Education critics continue to create doubts on the importance of algebra in high school education.
The importance of Algebra is vague
Education reporter Jay Mathews attacked the basics of mathematics in his recent news column titled “Algebra II just doesn’t add up.” He shared on the post his personal experience.
I used to get an A in Algebra II. But that was a long time ago. Since then, I cannot even remember a single instance that I was able to use whatever I’ve learned from algebra. It makes me question myself about the importance of algebra in life.
On the latter part of his column, he did mention a significant purpose of mathematics to him, although it is more of the arithmetic part.
I use math in my work, long division I’ve learned from fourth grade to be more specific. It helps me consolidate my annual list of schools with high rates of college-level test preparation. SPCA even mailed me a free calculator to do the arithmetic for me.
Another vocal mathematics critic, Andrew Hacker, even made a book about his stand on being an anti-Algebra enthusiast, and he titled it “The Math Myth.”
He wrote in his book:
History, Literature, and Biology all touch base with realities we know. Unlike other subjects like mathematics, which represents an alien world, an enigmatic orbit of abstractions. (page 15)
Hacker categorizes himself as a social scientist, someone with a quantitative side.
Algebra is a form of training
Algebra is not all about memorization of formulas and solving complex expressions. It’s a way of thinking which helps in categorizing, organizing, and analyzing various problems or scenarios.
The importance of algebra is not found in the formulas and procedures – it is in the analysis and understanding of different scenarios, which hones our skills in logical thinking and decision making.
Mental skills that Algebra help sharpen are carried over in real life, plenty of actual scenarios makes use of logical thinking in daily activities (as shown in a publication by the National Academies of Science, How people learn). The likes of Mathews and Hacker, do not understand the importance of Algebra and mathematics since they know little about it.