"Is Algebra Necessary?"

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by BlueMason, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. BlueMason

    BlueMason Audaces fortuna juvat

  2. japhy4529

    japhy4529 House Bassist

    I agree with the basic premise of this article. As a high school student, I often wondered if I would ever use the algebra and geometry that I was learning when I graduated and entered the workforce. It turns out that my skepticism was well founded, as to date I have never needed to perform an algebraic or geometric calculation (and I'm nearing 40). That said, without sufficient exposure to algebra, trigonometry and geometry early in a student's career (e.g. throughout high school), would it not be difficult for a student to catch up later when they decide to pursue a college major that requires this background?
  3. 29palms

    29palms New Member

    Is Algebra neccissary? How about INTERMEDIATE ALGEBRA? I needed to pass that one for an Associates. That was a stumbling block for me for a short period. I tried it one summer, accelerated, but dropped out. It was way too tough. I had to go slower, and passed it finally that fall. I have never used Algebra, nor geometry in any of my work thereafter. Then again, I doubt I ever used Science, nor Biology, nor many other college courses. That said, I have often wondered many times if college was in fact the way to really go.
    I seem to have had better success in a trade. It cuts through all the BS you find in college courses and gets right down to the meat and potatoes of what you need to know in a trade such as Automotive Mechanics, HVAC, Aircraft Maintenance, Nursing, School of Business, even making chocolate like in Hershey PA's, got trade schools into doing that. How many people with degrees actually work in what they actually do?
    But it is without a doubt that educated people that went on to college do have higher paying jobs and you find them in companies like the oil industry needing positions with heavy emphasis in math and chemistry, geologist. You gotta know how far to dig, when to start digging sideways and a which angles, and what kind of rock you are encountering and what the make up of the substance you are looking for. Education pays off, you never know when you will need it.
    In my trade as an aircraft mx technician, I use measuring devices, I read schematics, maintenance procedures, fault trees, diagnostic bite equipment, load software into computer systems. I have never heard about BOOLEAN ALGEBRA in my life, but learned something about it while in training a few times. I have had little use for Geometry, Algebra, or Chemistry here in fact, I doubt anything in aircraft maintenance is anything academically higher in content and material than you find in high school physics. The physics portion of it is geared more towards altitude and what airplanes encounter at say 30,000 feet and how or why certain systems must be pressurized especially in altitude. So physics was emphasized more than any other thing in aircraft maintenance. At least I thought.
  4. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    That's the biggest red herring I've seen since the new year. If college is supposed to be about job readiness, then why not just get rid of all non-vocational courses entirely? Heck, if students failing classes means that the classes should disappear, why not get rid of college altogether and just give people diplomas for $100,000 and four years of staring at a blank chalkboard. Honestly, I believe that there are very few people that would become more educated doing it the traditional way of actually having books and someone to "teach" them.

    Now, let me get a little controversial and likely upset a few people. For people without learning disorders, if you fail at basic math then it is YOUR OWN FAULT. If you can not, literally, put 2 and 2 together by the time you are an adult it is either because you are not trying or because you have psyched yourself out. Get over it. The human mind is capable of amazing things if you actually let it work rather than make excuses ("I'm never going to use this!") or destroy your abilities by suggestive self-denigration ("I'm just bad at math!").
  5. 29palms

    29palms New Member

    Well, you must admit though, that some courses taught in school can be a waste of good talent and time. I don't think everyone needs to learn algebra just as others don't need chemistry.
    I learned dope and fabric at the aviation school I went to because, traditionally, airplanes used dope and fabric once upon a time. Complete waste of time. I have never seen it in my 20 years in this business. I don't know if schools are still showing this but I can tell you that in the future, composites is the way planes will go because of its lightness capabilities.
    It seems to me that colleges don't really seem to break off much from tradition. They need to keep up with the real world. Look at Sally Ride, the first American female austronaut. What do they always say. Learn lots of math and learn lots of science. For what? So you can maybe one day get a chance to play on a spaceship???
    A better question is....are we learning the wrong way? Are we learning in a failed system? Why is our economy so screwed up today and why is their high unemployment? Why do we have idiots in congress that tell us how to live our lives?
  6. 29palms

    29palms New Member

    .....and why do we go into debt and pay big money to get a degree and even at that, to learn garbage that won't guarantee us a job? Why not just take a good deal when you see one and pad up my resume with a degree that I can and willing to afford without joining the ranks of the mislead and be in debt paying all the faculties light bills for years to come.
  7. jaer57

    jaer57 New Member

    This discussion reminded me of this video:

    Conrad Wolfram: Teaching kids real math with computers | Video on TED.com
  8. I think the Commonwealth type nations have a pretty good setup on education. Their degrees go straight into the meat and potatoes. If you get an LLB then you have studied a ton (2-3 years) of things about law. For most schools in the US they only require 30 credits in a given subject to list it as a major. That's really not that much. That's only one year of substantive knowledge. While I don't think all general education requirements should be eliminated, I do think that degrees should be more focused on the end result.

    I understand that whole "general education makes us rounded citizens/students". That doesn't really make sense to me. I can't subscribe to that theory.
  9. japhy4529

    japhy4529 House Bassist

    +1 The Commonwealth model makes a lot of sense to me - learn the basic subjects in high school and then focus on your major course of study in University. This is why one can become a doctor or lawyer with an undergraduate degree from a Commonwealth country.
  10. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Our AAS culinary arts program made the phenomenally asinine decision to replace my old class CUL110 culinary math with MAT121 college algebra. It's going to take most of our students 3 years of remedial <100 level to even qualify for 121, if they stick around long enough. This change happened 2 years ago when I stopped teaching and they couldn't find another adjunct to replace me. Stay tuned to watch the mass exodus. We have a 3 year program, and it takes most of them 4 years when everything goes well, the real problems will surface in the next year or two when no one can graduate.

    No, algebra isn't necessary.
    Yes, algebra is valuable, but so what?
    I think the key is that learning abstract ideas and solving algebra equations makes you the KIND OF LEARNER who is brighter. This happens when a person is developing their intuition, much earlier than in college. High school is a much better time. For an adult learner, it's simply a brick wall that must be scaled. Is it helping an adult? I'd argue no in that case.

    I also think that colleges love remedial math, it's their bread and butter. It deflects attention away from poor graduation rates, and the college can stand there and say "see, little johnny didn't graduate, but that's not OUR fault, he wasn't 'college material' and we tried to help, but he just couldn't do it....too bad high schools are so poorly preparing OUR students."
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2012
  11. Petedude

    Petedude New Member

    From another perspective. . .

    For the schools that charge for remedial math (probably the majority), it's additional tuition earned.
  12. 29palms

    29palms New Member

    I agree alot of this kind of math is really not neccissarry for alot of folks. But picture this scenario. You are stuck at sea, with no GPS. All you have to guide you are the stars, and maybe a compass. At that point, you could probably use all the math you can get. Computers are only good what you program them to do.
    Latin is a dead language, but is it really? You learn latin, you can pretty much decipher alot of romance languages. But I see where TED is getting at. It is more important to know the end result than to be wasting time calculating. We are not all stuck on a raft with only a compass and stars to look at.
  13. rebel100

    rebel100 New Member

    I've always felt that they should replace College Algebra with a more useful "life skills math". Teach people why buying cars/houses on credit might be a crippling financial blow. Teach cost comparison, deciphering income and sales tax issues, learning percentages...what's my raise actually worth? how much do I tip? Teach them to balance a checkbook and manage personal financial issues.

    I see for too many college grads that don't know any of this stuff...presumably they all passed college algebra.

    ooh....nice 29palms...add reading a compass and basic navigation to my course too!!!
  14. thomaskolter

    thomaskolter New Member

    We can keep this simple if your not likely to be going to college for an associates degree or higher odds of needing algebra is remote and if your going to go that route you will need it.

    My best math class was in High School which was Consumer Math. An example one one useless project I had to buy a house and I mean go to a realtor open house, get the loan from the bank with all the paperwork, figure out the costs of the house compared to my fictional income and close all in practice. But it was an awesome experience and had a chance to learn from professionals who were most helpful. I did the same thing for automobile purchasing. When done over the year I learned many things I use everyday. Hardly useless but in my school that was a remedial class for slow math learners I think I got the good side of the math education in this case.
  15. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    All maths teach logical thinking. That is their value.
  16. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    I think algebra is a freshman requirement because all of your professors had algebra as a freshman requirement and now they want to make everybody else suffer. Same can be said for all freshman requirements.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2012
  17. ruthevans41

    ruthevans41 New Member

    It is necessary but I found it very difficult to deal with.
  18. 03310151

    03310151 Active Member

    We're really dicussing this? I keep checking to see if this is an article from the Onion. A political science major writes an article asking if Algebra is necessary? WTF? No, it's not necessary as long as we keep importing highly educated Indians and Chinese into our country, not important at all.


    I get that some are not "math people" but that does not change the fact that millions of 12 year olds complete Algebra in the 7th grade.

  19. Manturo

    Manturo Member

    I read this article too and thought, "I can see his point BUT..." and that but is that the way math is taught is without real-world context and no attempt to make it relevant to students. I could never envision using algebra to real-world problems. That is the failing of most academic subjects as they are taught. There is no goal to connect them to some practical point familiar to the student. Most kids don't like to learn for the sake of learning. I liked learning for the sake of learning but I was abysmally bad at math and repeated Math III. Failed precalculus which made me not want to go on to college among other reasons. Most math teachers are not the best at making it interesting and exciting or at least practical.

    I think the question that we should be asking ourselves is why we are still behind most other developed countries in terms of math achievement before we start lowering the standard of higher education.
  20. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    It's just a way of thinning the herd.

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