Saturday, March 5, 2016

Algebra II or Art History

Why do we need to know algebra?

It's a question that has been raised for decades or more in American public schools, and the answer is always the same: knowing advanced math builds critical thinking skills for all people that will positively impact their ability to learn other skills and concepts. Unless you're an engineer or in a math-oriented field like accounting/finance, you will most likely never use your high school math skills. Yet the study persists, and Joanne Jacobs address the issue with a post about social scientist Andrew Hacker's questioning of mandated math curricula that pushes all students to a minimum of competency in algebra II/trigonometry.

In his new book The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions, political scientist Andrew Hacker proposes replacing algebra II and calculus in the high school and college curriculum with a practical course in statistics for citizenship (more on that later). Only mathematicians and some engineers actually use advanced math in their day-to-day work, Hacker argues—even the doctors, accountants, and coders of the future shouldn’t have to master abstract math that they’ll never need.
“We are really destroying a tremendous amount of talent—people who could be talented in sports writing or being an emergency medical technician, but can’t even get a community college degree,” Hacker told me in an interview. “I regard this math requirement as highly irrational.”

For many yearsI thought the same thing as CCSS proponents, and I bought the argument that learning math to algebra and beyond was fundamental to developing the critical thinking part of the brain, that knowing algebra and trig was part of being an educated person. But I'm beginning to believe that is a smoke-and-mirrors argument. Looking back, I wish I'd learned to play the piano, and taken more art classes, and done graphic design, and learned to code, and taken art history, and taken debate, and sung in the choir, and worked on set design for the plays, and learned to weld, and studied sound mixing .... and myriad skills and interests other than algebra II and trig.

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