Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Study: Schools And Colleges Are Teaching The Wrong Type Of Math

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Most students are being taught math they will never use, while schools skimp on or omit foundational skills student use more according to a new study.

Community college students are needlessly assigned to remedial math classes to learn lessons they won’t use during their studies, according to new research from a Washington, D.C. group.

And the study also found that many high school graduates are not learning subjects they will need to use in their careers.

The study was produced by the Washington, D.C.-based National Center on Education and the Economy and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“What these studies show is that our schools do not teach what their students need,” the authors wrote, “while demanding of them what they don’t need; furthermore, the skills that we do teach and that the students do need, the schools teach ineffectively. Perhaps that is where we should begin.”

A StateImpact Florida and Florida Center for Investigative Reporting series showed more than half of the students who took Florida’s college placement exam in 2012 were assigned to at least one remedial class.

The series noted that colleges and K-12 officials said they had done a poor job of coordinating on the type of classes high school graduates would need to complete college-level work.

The National Center on Education and the Economy study found that first-year college math work was generally on a level they called Algebra 1.25. That means community college students would have to know most of the concepts in Algebra I, plus some geometry, statistics and other lessons.

But the study found that some students were never taught elementary-level concepts necessary for college-level work, such as geometric visualization and complex measurement.

The authors argue schools need to ensure students master elementary and middle school-level concepts, and that the more advanced subjects, such as Algebra II, are less vital.

Just five percent of workers will use the math taught in the sequence of courses typically required by K-12 schools: Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus.

“To require these courses in high school is to deny to many students the opportunity to graduate high school because they have not mastered a sequence of mathematics courses they will never need,” the authors wrote.

They cautioned that the study should not be used to make the case for lowering high school graduation requirements. In fact, they argue, colleges should slowly raise their standards — “greatly” — and adjust what students are expected to know.

You can read the study here. The Miami Herald included how Miami-Dade College is already adjusting to these concerns.

And you can read our full “13th Grade” series here.

Comments

  • Gmama

    I also wonder why business math and accounting courses are considered electives at my kid’s high school. My oldest son uses all his high level math in his college work, but my middle son struggles through these classes he probably won’t use. I am guessing he will end up in a business where it will be helpful to understand basic accounting and budgeting.

  • darren65

    Your kid’s school has “business math”? I’m told that’s verboten in my district.

    • davom4

      “Business math” is a gateway drug. “Business math” leads to “business accounting”, and once those kids know how to read a ledger, they’ll be able to see how their own governments are robbing them blind.

  • Neal_Scroggs

    Mathematics aren’t taught simply to equip the student for a career. Maths are critical to the development of higher reasoning. If you want our future business and cultural leaders to think like adolescents then by all means dumb down maths at the college level. Otherwise leave it alone, or better still, make the curriculum even more rigorous.

  • owenmagoo

    most essential applied math?

    it’s not geometry, trig, algebra, or calculus…

    it is actually called economics. (yes, it does borrow from the last two above, but there is no better REAL example of where there is a need for applied math.)

    if one is fortunate enough to attend a high school, where economics is actually taught, how often is the teacher some hack, without a math background?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=762485438 Lawrence J. Winkler

      Economics is not applied math. That’s just arithmetic. And given how well business leaders, and bankers and politicians run things, arithmetic is too advanced for them.

  • WilliamK

    This is a ridiculous story. So they are taught the wrong kind of math and not the right kind of math but no mentions of what the wrong kind, or the right kind is.

    • StateImpactJOC

      “But the study found that some students were never taught
      elementary-level concepts necessary for college-level work, such as
      geometric visualization and complex measurement.

      The authors argue schools need to ensure students master elementary
      and middle school-level concepts, and that the more advanced subjects,
      such as Algebra II, are less vital.

      Just five percent of workers will use the math taught in the sequence
      of courses typically required by K-12 schools: Geometry, Algebra II,
      Pre-Calculus and Calculus.”

  • Stargazer

    Many of these students don’t know how to compute 10% of a whole number! It would be wonderful to see more evidence of higher reasoning and critical thinking. It’s not there for too many of these kids. Sad commentary on our educational system.

  • mirt

    The goal of Math is not to teach some formulas or rules. One expects from the children who learned math the ability to reason logically, e.g. to distinguish axioms from theorems from proofs from definitions. This is something none of other subjects teaches, and this ability was the foundation of progress till some time ago. Lately, it seems, our lords decided they do not need logically thinking subjects, and stopped to teach it.

  • Vincent Mohan

    Colleges like remedial classes because they can charge full price for them, they don’t count towards graduation, and are taught by underpaid adjuncts or grad assistants.

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