EdTech 537: Discussion

Is Algebra Necessary?

The truth is that you really do not “need” algebra unless you plan to teach it or use it in a scientific profession.  According to an opinion piece by Andrew Hacker in the New York Times,

A TYPICAL American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal?

Reasoning mathematically is a nice skill but one that is not relevant to most of life. We reason about many things: parenting, marriage, careers, finances, business, politics. Do we learn how to reason about these things by learning algebra?

Mike McClenathan of  Forbes takes the counter point and asks is “anything” necessary?

It’s true that most people don’t use algebra (or geometry, or calculus) in their day-to-day professional lives. But most don’t use chemistry, or physics, or European history every day either. Very few jobs require a familiarity with great works of literature. I would argue that, if basic communication skills are set aside, many jobs require none of the skills we force students to learn in high school. So why pick on algebra? Is anything taught in school really necessary?

I will be totally honest, if I didn’t teach math I would never use, imaginary numbers, Pi, Euler’s Constant, the Golden Ration, imaginary units, or the perfect squares. Wait!  That’s everything except the Number 1 from my list of favorite numbers!  So is there really a value to what I do (besides paying the bills)?

Which side are you on?  Is Algebra (math) necessary?


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