Friday, July 21, 2017

When Did Algebra Become Such A Hurdle?

I know others have commented on this and I'm kind of beating a dead horse, but here's a short take on this.
Algebra is one of the biggest hurdles to getting a high school or college degree — particularly for students of color and first-generation undergrads.

It is also the single most failed course in community colleges across the country. So if you're not a STEM major (science, technology, engineering, math), why even study algebra?

That's the argument Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California community college system, made today in an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel.
Our daughter had to take it in high school. No one's idea of a good student, she was able to pass it. What's up here? It reminds me of the stats from Baltimore where 4 high schools didn't have a single person competent at reading or math.

I guess the solution is to stop expecting literacy and basic math skills.

Maybe we could replace algebra with fire-starting.
Nah. Too hard.

6 comments:

Kelly the little black dog said...

I taught college many algebra classes in graduate school. The folks in my classes had developed crippling blocks against the subject. Since they were unable to learn it in highschool, they clearly believed they would never be able to learn it. Most were reasonably smart, but would turn off when you tired to explain things. Many resented that they had to be there. Best out of the lot were the learning disabled students. They expected they would have to struggle, but believed that if they did they could overcome.

Ohioan@Heart said...

I hate to beat a dead horse, but this is just another symptom of the ever increasing "participation trophy" mentality. This mentality says that if something is hard for someone, then we shouldn't tell them that they failed to meet a criterion, rather we should eliminate the obstacle so everyone can feel better. I for one am tired of telling everyone they are special snowflakes and that they and their thoughts and ideas are the equals of all others. Nope. Just ain't so. Some ideas are better than others. Thus it has always been and shall always be. If you can't pass some simple Algebra class, then sorry, you don't deserve to be a "college graduate". (As an aside, if it were me setting the bar, if you can't pass freshman English, and the mathematical equivalent, Calculus, then I'd say so sorry but you fail.)

Ohioan@Heart said...

This is sufficiently from my previous that I made a separate Comment...

I followed the link and was appalled by the "logic" the so-called expert was using. I recall vividly asking why, as a Chemistry major, I was required to take so many classes in fields outside of science and math (never watered down by the way), in order to get my degree. The answer always was that a college degree showed a well rounded education and an ability to think critically in general. OK, so that meant that I needed to pass freshman English (which was really introduction to psychological analysis of literature), and various other things like geography, Russian, Psychology, Economics, etc, none of which really fit into the category of, to quote the good chancellor, "relevant to their course of study". That's the way it was, and still is. So Chancellor Oakley is suggesting that we should drop the Algebra requirement for non-STEM majors (and as I implied in my previous comment, this is a severely watered down version of college level math). In order to be logically consistent, he must the choose between the following two (unless I've not thought of something). 1) He then concedes that a college degree does not indicate a well rounded education with demonstrated critical thinking skills, or 2) he thinks that STEM majors shouldn't have to take the difficult non-STEM classes. I wonder which, if either?

Jedi Master Ivyan said...

Ohioan: I'd drop the minimum math requirement to Pre-calc. Just my opinion. Its more math than most people are ever going to need.

K T Cat said...

I thought Algebra was pre-calc.

I know it's hard for some people. One of our sons can't get past calculus. That's not a sign we need to drop requirements, it's a sign the person needs to go in a different direction.

If we're going to respect people of all different abilities, we need to recognize that abilities are indeed different. Like Ohioan said, we shouldn't all get trophies for everything.

Unknown said...

- When Did Algebra Become Such A Hurdle? I know others have commented on this and I'm kind of beating a dead horse, but here's a short take ...
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