Thursday, September 23, 2010
Algebra is Killing Our Kids
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With one hand I can count the numbers of times I have used Algebra since I was forced to take it in High School some 30+ years ago. If you cut off two of my fingers and didn't include my thumb you have the grand total number of times I have used Algebra since taking it. If you take out the times I used it while teaching, you could amputate my hand.
The crime is that students are being forced to take Algebra in Middle School. Pre-Algebra is crammed into their minds as early as Elementary School. Check out your fourth and fifth graders math books. My problem with all this, as a parent and an educator, is that it is unnecessary and harmful to students.
Teaching children Algebra is unnecessary because only a few professions actually use Algebra. If your child is going to be an engineer or an accountant then by all means take all the math available. Most students only take Algebra to meet college entrance requirements such as the A - G requirements levied on LAUSD students. The majority of students do not benefit by taking Algebra, they only suffer through it.
I ask this question: Are all these students ready to learn the abstract concepts of Algebra? How many children are sitting in classroom, trying to make sense of what is being "taught" yet, are not mentally developed enough to understand? They aren't bad kids or lazy, they just aren't ready. But, somebody read that other countries students were outscoring American students. What other countries make all their students take Algebra when they are eleven and twelve? Other countries only have the students with an aptitude for math take it! So, now the brainless surgeons who run our educational systems force ALL students to take Algebra in Middle School.
When I first took Algebra my teacher was a nice man with an incredible stuttering condition. He might as well have been speaking Czechoslovakian (no offense to any Czechoslovakian readers), I couldn't understand a word he said let alone the concepts. I have a Bachelors and Masters degree. I work in education. I have four children of my own. If anyone should see the value of Algebra it would be me. Two of my children will benefit, two will not. Why force it upon all students when it will only help a few?