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



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2012-07-30 08:19:43 PM

buckler: lockers: slayer199: 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.

Been there done that. You know how much algebra I use? None. The point I was making is that there are more useful math classes than college algebra and pre-calc. Language skills &math skills in the real world because if you can't communicate, how will anyone know about your wonderful engineering skills.

You use algebra all the time. You just don't call it that because you don't write things out formally. Algebra as taught just takes all the stepwise arithemetic you do in your head and gives it expressive written form. Everytime you do something as simple as figuring out your portion of a meal out with friends, you are doing algebra. You just don't organize it systematically as they tried to teach you. That isn't just it's uselessness, norjustyour teachers failure. It's also a failure to recognize the tool or it's usefullness.

I see that as akin to the idea that you're doing complex physics calculations in your mind every time you catch a baseball, though it may not be in the time-consuming, written notation you use in the classroom.


I get where you're coming from, but that one is a little bit different because you're not consciously dealing with any computation because you're not consciously dealing with any numbers. Say I ask you "I need to take a cab, but don't have much cash. There's a $3 flag charge + $0.30/mi after that. How far can I get with $10?" You might go, "Take 10, subtract three, and divide by 0.30, it's simple arithmetic." Which is true, but they way in which you turned 3+0.3x=10 (which is how I phrased it) into "answer = (10-3)/0.3" is algebra even if it feels intuitive. Being able to rearrange the equation like that is something you can do because you've got a feel for how association and commutation work. For something like catching a ball, you don't have quite the same sort of dependence on defined "rules."

/What, no tip?
 
2012-07-30 08:20:44 PM

ProfessorOhki: I get where you're coming from, but that one is a little bit different because you're not consciously dealing with any computation because you're not consciously dealing with any numbers. Say I ask you "I need to take a cab, but don't have much cash. There's a $3 flag charge + $0.30/mi after that. How far can I get with $10?" You might go, "Take 10, subtract three, and divide by 0.30, it's simple arithmetic." Which is true, but they way in which you turned 3+0.3x=10 (which is how I phrased it) into "answer = (10-3)/0.3" is algebra even if it feels intuitive. Being able to rearrange the equation like that is something you can do because you've got a feel for how association and commutation work. For something like catching a ball, you don't have quite the same sort of dependence on defined "rules."

/What, no tip?


Gotcha.
 
2012-07-30 08:21:01 PM

DarwiOdrade: Math helps you function in the real world.


i50.tinypic.com">

Alll the math a Poli Sci grad needs.
 
2012-07-30 08:21:13 PM

wingedkat:

1. Math majors shouldn't teach math.

I could not agree more. I teach remedial math at a university. It is the stuff that they should have gotten in High School but didn't. Most of my students hate math because someone made it a miserable experience for them. I majored in Zoology and I hated math when I was an undergrad. I joke with my students that people go into Biology because they don't like math. I only started to understand math when I started helping other people with it. Now I teach a class that students have fun in. They learn the math and I don't make them feel stupid. I usually say the correct math term and what it means every time. For example I will say "The denominator, the number on the bottom." I try to do this every time. They don't feel stupid for not remembering what a denominator is and it eventually sticks in their head.

I never ever blame my students for their lack of understanding in math. I blame their teachers. Almost every one of them can give me the name of the person who made them hate math. I tell my students that my class is not about math, but about problem solving, and it is. I don't want them to memorize formulas. I have had students who can rattle of a formula perfectly, but have no idea how to use it. I tell my students to look at the problems and figure out what they can do with it. If they can't multiply 7 and 8, I don't care. I tell them to just add stuff up to get the answer. I can't multiply 7 and 8. I tell them to look for patterns and develop tricks that always work. The sad thing is, students are so scared of doing things the wrong way that they are afraid to even try. I tell them that as long as they get the answer there is no wrong way (except cheating, that is wrong). I give them unlimited time to do their work so they don't freak out so much and shut down mentally. I have sat with a student for 5 hours doing a test. I don't accept blank answers and I will give partial credit for pretty much anything written in the answer space (aside from IDK). I gave them 5 points extra credit on the final if they could tell me who Henry Rollins is because we talked about him one day in class.

I am not an awesome teacher. I am a pretty crappy teacher if you go by the standards. I just understand the fear these students have and try to make things a little less stressful so they can focus on what I want them to learn instead of having to guess what it is I want.
 
2012-07-30 08:21:30 PM

FizixJunkee: \getting a PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics


super-cool!
 
2012-07-30 08:23:04 PM

neenerist: DarwiOdrade: Math helps you function in the real world.

[i50.tinypic.com image 519x61]">

Alll the math a Poli Sci grad needs.


why does poli sci still have the word sci in it ??
 
2012-07-30 08:23:34 PM
While I had trouble in high school, I did well in math in college, perhaps because I knew I had to do so in order to get the degree I had to pay for. I had a good math prof ( who was hot) and a very good physics prof who made sure we understood not just that a given equation would solve a specific situational problem, but also what each term in the equation represented and why it was there. Same in pharmacy school. We had a prof explain in one week in one class what the prof we had in the previous class spent all semester trying to teach.
 
2012-07-30 08:23:37 PM

indylaw: 1. Education is not the great equalizer.


Well, it is in a way. You're coming into a policy argument that we've been having literally since the founding of the nation (it pops up in the federalist papers) of equal ability versus equal opportunity and the relationship between the two.

Public education is an equalizer in the "opportunity" sense. It doesn't automatically put you on par with the rich dude who can be privately tutored in everything, but it gives you the opportunity to make up the remaining gap through work, luck, and sheer awesomeness by making resources available to you.

And in the more general sense, it diversifies our upper economic brackets and helps keep us from slipping into a class system-- if there are people that worked their way up in there along with the folks that were born rich, and some people that got rich by getting lucky with property deals, we're not in any particular danger of being dominated thoroughly enough by any one group to end up with hereditary lordships, robber barons, or a technocracy. All of which would suck for the losers more than the current system.
 
2012-07-30 08:24:17 PM

buckler: lockers: slayer199: 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.

Been there done that. You know how much algebra I use? None. The point I was making is that there are more useful math classes than college algebra and pre-calc. Language skills &math skills in the real world because if you can't communicate, how will anyone know about your wonderful engineering skills.

You use algebra all the time. You just don't call it that because you don't write things out formally. Algebra as taught just takes all the stepwise arithemetic you do in your head and gives it expressive written form. Everytime you do something as simple as figuring out your portion of a meal out with friends, you are doing algebra. You just don't organize it systematically as they tried to teach you. That isn't just it's uselessness, norjustyour teachers failure. It's also a failure to recognize the tool or it's usefullness.

I see that as akin to the idea that you're doing complex physics calculations in your mind every time you catch a baseball, though it may not be in the time-consuming, written notation you use in the classroom.


Of course, writting things out formally is often a waste of time. But you don't learn stepwise problem solving until you hit algebra. But you still need concepts from algebra to be successful in any kind of life where you don't depend on others. Modern financial life demands that of you, and depending on others for that requires a never ending string of luck to stop you from disaster. Yes, I am a software architect, so I do get paid professionally to do algebra. But that also makes me appreciate how often people do that informally.

You NEED the written notation, because it is the language the subject is taught. English doesn't have the formalism needed, which is why you do word problems. It teaches youhow tobridge the gap between english and algebra. Without that its like saying we should teach film theory in spanish. Or political science in german. Or if you want to really be pedantic, teaching philosphy in symbolic logic. The problem with that human language is ambigious. It's a poor tool for the job in the same way a hammer is a poor tool for a screwdriver.
 
2012-07-30 08:24:28 PM
Is the New York Times necessary? Maybe is we cut out phony baloney "journalism" from the average consumer we will enhance the smart making.
 
2012-07-30 08:24:55 PM

neenerist: DarwiOdrade: Math helps you function in the real world.

[i50.tinypic.com image 519x61]">

Alll the math a Poli Sci grad needs.


Needs to be updated :)

cache.gizmodo.com

/hot
//or iced
 
2012-07-30 08:25:59 PM
Did anyone else start reading that article thinking the author was employing Socratic irony?
 
2012-07-30 08:26:11 PM

Vegan Meat Popsicle: Everything that exists in the universe is, basically, a giant math problem.

But why learn even the basics of the language of all creation when you could just pound out a degree in political science and get paid to expand stupid questions in the New York Times into a thousand word screed against basic competency, right?


This. To be fair, you've described most of the "opinion" pieces in the NY Times.

/At least the wine reporting is fair
 
2012-07-30 08:26:20 PM

ProfessorOhki: buckler: lockers: slayer199: 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.

Been there done that. You know how much algebra I use? None. The point I was making is that there are more useful math classes than college algebra and pre-calc. Language skills &math skills in the real world because if you can't communicate, how will anyone know about your wonderful engineering skills.

You use algebra all the time. You just don't call it that because you don't write things out formally. Algebra as taught just takes all the stepwise arithemetic you do in your head and gives it expressive written form. Everytime you do something as simple as figuring out your portion of a meal out with friends, you are doing algebra. You just don't organize it systematically as they tried to teach you. That isn't just it's uselessness, norjustyour teachers failure. It's also a failure to recognize the tool or it's usefullness.

I see that as akin to the idea that you're doing complex physics calculations in your mind every time you catch a baseball, though it may not be in the time-consuming, written notation you use in the classroom.

I get where you're coming from, but that one is a little bit different because you're not consciously dealing with any computation because you're not consciously dealing with any numbers. Say I ask you "I need to take a cab, but don't have much cash. There's a $3 flag charge + $0.30/mi after that. How far can I get with $10?" You might go, "Take 10, subtract three, and divide by 0.30, it's simple arithmetic." Which is true, but they way in which you turned 3+0.3x=10 (which is how I phrased it) into "answer = (10-3)/0.3" is algebra even if it feels intuitive. Being able to rearrange the equation like that is something you can do because you've got a feel for how association and commutation work. For something like catching a ball, you don't ...


Did you 'consciously' write "consciously" twice in your opening volley? Consciously?

I sense obfuscation for the sake of real consciousness, and I warn you sir, mind matters, and mind remembers everything, aka "an elephant memory"...

Tread consciously...

Ellipsis cubed.
 
2012-07-30 08:26:25 PM
CSS:

No Child Left Behind has really put a stress on this issue. They pass kids who can't do simple math, and then expect them to do algebra later on. I was in a small school, and I did fine in algebra (geometry I was meh at, but I was really good at stats). I also did pretty well in college algebra, if I remember correctly. I went to elementary school well before NCLB. I remember in 3rd grade my teacher telling the class "You're going to learn multiplication this year, and if you don't know your times tables from 0 to 12 by the end of the year, you're not going to 4th grade". THAT is a motivator when you're 8 or 9!

A friend of mine was in elementary school when NCLB passed; he had above average reading comprehension and ability, but his math talents where non-existent, because he didn't understand basic concepts easily when it came to math. He kept getting into higher grades because he could read above his grade level and he wrote pretty well. His parents didn't realize why he was doing so poorly in 5th grade math until we did some tests at home and figured out he could barely add or subtract (it took him three tries to answer me correctly when I asked him "What is 7 plus 3?", and it was really obvious he was embarrassed about it). He had to have a math tutor from 5th grade until he graduated high school because he was so far behind everybody else.

I can see where the author has some valid points, but honestly? The whole article sounds like whining and "I hated algebra, and since so many people are failing it now, they must hate it too". Also, the suggested replacement is stupid; how about, if you have to replace algebra, you do a school-year-long class and teach kids how to really work a budget and keep themselves from falling into hellacious debt before they're 25? You don't even want to know the horror stories I've heard from undergrads around here about how much debt they've racked up on credit cards over stupid shiat, just because they didn't understand how to live within a budget!

/Don't spend more than you make
//Tuck a bit away for emergencies
///The fancy stuff you want will still be there when you get a good job
////slashies
 
2012-07-30 08:28:39 PM

Indubitably: Did you 'consciously' write "consciously" twice in your opening volley? Consciously?


Yes.
 
2012-07-30 08:29:18 PM
Clearly you're giving the proles too much to work with. Time to train them with practical skills from birth. That'll get rid of all those protesty hipsters.
 
2012-07-30 08:30:29 PM

Babwa Wawa: 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.


No you can't. How do you explain what a normal distribution is without algebra? Confidence intervals? You can't do them justice without calculus, to say nothing of doing it without algebra. Unless you water it down to the point where it's utterly useless.
 
2012-07-30 08:30:38 PM

umad: They are amusing. Amusing and wrong. That is the beauty with math. A problem can be approached from many perspectives, but there will still only be one correct answer.


This assumes mathematics is all convergent problems. Convergent problems for any subject will have one correct answer, which is due to the nature of convergent problems. What is amusing about this is the use of "one correct answer". In mathematics, unlike is often the case in other subjects, the answers to convergent problems are not our concern. When I give a convergent question in biology, I want to know the student knows this fact. However, when I give a convergent question in algebra, I want to know the student knows this process.

Convergent problems are extremely useful tools to using mathematics to solve real-world problems by dividing real-world problems into series of convergent problems. Mathematics, though, often hinges on identifying the problem; analysis and logic are both strongly tied to and developed by mathematics.

The answers to those questions far up thread, though, are not the type of thing I am talking about so this is more of a tangent.
 
2012-07-30 08:33:05 PM

Pharmdawg: While I had trouble in high school, I did well in math in college, perhaps because I knew I had to do so in order to get the degree I had to pay for. I had a good math prof ( who was hot) and a very good physics prof who made sure we understood not just that a given equation would solve a specific situational problem, but also what each term in the equation represented and why it was there. Same in pharmacy school. We had a prof explain in one week in one class what the prof we had in the previous class spent all semester trying to teach.


I recall many years ago watching a series on TV that was intended as a college-level math course. The information was displayed visually; there would be an equation at the bottom of the screen, and there might be, for example, a graphic of an elliptical planetary orbit above. The animation of the orbit would start, with arrows representing the planetary velocity and the relative gravitational pull between the two bodies. As the animation progressed, the arrows would broaden, lengthen or change color to represent the different values involved, while at the same time the numbers in the equation below would change. I remember thinking "oh, I GET it!", even though I couldn't do the equation to save my life. At least it gave me an idea of the relationships between the values in a way I could understand, in a rudimentary way.
 
2012-07-30 08:33:27 PM

ProfessorOhki: Indubitably: Did you 'consciously' write "consciously" twice in your opening volley? Consciously?

Yes.


Consciously-cubed, then.

You realize all hell is going to break loose, right?

Consciously cubed?

Seriously?

Consciousness help us all...

Consciously five is still alive.

;)
 
2012-07-30 08:33:33 PM

Brontes: Testiclaw: Brontes: dimensional analysis

DA is the most useful method of problem solving I've ever learned.

Yet so skipped over in basic algebra it really blows the mind. It is amazing what a little logic and unit matching can do to a problem.


To be fair, there's sort of a large element of luck in actually gaining something from dimensional analysis. It's definitely a good, fast way to tell when you've farked something up, though, and that alone saves you loads of time. And it's a good starting point for the more empirical endeavours, to boot.

That said, what I really wish that algebra (rather than math in general) would have stressed more was formula derivation. The last bit of your Algebra 1 final shouldn't be "what is the quadratic equation?", it should be "Here is a quadratic formula. Derive the quadratic equation (shown here) with no single step exceeding two basic operations".

Being taught a method for solving a problem is useful, I'm not arguing that, I'm just saying that I'd have gotten a lot more mileage out of knowing where it came from, because that would have given me basically the entirety of the class like a semester and a half faster (it's just breaking the equation into bits of varying composition and rearranging them, which is literally the primary thing you want to learn).

//I pick on the quadratic formula specifically because I'm a fan of the "one big idea that's made of all the little ideas you need" approach to teaching. Then, I teach engineering students mostly when I teach these days, so I suppose it's not surprising that I get good results from that one.
 
2012-07-30 08:38:02 PM
Nearly every example algebra problem people have presented in this thread is at the grade 5/6 level math.


So, this isn't a high school problem. This is a primary grade school problem. stop passing kids that can't handle grade 6 algebra. keep them there until they can do it, then just have a "math" class in high school where you remind them about it and repeat the material so they can actually do it. Then test them and send them on their way.

talking about high school and college algebra here is not the problem.
 
2012-07-30 08:38:24 PM
i165.photobucket.com
 
2012-07-30 08:43:54 PM

Mad Tea Party: Babwa Wawa: 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.

No you can't. How do you explain what a normal distribution is without algebra? Confidence intervals? You can't do them justice without calculus, to say nothing of doing it without algebra. Unless you water it down to the point where it's utterly useless.


You're confusing mastery of algebra with basic algebra. As dbaggins wrote above, you only need grade 7-8 algebra to teach introduction to probability and statistics and high school physics. I remember being absolutely shocked that my Physics 101 and Intro to Stats classes used no math skills beyond what I had in 9th grade. If you disagree, then I don't know what to say. I've used probability as the use case to introduce people to basic algebra before. One does not necessarily have to follow the other.

The idea that we should have every HS grad have complete mastery of algebra when we're not even bothering to introduce them to probability/statistics, logic, and physics is baffling to me.
 
2012-07-30 08:44:50 PM
I do this maths in my head.
 
2012-07-30 08:45:00 PM
If you wanted to teach kids only things that are useful, you could probably do it in 5 years or less.
Then who the hell would babysit educate our kids??
 
2012-07-30 08:45:58 PM

Jim_Callahan: Being taught a method for solving a problem is useful, I'm not arguing that, I'm just saying that I'd have gotten a lot more mileage out of knowing where it came from, because that would have given me basically the entirety of the class like a semester and a half faster (it's just breaking the equation into bits of varying composition and rearranging them, which is literally the primary thing you want to learn).

//I pick on the quadratic formula specifically because I'm a fan of the "one big idea that's made of all the little ideas you need" approach to teaching.


F'n signed.

"You use this to find the roots of a second order polynomial."
"Whoa, how does it work?!"
"We don't have time to cover it in this class."
 
2012-07-30 08:46:39 PM

neenerist: DarwiOdrade: Math helps you function in the real world.

[i50.tinypic.com image 519x61]">

Alll the math a Poli Sci grad needs.


i'm gonna open a restaurant where its gonna be:

SMALL
MEDIOMIA
LARGE
DIOS MIO ES GRANDE
 
2012-07-30 08:48:33 PM

doglover: Agent Smiths Laugh: 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.

That's why math is not taught properly.

People with an innate grasp of math teach it. That's why everyone thinks it's hard. If you start fencing against Zorro, Dartanian, and Ingio Montoya and they don't take it easy on you, you're gonna think OMFG FENCING IS IMPOSSIBLE. That's what math class does. It's a bunch of people who automatically get it because of a natural propensity for the skill with years of experience yelling at you for not being born into an artificial way of thinking.

Math class cuts all the important and real life parts of math out and presents it in the least useful, most boring, and an entirely haughty way. And they we act surprised when the only people who can do math really well are boring and haughty and not very practical. You get what you teach.

Like I said in the redlit thread: we shouldn't stop teaching math, we should stop teaching math like we do. Instead of hard rules for making integers have sex for an hour a day, teach real world examples and introduce practical applications from day one. Don't just say "You can use the area of a square to measure your floor." make all the problems "You must carpet this house. Here is the price per square foot per carpet. You have $2000. Which carpet can you afford?"

Witthout that real world anchor right away, most people will never get it.


That's not entirely without merit.

In the occasions I've found myself required to teach others, I've found that being able to develop analogies and examples is vastly more effective at actually conveying understanding of the subject than by simply "teaching by rote".

That, however, does bring me to my next point:

buckler: Agent Smiths Laugh: 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.

...

Yes, I understand that, and I can certainly do the basic math that allows me to get by, but in my own experience, there comes a point when the instructions simply stop making sense to me. I'm less inclined to follow them as I am to ask why these rules exist in the first place; I always seem to fall back into an interpretive mode. At some point, the sheer number of these seemingly-arbitrary rules (though I know they aren't) simply overwhelms me. With English, I may have a dozen ways to express the same idea. In math, there is only one correct way; there's little to no room for interpretation, and that's where I get into trouble. I'm expected to memorize hundreds of different rules with absolute precision, and know when to apply them. I don't know why, but for me, I can do that with language, but not numbers.

It isn't a matter of not being able to follow instructions; it's that some rulesests are easier to facilitate than others. I can't really explain it. That's what I mean besides not looking down on people who have a firm grasp of English while being brilliant at math (thanks for the insult, by the way), because I suffer difficulties when approaching things from the opposite direction.


First, I wasn't trying to actually insult you so much as sucker-punch you with a simplified way of looking at the subject.

I think where you stumble is is accepting that fundamental math simply does have very specific rules that must be followed. There is no interpretation. You have to follow the rules correctly every time. If you don't follow the rules correctly you will get the answer wrong...every time.

It's the purest form of logic.

But when you think about it, even in language you are following certain rules every time, particularly with grammar. You know when to use periods, because you know, procedurally, where they are to be used, what sequence of characters denotes the use of a period, or comma, or apostrophe. If you don't, you're doing it wrong. Granted, grammar can be used incorrectly for effect, and actually serve its purpose of conveying ideas better for having done so. Math does not provide that leeway.

In a certain sense you're applying the same kind of understanding in grammar as one does in math.

123 and xyz are just symbols. Symbols you've learned to manipulate within a certain set of rules that depend on the organization of the symbols.

"x + spoon = & pickle" doesn't mean anything because you know, procedurally, that those symbols together don't mean anything and don't fit a rule-set.

"x+3 = 5" you can handle, procedurally, if you know the rule-set is math because you've learned to recognize the order of the symbols as such.

Just as you know that this is a proper sentence (Sally said, "I hate math.") because you recognize the characters as denoting speech, and know the rule-set that applies that sequence of characters.

But I digress, I'm not trying to bust your balls but to show you that you're probably better at it then you've convinced yourself you are, because you already have and use the skills needed for it.
 
2012-07-30 08:51:06 PM

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

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

Oh shiat! You just used algebra!

That's applied arithmetic (multiplication).

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


see that's where both of you are sounding very unAmerican!! when was the last time you have count and do math in a store or when grocery shopping?? the cashier (who probably can't even spell algebra) would let the machine tell you WHAT 3 ibs of meat is!!!!!!

AMERICA FARKK YAAHHH@@@@@
 
2012-07-30 08:53:27 PM
"Wall of Error, much?"

;)
 
2012-07-30 08:54:18 PM
I don't want to beat the dead horse much more, so I'll just say this: I have a great admiration for those with a mastery of mathematics. It is a wonderful thing, and I understand it has a certain poetry all its own. Personally, I have tried and tried to gain at least a basic competency, but at some point, there comes a time when my brain just refuses to process it any further. I'm not unintelligent, but my intelligence just lies elsewhere. Maybe with more work, and a facilitator that can teach in a way I can understand it better, I might improve.

I know there are some here who compare that with basic illiteracy, and you might be right on that count; I don't know. When I spoke about that roommate of mine who admitted to me that he was illiterate, and who I helped, I was talking about a guy who was not at all stupid. He was a brilliant cook who created fantastic things, made even better by the fact that he created them intuitively, without the ability to read a recipe.

Intelligence comes in all forms, and despite how smart you may be, there is always, always someone who can do something you admire and aspire to do, and who does it better than you.

/out
 
2012-07-30 08:54:45 PM
FTFA: It's not hard to understand why Caltech and M.I.T. want everyone to be proficient in mathematics. But it's not easy to see why potential poets and philosophers face a lofty mathematics bar.

Sure..... failing to teach algebra and geometry might not hobble a future poet but it will sidetrack a future engineer or physicist. Since we don't wear our future occupations like badges on our foreheads we are forced to educate everyone in the basics of our civilization. Sure, everyone may not "need" such an education (by a very narrow definition of need) but we must damn well make sure that the ones who do get it.
 
2012-07-30 08:55:04 PM

Agent Smiths Laugh: "x + spoon = & pickle" doesn't mean anything because you know, procedurally, that those symbols together don't mean anything and don't fit a rule-set.


spoon=&pickle+x, on the other hand...
 
2012-07-30 08:55:11 PM

Babwa Wawa: Mad Tea Party: Babwa Wawa: 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.

No you can't. How do you explain what a normal distribution is without algebra? Confidence intervals? You can't do them justice without calculus, to say nothing of doing it without algebra. Unless you water it down to the point where it's utterly useless.

You're confusing mastery of algebra with basic algebra. As dbaggins wrote above, you only need grade 7-8 algebra to teach introduction to probability and statistics and high school physics. I remember being absolutely shocked that my Physics 101 and Intro to Stats classes used no math skills beyond what I had in 9th grade. If you disagree, then I don't know what to say. I've used probability as the use case to introduce people to basic algebra before. One does not necessarily have to follow the other.

The idea that we should have every HS grad have complete mastery of algebra when we're not even bothering to introduce them to probability/statistics, logic, and physics is baffling to me.


You are confused about when schools teach algebra. In both my and my daughter's school it starts in 8th grade for the ADVANCED classes. No, algebra is a highschool class.
 
2012-07-30 08:55:43 PM

Agent Smiths Laugh: But I digress, I'm not trying to bust your balls but to show you that you're probably better at it then you've convinced yourself you are, because you already have and use the skills needed for it.


Thanks for that clarification. Sorry I jumped the gun. I was made to feel defensive.
 
2012-07-30 08:59:49 PM

Kimothy: They're, not their. Damn.


You had it right the first time...
 
2012-07-30 09:02:30 PM
Liberal teachers. That is the problem. Everything is about self-esteem boosting and crap. Let teachers kick a little ass and fire all the hippie moonbeam ones.

Problems all solved.
 
2012-07-30 09:02:42 PM
The only college math class I had trouble with was calculus, and that was only because the prof didn't speak English beyond a few simple phrases. I would have earned a much better grade if I took the prerequisite courses in Korean.
 
2012-07-30 09:02:56 PM
Math is necessary.

How else are the kids suppose to know how much 40 grams of weed is.
 
2012-07-30 09:03:11 PM
Many of those who struggled through a traditional math regimen feel that doing so annealed their character.


Look, sometimes when you're LARPing it's hard to stand the entire time. But don't blame the math!
 
2012-07-30 09:06:28 PM

autopsybeverage: The only college math class I had trouble with was calculus, and that was only because the prof didn't speak English beyond a few simple phrases. I would have earned a much better grade if I took the prerequisite courses in Korean.


Ya I learned calc from bonan jang. My professor got cancer and I ended up with a non-english guy. He said 'sumpshun' like every third word. It was ridiculous and I should have gotten a refund.
 
2012-07-30 09:07:02 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.


And better informed. There are Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.
 
2012-07-30 09:07:50 PM

buckler: I know there are some here who compare that with basic illiteracy, and you might be right on that count; I don't know. When I spoke about that roommate of mine who admitted to me that he was illiterate, and who I helped, I was talking about a guy who was not at all stupid. He was a brilliant cook who created fantastic things, made even better by the fact that he created them intuitively, without the ability to read a recipe.

Intelligence comes in all forms, and despite how smart you may be, there is always, always someone who can do something you admire and aspire to do, and who does it better than you.


But by learning how to write, he gained the ability to record his own recipes and share the fruits intuition with a wider audience. The same concept seems pretty transferable to math: It's a tool for recording your methodology so that those who can't do it from pure intuition can reproduce it themselves. So someone else can playback the process you followed and gain the benefits of your talents even if wouldn't have been obvious to them.

Without that, when he was gone, everything he'd created would be lost with him.
 
2012-07-30 09:12:17 PM

lockers:
You are confused about when schools teach algebra. In both my and my daughter's school it starts in 8th grade for the ADVANCED classes. No, algebra is a highschool class.


He may be confused by the fact that we kind of run out of names for classes that lie within the vocabulary of students of the appropriate grade level, so we tend to get lazy and just name them after the class before or after and add "pre" to the beginning or "II" to the end.

For instance, eighth-grade math, a class that would probably be called something like "long-form operations (basic)" were an adult in a technical field to name it, is usually called "pre-algebra" in Texas, despite having nothing to do with Algebra. The high-school trigonometry course is called "pre-calculus" despite having nothing to do with calculus, and the mathematical rhetoric/proofs class is called "geometry" despite being only baaaaaarely about geometry in any recognizable fashion.

So someone that hasn't been an actual student or teacher in a while (like, say, a parent, or someone looking it up on the internet) can pretty easily look over a list of course names, see the word "algebra", and go "holy shiat, they're teaching kids algebra in junior high now? That just seems unnecessary." Not so much the reader's fault as our* fault for naming things in a lazy/retarded fashion. Poor documentation usually ends like that in basically every field.

*our = educators
 
2012-07-30 09:12:42 PM
img24.imageshack.us
 
2012-07-30 09:13:04 PM

buckler: Agent Smiths Laugh: But I digress, I'm not trying to bust your balls but to show you that you're probably better at it then you've convinced yourself you are, because you already have and use the skills needed for it.

Thanks for that clarification. Sorry I jumped the gun. I was made to feel defensive.


It's alright. The big trick I've found in teaching someone a subject like math is first getting them over the fear and self-doubt stage. Some people quickly convince themselves that they suck at math the first time they run into a tricky problem, or get one wrong, when they really don't. They have the skills, they just haven't had the rules explained to them in a way they digested. They've often been sabotaged by fear and self-doubt from previous mistakes, which can create a destructive feedback loop as continued mistakes feed that fear, until they just give up.

I think it's pretty much the same with any intellectual discipline.

That's why I find analogy and example to be so useful in teaching. It provides people with alternate ways to look at something that often prove more "digestible" to them.

It also helps bridge the fear gap once they start realizing that it isn't really as hard as they assumed it was, once they have a way of looking at it that they can get a foothold on.

I once tutored someone in electrical theory by teaching him to think of electron flow as a river.

That one simple metaphor got him through to graduation.
 
2012-07-30 09:18:28 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.


The problem is understanding algebra too much won't get you even to first base, if you know what I mean.
 
2012-07-30 09:19:17 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!


Not algebra. That's simple arithmetic.
 
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