasis on the ORIENT, am I right?!
 
2012-07-30 07:14:41 PM  
It's interesting how everyone is jumping on the pro-math bandwagon, but then a large percentage of Farkers are engineers, software developers and other mathematical people.

The most basic algebra is not very difficult to learn and is usually introduced before high school, so I have no issue with it being part of a curriculum. What I think is not necessary is forcing students to continue taking math throughout high school. Not every person has a mathematical brain, yet will be strong or even gifted in some other useful area (languages, arts and so on).

I firmly believe that the first year of high school should be used to identify a student's strengths and to help them focus towards strengthening and developing them. If they want to study unrelated things that's fine, but they should not feel obligated to do so. Of course there are a minimum number of credits required, so a student could not simply go ahead and take five classes a year, but a bit more lee-way with decision making would be excellent.

I have read many arguments that mathematics teaches problem solving skills and the ability "to think," and that anyone who does not study it is essentially a waste of life. The outrageous arrogance of such comments aside, it is necessary to point out the facts that math class tends not to focus on memorization rather than problem solving (all teachers I had responded to requests to explain an equation with "just memorize it"), and that problem solving and deductive reasoning can very effectively be taught via the learning of a language, the study of history, artistic development or any number of other educational avenues.

The vast majority of people in the United States, Canada and other Western countries do not need higher-level math to function. Paper-pushing, customer service and labour jobs (the vast, VAST majority of all existing jobs) simply do not require it. What *is* needed is a work ethic and at least a basic level of social functioning. We have sufficient mathematically-skilled people for the jobs that require it (in fact, I have many engineer friends who find it difficult to find available work). It's nice to reach higher levels of employment, but we need people to do the aforementioned jobs. In fact, the highest-paying jobs require social skills and creativity above almost anything else.
 
2012-07-30 07:15:22 PM  

OgreMagi: 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


ontherecordwithben.areavoices.com

Now, write it out a hundred times.
And if it's not done by sunrise... I'll cut your balls off.
 
2012-07-30 07:15:28 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.


^^^ This.

If you're able to reason logically, then there's no reason to resort to algorithms to do agebra. Algebra is logical, and it makes perfect sense to anyone who can think logically.
 
2012-07-30 07:15:40 PM  
In your everyday life you'll use:

-Addition/subtraction/multiplication/division (mostly bills)
-Geometry (not often, but enough)
-Basic chemistry (mostly cleaning related)
-Reading (directions)
-Writing/Typing

In your life as a citizen you will hopefully use:

-History (so you remember enough not to vote for things that didn't work the first time)
-Stats (so you can interpret data for yourself.)
-Comprehensive reading (so you can understand if a study or article has a logical flaw.)

Yes, you can get away with knowing the bare minimum and still living your day to day life....but politicians, businesses and other such folks who know more will be able to run your environment into the ground without you realizing it.
 
2012-07-30 07:15:58 PM  
I use algebra and geometry every day and I am a freaking artist! The author is full of stupid. What we teach too much of is feel goody self esteem crap.
 
2012-07-30 07:15:58 PM  

umad: Because People in power are Stupid: 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.

There is no right answer because most of those classes are graded subjectively. Math is graded objectively. Which is what most people who hate math are actually hating. The lack of political sway that their "feel good" best intentions can muster -don't matter when solving a math problem.

Which is exactly why this article was written.

My friend, I think you hit the nail on the head.


Nah, let's be honest, it is because Algebra was invented by - well you know -- the terrorists!
 
2012-07-30 07:16:27 PM  

umad: Because People in power are Stupid: 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.

There is no right answer because most of those classes are graded subjectively. Math is graded objectively. Which is what most people who hate math are actually hating. The lack of political sway that their "feel good" best intentions can muster -don't matter when solving a math problem.

Which is exactly why this article was written.

My friend, I think you hit the nail on the head.


Not really. For me, it isn't about "feeling good" about an answer, it's about the difficulties in comparing one way of structuring things vs. another. Please don't drag that "everyone's a winner" crap into this. It doesn't apply.
 
2012-07-30 07:18:29 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.


It's a constant problem in climate policies. Too many people think that slowing growth in greenhouse gas emissions = taking carbon out of the atmosphere.

The mind boggles.
 
2012-07-30 07:19:10 PM  
When it comes to math, people often make the mistake of thinking about education in terms of "How many of these kids will actually need this?" What such a question entirely misses is that failing to teach a kid something as scientifically fundamental as algebra, would close off entire career avenues to her or him.

And kids are not good deciders of what they're going to do years down the line (hell, many kids think shooting to be a sports star or to make it in music with no backup plan is a good career path, rather than the one-in-a-hundred-thousand shot it is), so you cannot just leave it up to them to decide whether they want to study hard at a particular subject that could be critical to them.

In a world where more and more, the good jobs rely on applying your brains, it would be criminal to abdicate responsibility to teach something as fundamental as algebra.

We're not even talking about calculus! It's farking algebra! Without learning that kind of basic skill of mental abstraction, good luck at ever being a scientist, engineer, or do any sort of serious programming! And this isn't the sort of stuff that they'll have time to pick up later (nor even the ability to learn as well, later).

Will all of them need it? NO. But if you don't make it mandatory, a lot of kids who don't even know yet that they'll need it to reach they're full potential won't learn it.
 
2012-07-30 07:20:20 PM  

Nilatir: To a certain extent this is true. Think back to college and you'll likely notice that the better a person is at very abstract concepts the worse they are in explaining those concepts to others.

At a certain point you need PhDs and PostDocs teaching concepts but maybe not to anyone lower than a Masters. There's a reason we have an entire curriculum devoted to Elementary Ed.


Yes, exactly.

I mean, I loved my math theory classes and the beauty and simplicity of mathematics as a system takes my breath away. The strange and often unexpected patterns observed within mathematics tell us quite a bit about the world.

But the people who love to study mathematics aren't always the right people to be teaching kids what they need to know to balance their budgets, calculate gas mileage, create an accurate floor plan, or dilute solutions.
 
2012-07-30 07:21:29 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.



^^ All of this agrees with my experience with the many science and math education majors I took classes with in college. No wonder kids are getting poor math educations; their teachers can barely do math at all, much less understand it.
 
2012-07-30 07:22:13 PM  

ElLoco: That sounds a lot like the last time I tried to calculate the precise value of infinity using a scratch pad, a tape measure and the end off of a serial cable.. and three days later discovered that there were two tabs stuck together, apparently.


I used a copper mobius strip plugged into an electrified tinfoil brain wave neutralizer. The results were surprising, for both me and the cat.
 
2012-07-30 07:22:13 PM  

HellRaisingHoosier: 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 only squeaked by with a C+ in pre-algebra and failed algebra my first time around. I simply did not understand how the teacher was explaining the math. Things got better in college, but I still struggle at any sort of general mathematics.

I'm now a senior engineer at a, in my opinion, very nice company.

People who don't understand math can still become successful. I feel mainly because we make up for it in other areas. I taught myself different ways of critical thinking and "taking the form of abstraction and identification of relationships between abstractions" as you put it. I actually have a huge advantage in my field because I can explain processes in ways that both groups can "natively" understand.

Ironically enough, my mother is currently a teacher and has a math degree. We always butted heads because she could never understand how I didn't understand the math being shown to me.


Note to self: don't send kids to Indiana U for an engineering degree.
 
2012-07-30 07:23:34 PM  

Babwa Wawa: 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.


I'm all for an application-driven approach to teaching math. My high school physics teacher lamented that his course came before calculus in the usual sequence, so he couldn't do some of the really cool stuff. I told him that if it was any consolation, a semester of physics made the calculus concepts make more sense.
 
2012-07-30 07:24:30 PM  
Certification programs for veterinary technicians require algebra, although none of the graduates I've met have ever used it in diagnosing or treating their patients.

images.blahpers.com

Let m be the mass of the dachshund you're treating.
Let reff be the volume of medicine per kilogram of dachshund required to effectively treat its ailment.
Let rmdk be the volume of medicine per kilogram of dachshund that would cause the patient's brain to explode.

Guess what basic, every-moron-should-know-it skill the vet can use to solve this problem? Hint: It isn't "oh, this much looks about right".
 
2012-07-30 07:24:31 PM  

andrewagill: 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:


love it.
 
2012-07-30 07:25:58 PM  
"What of the claim that mathematics sharpens our minds and makes us more intellectually adept as individuals and a citizen body? It's true that mathematics requires mental exertion. But there's no evidence that being able to prove (x² + y²)² = (x² - y²)² + (2xy)² leads to more credible political opinions or social analysis."

Author clearly does not know what actual mathematics is. The author was taught mathematics improperly and thinks math consists of just "solving for x" in various ways according to the formulas/algorithms on their cheat sheet. If you're completely ignorant about a topic then your opinion on whether or not it should be taught is pretty much worthless.

Mathematics has allowed me to learn physics/comp sci incredibly efficiently and quickly because I was already used to thinking abstractly and logically. Math is a little more than multiplying polynomials, if you're not a complete idiot. It's about thinking critically and analyzing situations in creative and complex ways. This may actually lead to "more credible political opinions or social analysis."
 
2012-07-30 07:26:54 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.


"Hey guys, what if light can be thought of as a wave?"
"Haha, good one Huygens, everyone knows it's a particle. Now get back to work."
 
jvl
2012-07-30 07:26:59 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?


My life would have been incalculably changed had I not read Red Badge of Courage in which I learned all about peeing oneself when scared. Were it not for the Great Gatsby, I might have learned why one uses a large glass for a small amount of wine in some less reputable and rigorous setting.
 
2012-07-30 07:28:11 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?


No matter how many times this gets repeated, it isn't enough.
 
2012-07-30 07:30:00 PM  
Wrong.
 
2012-07-30 07:30:43 PM  

buckler: 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.


Then you suck at following instructions?

That's what math can be reduced to. Your ability to follow instructions. Being able to visually recognize certain symbols and knowing what instructions to follow when you see them.

Now understanding the full meanings of those symbols, why they work the way they do, what you're really doing when you manipulate them, and how to use that understanding to solve actual questions is where the real learning comes in (and can be pretty challenging depending on the mathematical discipline), but at its basic level, you're just following instructions.

You can almost certainly do 1 + 1, you know what instructions to follow, so really when you see 7x - 7 = 42 all you are really doing is knowing how to recognize what to do when you see those symbols, what instructions to follow.
 
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