Math and Education

I just saw this article:

Say Goodbye To X+Y: Should Community Colleges Abolish Algebra?

Sometimes academics and professionals use words that mean something different than colloquial speaking. I’m hoping that’s the case here. I’m worried that it’s not.

From the article:

Somewhere along the lines, since the 1950s, we decided that the only measure of a student’s ability to reason or to do some sort of quantitative measure is algebra.

Algebra is learning to reason quantitatively. If you can reason quantitatively, you can do Algebra. If you *can’t* do Algebra, you can’t do quantitative reasoning!

There are other math courses that we could introduce that tell us a lot more about our students.

I might be interested if they mentioned what these are. Leaving it ambiguous tells me that they aren’t looking at “other” math courses that “tell us more” about their students but rather they are looking at lower math courses that *allow a lot more of their students to pass*.

If the argument was, “we need to re-envision algebra so that it focuses more on thinking skills and leave out a little bit of the more arcane topics” I would be totally in agreement. But that does not seem to be the case.

Q: Do you have in mind a curriculum that would be more useful than intermediate algebra.

A: And if you think about it, you think about the use of statistics not only for a social science major but for every U.S. citizen

So you’re going to teach people statistics before algebra? Are you serious? That could be more damaging that not teaching people statistics. You are teaching them to read numbers without being able to logically think about them. That’s disaster waiting to happen.

If you think about all the underemployed or unemployed Americans in this country who cannot connect to a job in this economy — which is unforgiving of those students who don’t have a credential — the biggest barrier for them is this algebra requirement. It’s what has kept them from achieving a credential.

I agree that the inability to do rational thinking with numbers prevents people from achieving a credential. THAT IS A GOOD THING. What we need to do is help people build their rational thinking abilities so that they can perform this.

How is this not obvious? Oh, that’s right, because it is obviously a lot of work, too, while down-adjusting the standards is pretty simple.

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