I wasn’t going to write anymore about math, but this article came out in the New York Times. “Is Algebra Necessary?” It is an op-Ed and at the NYT, so we can take it with a grain of salt, but I just can’t help myself. I must respond.

Early in the article Hacker states, “all too many are expected to fail”. Whoa. Let’s stop right there. Expected to fail? That is garbage. Way to set the kids up for failure. We know they are going to fail. It is just the way it is. Algebra is haaarrd. Much too difficult for these American kids to conquer.

He goes on to state that the study of mathematics in the traditional sequence is unnecessary for everyone. A point I can agree with. There is no reason why everyone high school kid should study Calculus. Then he blames Algebra for the high drop out rate. He cites the drop out rate in my current state, a lovely 34%. And people wonder why I homeschool.

He goes on to say that all math isn’t bad. We need to teach kids about certain things, for example, how to calculate the Consumer Price Index. Honestly, I don’t know how to do that, but since I know Algebra, I bet that I can do it.

Algebra is necessary. If you want kids to be wise consumers, they need Algebra. I am not talking about Linear Algebra or Differential Equations here. I am talking about basic Algebra 1.

I firmly believe that people are afraid of Algebra because they did not get a strong foundation in fractions. Schools sweep over fractions too quickly. Kids miss the basics. The math gets more difficult involving more fractions, and the kids never catch up. (Oh, how I love homeschooling.)

Then there is this “new” math garbage that they are teaching kids in school. There is nothing “new” about basic math. Maybe we didn’t need to invent crazy ways to teach the kids. Maybe we just needed to take the time to teach it to them in the first place.

There is nothing wrong with “drill and kill” in the early years. Kids need to know their basic math facts inside and out before getting to the higher maths. When kids have to use a calculator to solve 6 x 4, we have a problem.

Basic Algebra is necessary for our everyday lives. Kids can be successful in Algebra if they get quality instruction in the early years of their math instruction. The problem that our kids are having is not an Algebra problem. It is an elementary math instruction problem. Instead of throwing up our hands and saying it is too hard for some kids, we should make it possible for them to succeed. Fix the elementary math problem. Toss out the “new” math. Get back to the standard algorithms. Focus more on fractions.

I know Algebra can be hard, but I think it is doable. After Algebra 1 I don’t care what kids study, but I think we do a great disservice to kids when we tell them that Algebra is hard, you are going to fail, so we will skip it. It doesn’t have to be completed by 9th or even 10th grade, but I do think that our average kid can handle it.

That is my rant for the day.

I am 40 today. I feel the same. I was expecting this big rush of something. I am not sure what that something was supposed to be. I did get scrambled eggs for breakfast made by Freckle Face. Maybe that is what it was. 🙂

Deb

said:That article gave me the agita.

“It’s true that students in Finland, South Korea and Canada score better on mathematics tests. But it’s their perseverance, not their classroom algebra, that fits them for demanding jobs.”

How do you suppose they developed that perseverance? By not doing math because it was too haaaaaaaarrrrrrd?

Fast Forward to Next Year’s Article: Why Americans Can’t Compete.

It’s a mystery.

And I agree with everything you said about the Olympics. Totally. The misuse of the word “hero” is another pet peeve.

Happy Birthday!