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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Darning socks, shorthand, algebra

Selective colleges should stop expecting top students to take calculus, argues Scott White in Forbes. I was with him that far. My daughter took AP Calc because the college counselor told she had to, not because she had the slightest interest in math or science.

But then White suggests that most students can take an easier path because the jobs of the future will require data literacy and statistics. He cites Jo Boaler, a Stanford math education professor, who says a study found "only 12% of professionals use algebra, trigonometry or calculus regularly and only 2% use calculus."


She's pushed California to adopt new math guidelines that stress data analysis, and says "most of Algebra II is as irrelevant as "sock darning and shorthand."


Math professors, and data scientists, disagree, saying that replacing Algebra II with data literacy classes will close the doors to college-level math, science, engineering -- and data science -- majors.


There are lots of high-paying opportunities for people who can do math, writes Hechinger's Jon Marcus. "Every one of the 25 highest-paying college majors are in STEM fields."


"Yet math scores among American students — which had been stagnant for more than a decade, according to the National Science Foundation — are now getting worse."


Only around one in five graduate students in math-intensive subjects including computer science and electrical engineering at U.S. universities are American, the National Foundation for American Policy reports.

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10 Comments


Guest
Oct 07, 2023

As my Potemkin university slowly sinks beneath the waves, the administration and the trustees are frantically grabbing at any STEM-sounding but math-lite program the consultants can dream up: e.g., "data analytics," "integrated engineering and business" (highest math--college algebra). Computer science is down to a single semester of "calculus lite." I get students who on paper have taken a college course in statistics who have no idea what a normal distribution or a standard deviation is.

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Guest
Sep 29, 2023

Jo Boaler is a idiot who thinks since math is hard by definition no one should master it...that is why bridges collapse and people get injured or killed...


I wish people would understand that a college level course in stats requires a solid knowledge of calculus and that serious data science will not be mastered by someone who does not understand mathematics

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Guest
Sep 29, 2023
"only 12% of professionals use algebra, trigonometry or calculus regularly and only 2% use calculus."

And yet professional carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. use algebra, trig and even calculus all the time, likely daily. Sure not the pen and paper of the classroom, but conceptual, using methods and aids and even in formulas from standards manuals and handbooks. You take these courses to learn to discipline your intellect and develop abstract thinking. Sure in the past, there were jobs for people to sit down and do the calculations, but even though computers do that these days, those who use the numbers need to comprehend what they mean.


Did I derive much over my career, no. But did I use my calculu…


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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Sep 29, 2023

Would-be STEM student, if you follow Professor Boaler's advice for California, you're finished, or you'll spend a long time and real money trying to learn what you should have learned for free in basic education, which requires mathematics additional to the basics to which this state unwisely limits its pupils, thereby rendering them serfs, unable to migrate to other developed states, or at any rate to employment in well-paying jobs there.

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Guest
Sep 30, 2023
Replying to

Did you miss the "attracting and retaining lower-achieving males" in the 2nd paragraph of the quoted material?


There are many stories of men who did poorly getting good grades in school to correct their deficiencies and succeed in PECS. And they pursue real learning not grades as they desire to be able to do something instead of hold a piece of paper.


Boys and later men must often overcome the negative impacts of being placed in the hands of teachers that hate them because they are boys. My cousin's oldest is one such boy. And it only took the fall semester of first grade for this evil teacher to do it. She left at Christmas to have her baby…

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Guest
Sep 28, 2023

One benefit of Alg II/Precal is learning how to use a tool to solve a complex problem. Yes, you might not use matrices, but you will use "Here is a complex problem with several unknowns. How do I categorize the information I DO have in order to solve?" And that skill is basically impossible to practice outside of math class.


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