We Need Algebra Now More Than Ever

There is a post flying around the interwebs that claims a Fox News segment from yesterday suggested there should be consideration giving to dropping algebra in schools.  I want to address two things about that particular clip.

First off, the posts I’m seeing are making it appear that the segment, and Fox News in general, is against algebra education.  I can’t speak for Fox News’ approach to algebra in general but if you watch the entire clip in question, it is just one host who thinks algebra is unnecessary while the four disagree with her, three of them enthusiastically endorsing the subject and it’s importance.

Make no mistake.  I’m no defender of Fox News.  Or CNN.  Or MSNBC.  Or any of them.  They’re all interested in money and not news.  I’m bringing this up only to point out a couple of pet peeves of mine and they are:  basing an opinion on the headline and headlines that intentionally mislead.   If I’ve said it once I’ve said it 314 times, do your research and form an opinion after the research.  Quit living in an echo chamber that continually reinforces your own opinions by echoing what you already thing.

Secondly, make no mistake that algebra is important.  I can appreciate that the struggle with math and algebra is real.  2016-02-04 06.33.24

I get that.  I struggled with algebra in high school, being dropped back from the advanced class to the regular class and having to work pretty hard to pass that.  But somewhere along the line something changed and as an adult learner in engineering school I managed to pass three semesters of calculus.  For the record, I had to take algebra II and trigonometry to even get into calculus.

Giving up on the struggle is no solution for Y, (See what I did there?) and in fact is the exact reason we need students learning algebra.  We don’t need to teach students to give up but instead how to improvise, overcome and adapt.  Kind of like what is necessary in real life.

Speaking of real life, the claim that you won’t use algebra again is simply false.  I will certainly agree that quadratic equations don’t come up every day but the ability to think critically and solve problems does come up.  Every stinking day.  It’s annoying.  But it happens.

We need more critical thinkers (revisit point 1 above) and we need more problem solvers.  Too much of what passes for debate is simple rhetoric flying around in an echo chamber of already held opinions.  Remember the memes flying around a few months back when the lottery was in the billions?   Those memes claimed they could divide it up amongst all of us in the U.S. and we’d all be millionaires?  no-splitting-the-powerball-among-the-us-population-would-not-make-us-millionairesTHIS is why algebra is important.  This equation is simple math but algebra and critical thinking are what allow you to see how wrong it is.  For the record, if you haven’t done the math we’d have all received $4.33.

Not everyone has to be a math whiz or an engineer but everyone does need to solve problems.  Stop saying algebra useless and instead promote and encourage math, algebra and critical thinking.  We need it now more than ever.

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