The Balance Sheet on Requiring Advanced Math

(By Julie Zhu)
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By Jay Mathews
Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dear Extra Credit:

Referring to your Oct. 30 column ["In the Real World, Advanced Math Doesn't Always Add Up"], you might not use the specific tools of mathematics every day, but where else in your academic career do you learn how to solve the general problems that are part of life? It's not all in the numbers. Mathematics teaches tools and techniques that carry over into solving non-quantitative problems. Math students learn to read and understand problems and break them into identifiable parts. They can organize and use their experience and skills as tools to address their problems. They develop concentration and persistence and find the satisfaction of being accurate and correct. Surely these lessons learned via mathematics are important to all of us and worth the emphasis in our schools.

Bill Bishop


Dear Extra Credit:

When I was in public school in Minnesota in 1988, in addition to having to walk through three feet of snow, we got our first exposure to algebra in the sixth grade. I remember thinking it was simple, but I could not find any value in it. I was probably too young to appreciate its many applications. In light of this, I see no reason to find something other than algebra to teach eighth-graders who struggle with math. How long do we need to keep teaching them basic arithmetic, which is algebra's only prerequisite?

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