Huh? Cut out algebra?
The toll mathematics takes begins early. To our nation’s shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school. In South Carolina, 34 percent fell away in 2008-9, according to national data released last year; for Nevada, it was 45 percent. Most of the educators I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason.
Shirley Bagwell, a longtime Tennessee teacher, warns that “to expect all students to master algebra will cause more students to drop out.” For those who stay in school, there are often “exit exams,” almost all of which contain an algebra component. In Oklahoma, 33 percent failed to pass last year, as did 35 percent in West Virginia.
Algebra is an onerous stumbling block for all kinds of students: disadvantaged and affluent, black and white. In New Mexico, 43 percent of white students fell below “proficient,” along with 39 percent in Tennessee. Even well-endowed schools have otherwise talented students who are impeded by algebra, to say nothing of calculus and trigonometry.
California’s two university systems, for instance, consider applications only from students who have taken three years of mathematics and in that way exclude many applicants who might excel in fields like art or history. Community college students face an equally prohibitive mathematics wall. A study of two-year schools found that fewer than a quarter of their entrants passed the algebra classes they were required to take.
“There are students taking these courses three, four, five times,” says Barbara Bonham of Appalachian State University. While some ultimately pass, she adds, “many drop out.”
Another dropout statistic should cause equal chagrin. Of all who embark on higher education, only 58 percent end up with bachelor’s degrees. The main impediment to graduation: freshman math. The City University of New York, where I have taught since 1971, found that 57 percent of its students didn’t pass its mandated algebra course. The depressing conclusion of a faculty report: “failing math at all levels affects retention more than any other academic factor.” A national sample of transcripts found mathematics had twice as many F’s and D’s compared as other subjects.
I’m sorry… Let me see if I’m getting this right… The answer to America’s low proficiency in math is to dumb down the entire nation’s curriculum (substantially) so they don’t have to try as hard?
That has got to be the worst idea I’ve ever heard! Any American with an average level of intelligence can learn algebra and beyond! They don’t need to be straight A students in math, but they can at least pass. Especially students at the college level! And what is so frustrating is that people often blame others for their own problems. It’s the teachers fault, the school sucks, or as I’ve seen across online forums… It’s the liberal education system! Maybe one or more of these factors could play a part with a students’ ability to learn, but those factors are not universal for Americans. Instead, they are closer to rarities/outliers. At least one would hope so! If the teachers and the schools are truly the problem then there has to be some serious reform! But I sincerely doubt it. Why? Because first generation immigrants are going through the same exact schooling, usually with less resources, but look at the results!
Two Brown University professors are issuing a new policy report challenging what they say is the conventional view of immigrants in the United States, hoping to inform government officials, policymakers, educators, and the general public.
“The conventional view on the children of immigrants asserts that because of their social and economic environment and lower levels of assimilation, they are more at risk to fail in school and become delinquents,” according to the report, written by Evelyn Hu-DeHart and Cynthia Garcia Coll. “The conventional view is fundamentally wrong: New data and research shows that the children of immigrants do well in school and in the community. In fact, many studies show that many children of immigrants outperform their American-born peers both in school performance and in out-of-school positive behaviors.”
So… If the facilities are the same, the teachers are the same and the subject matter is the same… What else is left? Most likely work ethic. Yes, that’s right, whether you’re lazy or productive. Go figure!
So here’s my take on this article:
We should not exclude algebra from our nation’s curriculum! Despite the fact that you may not apply the knowledge to your life 10 or 20 years down the road, it is essential to developing critical thinking. It aids your ability to problem solve! And it gives you a foundation to build from just in case you do actually need to use it for your career or furthering your education. A strong foundation gives you more options. If we, as a nation, decided to drop the subjects that did not aid a large majority of Americans in their careers then we would be throwing half of our education in the trash – at the very least! Think about it… Do you really need history? What about earth science? Or music? Or art or technology? Let’s get rid of difficult writing classes too because what’s the point of being able to write beyond the level of an 8th grader?
Do you see how ridiculous it gets when you apply that concept to all of the subjects in our schools? So why the hell should that argument even exist with our more difficult subject matter? Especially one like mathematics, which forces people to think about a problem no matter how abstract it may be. Getting rid of algebra and beyond in our public schools is equivalent to an average American failing algebra because they just didn’t care. If we throw in the towel instead of emphasizing the fact that hard work and self-responsibility are essential qualities in a person, what kind of example are we setting? Furthermore, how can we truly prepare students to go into the workforce if they think they can just drop out of something too difficult instead of putting in the hours and hours of work that is required?? It doesn’t make sense.
America should be a nation that pushes very strongly for higher education and exceptional students. We need to focus on creating an environment in which the bar can be set higher, not lowered to meet inadequate standards. So keep a strong foundation in schools so that the nation as a whole is more knowledgeable and our children have even more opportunities to succeed after putting in the hard work. Hard work that should be expected, might I add, not criticized for being too strenuous when in all reality it is quite average.