This is quite literally the first time that I have ever heard anyone other than a child say that algebra has no real-world usage, and I am tempted to dismiss everything based on that alone. But my...

This is quite literally the first time that I have ever heard anyone other than a child say that algebra has no real-world usage, and I am tempted to dismiss everything based on that alone.

But my real problem is that I don't think the author did enough to justify why they think that society would benefit from reducing educational standards. Sure, we would have less dropouts, but how does having more workers with diplomas matter if they lack critical skills? I mean, if we don't teach students algebra, then they are not learning linear functions. And how can they fully understand the terms of a loan if they don't understand linear functions?

Agreed. I think a good point could have been made but in this case it really does not shine well on the author. You can't teach a kid excel and expect them to have learned the mathematical...

Agreed. I think a good point could have been made but in this case it really does not shine well on the author. You can't teach a kid excel and expect them to have learned the mathematical reasoning skills gained from an algebra class. Relational algebra (database management) is useful but completely different in type than regular algebra. Plus, I fear they'd just teach the tool anyway.

He said that he finds statistics far more useful than algebra, which is different from saying algebra has no use at all. I'm not sure that algebra itself (abstract, symbolic manipulation of...

He said that he finds statistics far more useful than algebra, which is different from saying algebra has no use at all.

I'm not sure that algebra itself (abstract, symbolic manipulation of equations) is necessary for understanding the terms of a loan? You do need to know mathematical operations and how to read a graph, but that's possible without knowing the rules to solve for x. And, perhaps, loans could be taught directly without teaching the abstraction. I find that people comfortable with abstraction underestimate concrete ways of understanding.

It might be interesting to study how many adults successfully learned algebra and what sort of limitations come from not knowing it.

But I think the main point is that requiring everyone to learn a thing is a very high bar and doesn't work. We might be better off making sure everyone learns something useful to them.

Yeah, but that's a reductive way to think in my oppinion. Say a person fails to learn algebra and doesn't earn their deploma. Does that invalidate everything else they learned at school? Certainly...

But I think the main point is that requiring everyone to learn a thing is a very high bar and doesn't work. We might be better off making sure everyone learns something useful to them.

Yeah, but that's a reductive way to think in my oppinion. Say a person fails to learn algebra and doesn't earn their deploma. Does that invalidate everything else they learned at school? Certainly not. History is full of smart productive people who did not pass high school level academics.

I'm not saying I am opposed to the idea of lowering standards, I am just saying we need to have some more concrete reasons to justify them.

Well, here is the reason cited: So I guess the next thing to do would be to read that book. (That is, if you wanted to look into it further.)

Well, here is the reason cited:

In his 2016 book The Math Myth, Andrew Hacker goes to great lengths to demonstrate how the hurdle of passing algebra sets many high school students on the road to failure. Hacker makes a compelling case that failing algebra is a key step in the path to dropping out.

So I guess the next thing to do would be to read that book. (That is, if you wanted to look into it further.)

For what it's worth, Hacker's book (and several op eds he wrote on the same general topic) were shredded by the mathematical and mathematical education communities. Here's an example rebuttal by...

For what it's worth, Hacker's book (and several op eds he wrote on the same general topic) were shredded by the mathematical and mathematical education communities.

Here's an example rebuttal by Evelyn Lamb, a math columnist for Scientific American, which also references a number of other critical responses.

This is anecdotal but relevant: in the district I started teaching in, we identified algebra as the break point for most of our students, as failing it had significant correlation with dropping...

This is anecdotal but relevant: in the district I started teaching in, we identified algebra as the break point for most of our students, as failing it had significant correlation with dropping out. Students who didn't pass it the first time took it again, and students who didn't pass it a second time didn't come back. We didn't see this same pattern with any other subject, and while not all students who dropped out didn't pass algebra, almost every single student who didn't pass algebra dropped out.

The district had a >50% dropout rate. It's certainly not fair to lay that all at the feet of algebra, as a rate that high indicates significant issues in the system beyond just one subject. It's more that algebra seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back; the stressor that finally snaps the already-very-stressed.

The fact that Algebra is a breaking point for education is not terribly surprising to me. It's not something that can be taught the same way as history or language skills because you are not...

The fact that Algebra is a breaking point for education is not terribly surprising to me. It's not something that can be taught the same way as history or language skills because you are not learning simple facts and rules. It requires you to change the very way you think. Furthermore there are multiple thought processes to get the same answers, and not everyone's brain will be good at using a single standardized model.

Math is best taught one-on-one so a student can figure out what methods work for them. And in a school district where children are put into classrooms with one teacher for 30-40 students, there simply isn't enough resources to help everyone.

That being said, I've heard many school districts have been investing additional resources to math literacy. My local community college actually has a math center with one-on-one tutoring run largely by students. it's open very long hours and doesn't cost a thing to use, and I think it's a great example of how we can help students who fall behind.

I don't know if the conclusion the Author of this article is trying to lead us to is the right conclusion tho. I think it would be more worthwhile in trying to see why students struggle with...

Andrew Hacker goes to great lengths to demonstrate how the hurdle of passing algebra sets many high school students on the road to failure.

I don't know if the conclusion the Author of this article is trying to lead us to is the right conclusion tho.

I think it would be more worthwhile in trying to see why students struggle with algebra to begin with? How to remove some of the hurdles students are facing in the first place? Could we train better teachers? Would improving budgets for schools help?
Instead of just saying, let us lower the standards required for students to pass Algebra.

I feel like Education up to a certain level does have to be standardized, Undergraduate and Graduate school provides quite a lot of "plasticity" for what education path a student wants to go down. But, if we keep lowering the standards of what students are learning up to that point, in a macro context I think it would be more detrimental.

Edit: This is a tangential article. But, think would be relevant in this discussion. This is from 2003 1993 and I feel the situation has only gotten worse.

I think you and I might have similar opinions about the role of education in society. Right now there is a bit of debate on weather high school should provide a general education with life skills...

I think you and I might have similar opinions about the role of education in society. Right now there is a bit of debate on weather high school should provide a general education with life skills and basic tradesman techniques so they can enter the workforce directly or if they should provide a basis for higher education. The author seems to think the former, but I think society generally is leaning towards the latter. Personally speaking, I'm on the fence; there's good arguments on either side.

Absolutely! Education policies is such a complex topic, with a very very slow control loop (the time it takes to see effects of different policies) and with stakes being pretty high: lives of...

Absolutely! Education policies is such a complex topic, with a very very slow control loop (the time it takes to see effects of different policies) and with stakes being pretty high: lives of actual humans (kids/adults) on the line!

Right now there is a bit of debate on weather high school should provide a general education with life skills and basic tradesman techniques so they can enter the workforce directly or if they should provide a basis for higher education.

That is an interesting point I was not aware of. Having completed most of my education in Asia and Europe and only experienced Graduate school in US, I was not even aware that such a debate even existed!

I once talked to a colleague about this remediation research. He grumbled that the improvement in passing rates simply reflected the relative difficulty of the classes. “They’re just giving students an easier class to pass,” he grumbled to me. To which I say, precisely. That is precisely what they did, and precisely what they should do. Low passing rates cause harm. They result in students paying for credits that then do not bring them any closer to graduation. They often lead to dropouts. They are a barrier to success. So why not remove the barrier?

Does this mean that we should drop numeracy from high school or college curricula entirely? No. To simply excuse students from any quantitative learning would be doing them a disservice. But we should be vastly more flexibility in our definition of what quantitative literacy means. Substituting statistics for algebra is a good start; statistics, after all, are applied mathematics, and are from my vantage point far more likely to be of real-world use than algebra. A course in Excel or database management software would entail mathematical reasoning without the onerous difficulties so many students encounter in algebra or geometry, to say nothing of calculus.

Hacker makes an extensive case against compulsory instruction in abstract math in the Math Myth, and I will not rehash those arguments here. I understand that mathematics are absolutely central to human technological progress. But it does not follow that, because they are important to us as a species, everyone should have to learn them. That bad reasoning is similar to the thinking that led us to the myth of the STEM shortage. (No, really: there is not and has never been a STEM shortage.[vii]) “This area of human intellectual enterprise is important, therefore it is something everyone should do” is simply faulty logic. Instead of specific requirements for courses like algebra or trigonometry, states, high schools, and universities should offer broad content areas that can be satisfied with a number of different courses. Flexibility and accommodation should be the norm in the paths students take through formal education.

This is quite literally the first time that I have ever heard anyone other than a child say that algebra has no real-world usage, and I am tempted to dismiss everything based on that alone.

But my real problem is that I don't think the author did enough to justify why they think that society would benefit from reducing educational standards. Sure, we would have less dropouts, but how does having more workers with diplomas matter if they lack critical skills? I mean, if we don't teach students algebra, then they are not learning linear functions. And how can they fully understand the terms of a loan if they don't understand linear functions?

Agreed. I think a good point could have been made but in this case it really does not shine well on the author. You can't teach a kid excel and expect them to have learned the mathematical reasoning skills gained from an algebra class. Relational algebra (database management) is useful but completely different in type than regular algebra. Plus, I fear they'd just teach the tool anyway.

He said that he finds statistics far more useful than algebra, which is different from saying algebra has no use at all.

I'm not sure that algebra itself (abstract, symbolic manipulation of equations) is necessary for understanding the terms of a loan? You do need to know mathematical operations and how to read a graph, but that's possible without knowing the rules to solve for x. And, perhaps, loans could be taught directly without teaching the abstraction. I find that people comfortable with abstraction underestimate concrete ways of understanding.

It might be interesting to study how many adults successfully learned algebra and what sort of limitations come from not knowing it.

But I think the main point is that requiring

everyoneto learn a thing is a very high bar and doesn't work. We might be better off making sure everyone learns something useful to them.Yeah, but that's a reductive way to think in my oppinion. Say a person fails to learn algebra and doesn't earn their deploma. Does that invalidate everything else they learned at school? Certainly not. History is full of smart productive people who did not pass high school level academics.

I'm not saying I am opposed to the idea of lowering standards, I am just saying we need to have some more concrete reasons to justify them.

Well, here is the reason cited:

So I guess the next thing to do would be to read that book. (That is, if you wanted to look into it further.)

For what it's worth, Hacker's book (and several op eds he wrote on the same general topic) were

shreddedby the mathematical and mathematical education communities.Here's an example rebuttal by Evelyn Lamb, a math columnist for Scientific American, which also references a number of other critical responses.

This is anecdotal but relevant: in the district I started teaching in, we identified algebra as the break point for most of our students, as failing it had significant correlation with dropping out. Students who didn't pass it the first time took it again, and students who didn't pass it a second time didn't come back. We didn't see this same pattern with any other subject, and while not all students who dropped out didn't pass algebra, almost every single student who didn't pass algebra dropped out.

The district had a >50% dropout rate. It's certainly not fair to lay that all at the feet of algebra, as a rate that high indicates significant issues in the system beyond just one subject. It's more that algebra seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back; the stressor that finally snaps the already-very-stressed.

The fact that Algebra is a breaking point for education is not terribly surprising to me. It's not something that can be taught the same way as history or language skills because you are not learning simple facts and rules. It requires you to change the very way you think. Furthermore there are multiple thought processes to get the same answers, and not everyone's brain will be good at using a single standardized model.

Math is best taught one-on-one so a student can figure out what methods work for them. And in a school district where children are put into classrooms with one teacher for 30-40 students, there simply isn't enough resources to help everyone.

That being said, I've heard many school districts have been investing additional resources to math literacy. My local community college actually has a math center with one-on-one tutoring run largely by students. it's open very long hours and doesn't cost a thing to use, and I think it's a great example of how we can help students who fall behind.

I don't know if the conclusion the Author of this article is trying to lead us to is the right conclusion tho.

I think it would be more worthwhile in trying to see

whystudents struggle with algebra to begin with? How to remove some of the hurdles students are facing in the first place? Could we train better teachers? Would improving budgets for schools help?Instead of just saying, let us lower the standards required for students to pass Algebra.

I feel like Education up to a certain level does have to be standardized, Undergraduate and Graduate school provides quite a lot of "plasticity" for what education path a student wants to go down. But, if we keep lowering the standards of what students are learning up to that point, in a macro context I think it would be more detrimental.

Edit: This is a tangential article. But, think would be relevant in this discussion. This is from

~~2003~~1993 and I feel the situation has only gotten worse.I think you and I might have similar opinions about the role of education in society. Right now there is a bit of debate on weather high school should provide a general education with life skills and basic tradesman techniques so they can enter the workforce directly or if they should provide a basis for higher education. The author seems to think the former, but I think society generally is leaning towards the latter. Personally speaking, I'm on the fence; there's good arguments on either side.

Absolutely! Education policies is such a complex topic, with a very

veryslow control loop (the time it takes to see effects of different policies) and with stakes being pretty high: lives of actual humans (kids/adults) on the line!That is an interesting point I was not aware of. Having completed most of my education in Asia and Europe and only experienced Graduate school in US, I was not even aware that such a debate even existed!

I was taught loans way before I studied linear functions. But I get your point.

From the article: