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View Diary: The algebra formula that saved an industry (258 comments)

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  •  And for that 0.00001%... (5+ / 0-)

    ... we'll increase the drop out rate another 10% by requiring calculus.

    I read things like "calculus isn't so hard!" and just shake my head at the a) ignorance and/or b) intellectual arrogance of that statement.  

    There are a lot of people who simply are not fundamentally willing or able or interested in learning higher mathematics.  And to force them to do so before getting a high school diploma is pushing them to a lifetime earning potential that's about the same as a grade school dropout.

    :: Not so hopeful now ::

    by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 11:53:04 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, Rick Aucoin, Larsstephens

      CA started requiring everybody to take algebra in the 8th grade recently.  I don't agree with that decision.  I think algebra is important (not Algebra II necessarily but first year algebra certainly), but there is no reason why you can't take it in the 9th or even the 10th grade and have a successful life.  Not everybody is going to be an engineer.

      •  eh. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, eaglekid85va

        I don't think it should be required to get a high school diploma at all.  Mastery of arithmetic for the basic high school diploma should be a given, but moving into more advanced math than fractions, percentages, add/subtract/multiply/divide just doesn't make sense on a "Must Pass Or You Get No Diploma" level.

        :: Not so hopeful now ::

        by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:50:32 PM PDT

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    •  I taught physics as a grad student (7+ / 0-)
      One of the most valuable lessons I learned is that it is a sort of faux-humility that allows a person to say "oh this isn't hard."

      It damn well is hard for almost everybody just like any other skill, and like any other skill practice will only compensate so much for innate ability. There's no need to punish people for having a different set of skills.

    •  I think the problem is the pass/fail (5+ / 0-)

      system of high school graduation.  Because all it really does is to pigeon-hole you as a loser/not a loser.

      I went to school in the UK, and we did it very differently.  Simplified, you got a separate pass/fail on each of your classes.

      Therefore you do not have to pass something that just doesn't work for you in order to succeed.

      It also gives employers and colleges far more information about your particular strengths than saying you managed to graduate in a one-size-fits-all manner.

    •  No one is talking about higher mathematics. (6+ / 0-)

      Algebra and the fundamentals of calculus are mastered by high-school students in many countries.  Yes, it requires effort, but it makes it much easier to understand the world quantitatively, and it affords a certain immunity against bullshit.  

      No one who understands the exponential function would go for a balloon mortgage, or believe that our society is sustainable, however peaceful your neighboorhood might look.  In fact, a lot of RepubliCrap propaganda is easily disposed of if one understands basic algebra and calculus.

      Silvio Levy

      •  I'm skeptical of your claims (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rick Aucoin, Larsstephens
        The understanding you speak of requires a level of sophistication that our schools don't provide and that I think can't be provided anyway. Few people in America or abroad are willing to invest the effort in making the analysis you suggest even of they are capable of it (which I doubt).
        •  Also... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens, eaglekid85va

          ... I honestly don't think most people have the ability.  Not just the knowledge, but the actual ability.  I'm not running down the "average" mentality, but all too often those who are above average seem to forget that they are above average.

          And, sorry, as someone who flunked out of Algebra I twice in high school and therefore ended up dropping out of school completely, I consider algebra to be higher mathematics.  Arithmetic is essential for getting by in the world, just like basic literacy is, but one does not need to clear a bar like Algebra anymore than they need to be able to critically read Chaucer in order to be a good functioning contributor to our society.  

          But denying them a high school diploma for that lack sure does make it less likely they'll be able to contribute in any positive way.

          :: Not so hopeful now ::

          by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 02:48:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't think you should be denied a high-school (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kurt, Rick Aucoin, Larsstephens

            diploma for not being able or willing to learn math, but there is nothing wrong with encouraging students, setting expectations and teaching it right.

            And the Algebra=Chaucer equation is way off base.  Chaucer is but one author, and he wrote in what is for all intents and purposes a different language that is no longer useful in our world.  One leans Middle English and reads Chaucer to broaden one's horizons.

            But algebra is everyone.

            Silvio Levy

            •  Not academic algebra. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rick Aucoin, Larsstephens
              I think a concrete, applied algebra is appropriate to describe as being for everyone. Few people ever have the need to have a genuine understanding of something even as basic as the empty set (for example) much less the concept of number base, various polynomial theorems, graphing things other than very basic linear equations, and so forth.

              The concept of limit, basic dericatives, and even useful application of say Newton's Method (e.g. for approxinting square roots), and so forth is even further removed from necessity. May as well tell them they should read up on Tangent Bundles and Killing Fields or the fun of S(2) groups while we are at it: it's about as useful and comprehendable.

            •  But, that's not what happens in American schools. (0+ / 0-)

              In our schools you aren't encouraged to learn Algebra, you are forced into it and if you can't do it you pretty much get to live your life at the earning potential of a GRADE SCHOOL dropout.

              Algebra as an option, Arithmetic as a requirement.  Not everyone is going to grow up and be an engineer, they really aren't.  We NEED good plumbers, carpenters, we need good Grocery Store managers.  It's OK.  It's honest work.  

              :: Not so hopeful now ::

              by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:19:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Spoken like a mathmetician. (0+ / 0-)

              I also know a English Literature Prof who would agree that the comparison is way off base, but for the opposite of your reason.

              Since I don't really have a dog in that race, I don't understand Algebra or Chaucer, I'll settle for "Both Are Superfluous To Most People's Lives".

              :: Not so hopeful now ::

              by Rick Aucoin on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 10:25:55 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  By all means let's hear your English Lit (0+ / 0-)

                prof's reasoning.  I'm not hard to persuade with lucid argumentation.

                Is your friend a Kossack?  Invite him to explain why he/she thinks learning Middle English is important for everyone and learning algebra is not.

      •  There is no country in the world (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens

        that expects EVERY student to master calculus in high school.

        Their elites, sure.

        And it may shock you to know that I know some very conservative Republicans who are quite good at math and physics. (Plenty of liberals who do too.)

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Mon Apr 19, 2010 at 03:09:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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