There are three comments to yesterday’s post on the amount of math necessary for everyday use that I encourage you to read. They each provide a different perspective on the issue through their personal experience with math. There are also links in two of the posts that provide additional perspectives on this issue. In one of those links I found this statement that would describe my experience with math.
The purpose of learning math, which most of us will never use, is only to prepare us for further math courses . . . which we will use even less frequently than never.
I took math classes the first three quarters of college and as long as I could memorize short term I did very well. I found that whatever that third quarter class was (?), it turned out to be the beginning of the brick wall for me, as simply memorizing and regurgitating no longer worked. Prior to that I thought my future was in the science/math area, but that experience pushed me in other directions.
Maybe the question I posed is not the best question to reflect upon. The national push for more scientists and engineers has been a catalyst for more emphasis on all students taking more math in high school. Another has been the need for all students to be college ready. If this is the purpose for learning math, to be college ready and prepared for a career in science and math then perhaps geometry is not far enough. One would need to go beyond this to be accepted into most if not all four year colleges.
The struggle for me begins with the data from our school system. Last year 35% of Tahoma graduates enrolled in a four-year institution with the range over the last six years being 33% to 42%. Yet, the math program is designed to prepare students for continuation of the math sequence in college. It works well for those students, but what about the 65% last year that didn’t enroll in these schools or the 38% who didn’t enroll in any school. Do they need to be in the same sequence, with the same purpose, and the same pace? I don’t think they do and I don’t know that the algebra, geometry requirement best meets their needs for future success.
I don’t disagree with the need for math, but as Ethan suggests in his comment the appropriate ending course or courses may not be geometry. Yes, we need more engineers and scientists, but all young people are not going to become engineers and scientists. Yes, more students from our system should be attending four-year schools, but there isn’t room or money for all to attend. Then why have the same math sequence and expectations for all students?