Putting Education Reform To The Test

Feedback Loop: More About Math Edcuation

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A recent study says that schools are emphasizing math which few students will use in their careers. Readers argue advanced concepts are essential because they improve logic and reasoning.

Yesterday we wrote about a National Center on Education and the Economy study which argued students were learning a lot of math they won’t end up using in their career.

And schools were not spending enough time on more fundamental concepts in elementary and middle school which were more likely to be used by workers.

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.

The study drew strong reactions from readers who feel that advanced math courses are essential to logic and reasoning:

Here’s reader 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.

Over at science and technology site KurzweilAI, reader spikosauropod argues students are being taught how to answer questions but don’t understand the fundamentals.

A student can get a solid foundation in mathematics by going through about five thin, well designed books. They might be titled:

Basic Arithmetic
Advanced Arithmetic
Pre Algebra
Intermediate Algebra

After that, the essential pieces are in place and the battle gets easier. Students should still be required to take a traditional geometry class, complete with proofs. It is also important that things like trigonometry be presented in a simple geometric fashion without moving too quickly to concepts like unit circles.

Others, like owenmagoo, suggest economics should be part of math education:

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?

What are your thoughts? What math is necessary?

Reader reaction is an important part of building StateImpact Florida’s education coverage. Feedback Loop will be a regular feature highlighting your questions, criticisms and comments.


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