Algebra: Vital Cornerstone Of Education Or Harmful, Distracting Waste?
Posted: 31 July 2012 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3028
Joined  2010-04-26

Link

He does raise a couple good points.  For one, why does everyone have to learn it?

Personally, I’m awful at algebra.  Geometry I get just fine.  But algebra….my brain just starts smoking and making these awful grinding noises whenever I try it.  And I’ve never used it.  Not once have I ever had, or even tried, to figure out a polynomial equation.  And I’ve been out of college for ten years.  I realized just how little I use it recently as I’ve tried getting back into college.  All the stuff I actually use I still retain, but I have the algebra skills of a freaking 6th grader.

 Signature 

“In the end nature is horrific and teaches us nothing.” -Mutual of Omicron

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 July 2012 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2681
Joined  2011-04-24

I don’t know if it’s vital for everyone, since most people graduate high school and college without grasping it, but I think they should keep it.

You know, most of everything I learned in school has been unnecessary in the “real world”.

 Signature 

Raise your glass if you’re wrong…. in all the right ways.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 July 2012 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2189
Joined  2007-04-26

Algebra is a great way to teach logic. I actually still use it periodically. Besides how do you decide at the tender age of 11 or 12, which kids will need it and which kids won’t. Middle school is much too early to start closing doors on kids.

[ Edited: 31 July 2012 10:39 AM by macgyver ]
 Signature 

For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious,.... and just plain wrong

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 July 2012 11:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1191
Joined  2011-08-01

Hemant Mehta, a.k.a., the Friendly Atheist, has a nice rebuttal:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/07/31/why-algebra-is-necessary-rebutting-andrew-hacker/

 Signature 

Free in Kentucky
—Humanist
“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”—Edith Sitwell

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 July 2012 12:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1397
Joined  2010-04-22

I wish that I had been introduced to real algebraic proofs when I was in high school - the first time I saw them was in college. IMHO that’s much, much more fun than just memorizing rules of equations, which is what I got back then.

And both articles here - the NYTimes article and the rebuttal - didn’t catch one of the major reasons for education: to gain knowledge so that people can’t take advantage of your ignorance as easily. Every time someone buys a lottery ticket, they clearly show their ignorance or disregard of basic knowledge of probability - which includes algebra. Every time someone charges to a credit card, even while they have the funds to pay in their checking account, they show their complete foolishness in their lack of understanding of a different basic aspect of algebra: accrued interest. And so on.

To say that you never use algebra after high school doesn’t change the fact that others use algebra against you.

 Signature 

“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 July 2012 03:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  776
Joined  2009-07-17
FreeInKy - 31 July 2012 11:39 AM

Hemant Mehta, a.k.a., the Friendly Atheist, has a nice rebuttal:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/07/31/why-algebra-is-necessary-rebutting-andrew-hacker/

I haven’t finished his blog post yet, but he’s talking about geometric proofs which I don’t think of as algebra. Err… It’s geometry. wink

Take care,

Derek

 Signature 

“It is noble to be good; it is still nobler to teach others to be good—and less trouble.”—Mark Twain

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 July 2012 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5551
Joined  2010-06-16

That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve heard of recently.  There are kids who never use one or another of all of the topics taught in schools.  So, by that logic we should get rid of all subjects. 

The problem isn’t with the subject, it’s with a poor teacher.  Rather than memorizing rules that don’t make much sense, the kids should be shown how to think about quite a few day-to-day situations in an algebraic framework.  This goes for all the subjects.  I’ll bet that if you think of a subject that you had to take courses in more than once, and compare the teachers, you’ll see that some of them were a waste of your time, but others really got through to you so you understood and even enjoyed the subject. 

Occam

 Signature 

Succinctness, clarity’s core.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 August 2012 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1191
Joined  2011-08-01
TromboneAndrew - 31 July 2012 12:31 PM

Every time someone charges to a credit card, even while they have the funds to pay in their checking account, they show their complete foolishness in their lack of understanding of a different basic aspect of algebra: accrued interest. And so on.

By the context, I assume you’re talking about carrying a balance on credit cards, and I totally agree with you.

But I use my credit cards for virtually every purchase I make, then pay them off when the statement is due. I don’t pay a cent of interest and in fact have banked literally thousands of dollars over the years in rewards, which go into my IRA. Meanwhile, my cash is parked in an interest bearing checking account for an extra 30 days.

I dig math!  cheese

 Signature 

Free in Kentucky
—Humanist
“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”—Edith Sitwell

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 August 2012 08:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3161
Joined  2011-08-15

The problem isn’t with the subject, it’s with a poor teacher.  Rather than memorizing rules that don’t make much sense, the kids should be shown how to think about quite a few day-to-day situations in an algebraic framework.  This goes for all the subjects.  I’ll bet that if you think of a subject that you had to take courses in more than once, and compare the teachers, you’ll see that some of them were a waste of your time, but others really got through to you so you understood and even enjoyed the subject. 

I found this from another thread that Darron linked and you are spot on Occam. A good teacher, a reallllly good teacher has the ability not only to inspire students to think for themselves but generates genuine intest in the subject, and math in all forms including algebra, geometry, trig and even basic math is essential in critical thinking. I never taught the subject but included it in my lesson plans for social studies and encouraged students to take the higher level courses when possible. We are far behind other countries in both science and math and aren’t hammering home critical thinking skills. They can take that out into the real world as a tool they’ll use their whole lives. So, yes learning x+y=? Is invaluable for us all.


Cap’t Jack

 Signature 

One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.

Thomas Paine

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 August 2012 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15370
Joined  2006-02-14
Occam. - 31 July 2012 05:37 PM

That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve heard of recently.  There are kids who never use one or another of all of the topics taught in schools.  So, by that logic we should get rid of all subjects. 

The problem isn’t with the subject, it’s with a poor teacher.  Rather than memorizing rules that don’t make much sense, the kids should be shown how to think about quite a few day-to-day situations in an algebraic framework.  This goes for all the subjects.  I’ll bet that if you think of a subject that you had to take courses in more than once, and compare the teachers, you’ll see that some of them were a waste of your time, but others really got through to you so you understood and even enjoyed the subject. 

Yep, well said, Occam. I also think there’s room in the curriculum for a critical thinking class that uses subjects like math and history to show the ways we are easily fooled and bamboozled.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 August 2012 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  967
Joined  2005-01-14

I would say that algebra is an essential skill.  Algebra II, where you get into quadratic equations, not so much.  The main reason I couldn’t grasp quadratic equations was because I couldn’t see any practical use for them.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 August 2012 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  776
Joined  2009-07-17
advocatus - 01 August 2012 09:49 AM

I would say that algebra is an essential skill.  Algebra II, where you get into quadratic equations, not so much.  The main reason I couldn’t grasp quadratic equations was because I couldn’t see any practical use for them.

Maybe Algebra I should be specifically about practical/applied algebra, i.e. stuff you’d actually use later in life. smile Additional classes would be for those going into science, engineering, et al.

Take care,

Derek

 Signature 

“It is noble to be good; it is still nobler to teach others to be good—and less trouble.”—Mark Twain

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 August 2012 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5551
Joined  2010-06-16

While I can’t offhand think of any day to day uses involving quadratic equations, they are of value by helping the student learn to conceptualize the ideas of how various quantities work together and relate to each other.

Occam

 Signature 

Succinctness, clarity’s core.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 August 2012 04:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6054
Joined  2009-02-26

I agree,l

IMO the fundamental concepts of algebra are based on universal laws. Knowledge of these laws are useful in every day life.

It teaches fundamental ways of looking at a problem without knowing one or more of its constituent components. It teaches how to solve riddles. What can be more useful and desirable than the ability to analyze the future, regardless of situation.

Phone rings, “who can that be?”.... “humm”..... “It can’t be Peter, Mary, Joseph, it’s got to be Fred from next door!”.  There, algebra in full bloom… cheese

[ Edited: 01 August 2012 04:35 PM by Write4U ]
 Signature 

Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind.
W4U

Profile