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.

Share