Why We Need Algebra

Here is a pointed case for why math is important:

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen wrote a column on February 15 enititled "What Is the Value of Algebra?" Cohen recounted the case of a twelfth grader at a high school in Los Angeles who failed an algebra course six times and finally walked out of school while struggling during her seventh attempt to wrestle with a class that was a requirement for graduation.

Cohen went on to acknowledge that he too flunked algebra and had to retake the course. He discounted any real-life need to know the subject and raised the question as to why it should be a requirement at all for high school graduation. Lecturing the student, he explained:

"You will never need to know algebra. I have never once used it and never once even rued that I could not use it. You will never need to know--never mind want to know--how many boys it will take to mow a lawn if one of them quits halfway and two more show up later--or something like that. Most of math can now be done by a computer or calculator. On the other hand, no computer can write a column or even a thank-you note--or reason even a little bit. If, say, the school asked you for another year of English or, God forbid, history, so that you actually had to know something about your world, I would be on its side. But algebra? Please.

Cohen is obviously not alone in thinking along these lines. A lot of Americans agree with him. As a fan of history, Cohen should be familiar with the Biblical phrase "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." A day after his column appeared, the National Academy of Sciences issued a survey of 200 multi-national corporations that indicated that 38 percent were planning to shift an increasing amount of their research to countries like India and China that maintain solid educational systems. Surprisingly, the report concluded, lower labor costs were not the major factor in making these decisions. Instead, their plans were triggered by the availability of high-quality educational institutions and the resulting pool of scientists and engineers.

No one in Hyderabad or Shenzen is calling for getting rid of secondary algebra requirements.

Why? The math is simple:

No algebra=No calculus=No science=No technology=We're totally *&$#FRTDG!!!!!


Anonymous said...

Does anyone seriously believe that a girl who fails a course 7 times deserves a high school diploma? It is an insult to all the other hard working students that this reporter suggests otherwise.

tristan said...

I have students that can't do simple flight calculations in their head, it makes me want to scream at them, it was math I could do in 7th grade.

Anonymous said...

no algebra means digging ditches or writing bs for a newspaper that doesn't know the difference between news and opinion.