At NPR: For social justice’s sake, get rid of algebra!

From Kayla Lattimore and Julie Depenbrock at NPR:

Algebra is one of the biggest hurdles to getting a high school or college degree — particularly for students of color and first-generation undergrads.

It is also the single most failed course in community colleges across the country. So if you’re not a STEM major (science, technology, engineering, math), why even study algebra?

That’s the argument Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California community college system, made today in an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel.

Oakley is among a growing number of educators who view intermediate algebra as an obstacle to students obtaining their credentials — particularly in fields that require no higher level math skills. More.

Hmmm. If we dropped analysis of grammar from a serious English curriculum, more people would pass too. The trouble is, they would not usually know how to find out if they are using standard English where it is expected and needed, or how to fix it if they aren’t doing so. So college would be easier but the time spent there would be less productive.

At the site, there is also: Who Needs Algebra? New Approach To College Math Helps More Pass:

“I feel like, if math isn’t important in your career, then there is no need for it in college,” she says. “What’s the purpose of wasting your time and your money?”

I  spent more time on my algebra homework in high school than on all my lang and lit courses put together. But algebra taught me to see the theoretical structure behind the numbers we tend to accept as given.

Thinking that way saved me from any number of financial predators over the subsequent fifty years. I was much less likely to get lost in a blizzard of numbers as long as I kept my eye on the governing principles, the theoretical structure that is true for all x’s and y’s.

Drop your maths if you want, girls. But if you get stuck with a bad car loan, tenancy agreement, marriage contract, or mortgage, the worst part is that you may not even find it easy to understand why it is so bad. Not being able to grasp the underlying theory—maybe not even realizing that there is an underlying theory—sets you up for making the same mistake again.

Aw, just do your math homework! It’ll pay off in ways you don’t expect.

See also: Nature: Stuck with a battle it dare not fight, even for the soul of science. Excuse me guys but, as in so many looming strategic disasters, the guns are facing the wrong way.

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  • David Murrell

    The ultra-liberal “educators” (mis-educators?) do not know what goes in the real world. Algebra is used in basic statistics, and as such are used in a variety of areas. Algebra is used in economics and business, not part of STEM fields. I grew up wotking in home construction, and to calculate rafters one needs geometry.

    Essentially learning math requires hard work, something in short supply in moddle-coddling academe.

  • Mike Williams

    As someone who has been tutoring a high school student (my daughter) I can attest that Algebra is a challenge for a lot of people. Algebra is acknowledged to be a make-or-break subject…you get it or you don’t. When they move onto interest and trigonometry life gets much easier.

    But what makes it worse is you need numeracy andyou have to be able to do basic arithmetic in your head — e.g. recognize 4/9 >> 2/3 or 2-squared over 3-squared. But our elementary schools no longer care about this…they simply cop-out and tell them to use a calculator. Long gone are the days of memorizing your times-tables and the like.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Good. Less competition

  • Maggat

    Ya, if the little fluff head have trouble by all means get rid of it. After all what earthly purpose could algebra possibly have in one’s daily life????

  • dance…dancetotheradio

    Fucking Eloi.

  • Maggat

    Funny how this works. In school I was at a dead loss with algebra, geometry however it was a different story, I loved it.
    My wife on the other hand is an algebraic wizard and has no grasp of geometry what so ever. It amazes me to listen to her solve a mathematical problem in her head out loud.

  • Son of Durin

    As a friend of mine once said, “If we continue to lower the bar, eventually everyone will become successful at doing nothing”.