algebra

No One Puts Baby In The Corner

No One Puts Baby In The Corner

First, let me say that this Nicholson Baker article already starts off wrong by not discussing al-Khwarizmi’s contributions to algebra, mainly NAMING it.

Secondly, this conversation about math reminds me of the conversation we had about Andrew Hacker’s article last year. Here’s another guy who ostensibly doesn’t have a focus in any math-related subjects trying to reform math by limiting how much math students get. I wonder if he thinks similarly of English, and whether kids should have to read anything above Romeo & Juliet, and not Macbeth or Othello. Or the script to the Leonardo DiCaprio version of the movie. Or the manual to the VCR that once played the movie.

As far as I can see, higher-level literacy isn’t that necessary to the average citizen, either. Or do we not place the same restrictions on literacy as we do on math?

More importantly, I’m inclined to agree with Dana Goldstein on this: those who get higher-order math may fall along socioeconomic lines. Those in the higher rungs of society will get Algebra 2 plus whatever other math will assure they can apply to technical careers or other careers of their choosing. Those in the lower rungs (an increasing section, mind you) will be relegated to algebra 1, and courses like, “Using A Calculator To Plot A Graph” or some other nonsense.

I’m adamant about access and the opportunity for all students to get access to the most information possible. Do I think math needs reform? Absolutely. Do I think eliminating algebra 2 as a bridge towards that is the way to go? Absolutely not. This will take a concerted effort from educators (specifically K-12) to reconsider what needs to get taught across the board. I know the Common Core Learning Standards were supposed to do that, but I’m unconvinced as of now.

If someone said, “Let’s end compulsory higher-order math tomorrow,” and the fallout happens across racial, gender, class lines, then I could be convinced that this was a step towards reform. Yet, given the state of what our culture thinks about math right now, in all of our school systems, I can’t risk the idea that our lowest-income schools don’t have access to the same knowledge that their higher-income level counterparts do.

What do you think?

Mr. Vilson

{ 21 comments }