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Topics Homepage> High schools should not require algebra

High schools should not require algebra

PRO (2 assertions)

Not require- High schools shouldn’t require taking algebra ever during someone's education.
High schools-public high schools in the U.S.

1. Assertion: Although math may be necessary for the future, specifically algebra is not, and therefore, it is a waste of time and effort.

Reasoning: Math will not be used for everything you do in your life. For example, you don’t calculate how you must project your toothbrush at so-and-so degree angle at the left molar to brush your teeth. You just do it. A lot of the careers that people in the modern era choose are not ones that require a comprehensive understanding of algebra. We only need to know basic math which we have already learned.

Evidence: Is isn’t clear that the math we learn in the classroom has any relation to the quantitative reasoning we need on the job. John P. Smith III, an educational psychologist at Michigan State University who has studied math education, has found that “mathematical reasoning in workplaces differs markedly from the algorithms taught in school.” Even in jobs that rely on so-called STEM credentials — science, technology, engineering, math — considerable training occurs after hiring, including the kinds of computations that will be required. Toyota, for example, recently chose to locate a plant in a remote Mississippi county, even though its schools are far from stellar. It works with a nearby community college, which has tailored classes in “machine tool mathematics.” A definitive analysis by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that in the decade ahead a mere 5 percent of entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra or above. If there is a shortage of STEM graduates, an equally crucial issue is how many available positions there are for men and women with these skills. A January 2012 analysis from the Georgetown center found 7.5 percent unemployment for engineering graduates and 8.2 percent among computer scientists.

Source: New York Times article “Is Algebra Necessary?”
Impact: What’s the point it wasting time and effort to study something that is unnecessary? Instead of wasting time on algebra, we can spend time studying other useful subjects. Math teachers are paid somewhere before $25,000 and $40,000 per year. Instead of wasting our money to pay these teachers, we can use this for other more important subjects. However, we will not leave these math teachers jobless; instead, they will teach other more important subjects, like geometry, which is actually necessary, unlike algebra. Therefore, high schools should not require algebra because it is unnecessary for the future, which makes it a waste of resources.

2. Assertion: Algebra causes people to fail, which can ruin the rest of their lives.

Reasoning: Algebra is a very difficult subject. Many students struggle with algebra causing them to score very low on report cards. This causes high schools to look down on them, for they believe that they do not have an understanding of the subject. This leads the student to have to go to a bad high school and giving them worse chances of going to their dream college. One bad grade in a very difficult subject, like algebra, can destroy a person’s whole entire life.

Evidence: Of all who embark on higher education, only 58 percent end up with bachelor's degrees. The main impediment to graduation is freshman math. The City University of New York found that 57 percent of its students didn't pass its mandated algebra course. A national sample of transcripts found algebra had twice as many F's and D's compared as other subjects. To our nation’s shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school. In South Carolina, 34 percent fell away in 2008-9, according to national data released last year; for Nevada, it was 45 percent. Most educators cite algebra as the major academic reason. Shirley Bagwell, a longtime Tennessee teacher, warns that “to expect all students to master algebra will cause more students to drop out.” For those who stay in school, there are often “exit exams,” almost all of which contain an algebra component. In Oklahoma, 33 percent failed to pass last year, as did 35 percent in West Virginia. Algebra is an onerous stumbling block for all kinds of students: disadvantaged and affluent, black and white. In New Mexico, 43 percent of white students fell below “proficient,” along with 39 percent in Tennessee. Even well-endowed schools have otherwise talented students who are impeded by algebra.

Source: New York Times article “Is Algebra Necessary?”
Impact: Why should we teach subjects that will cause students to fail, which negatively impacts the rest of their lives? These students drop out because they are getting F’s in algebra. These teenagers are our future generation. If they are dropping out of school because of one subject, which isn’t even necessary for the future, and not getting the education for other more important subjects, then are future generation will be filled with jobless, homeless people. As of September 2012, the U.S. unemployment rate is 7.8%. We don’t want to increase this at all; in fact, we want to decrease it and employ more people. By not requiring algebra in high school, less students will drop out, go to college, receive a good education, and get good jobs when they are adults.

CON (3 assertions)

No framework

1. Assertion: Algebra trains the mind to approach problems logically, and these reasoning skills are useful for the rest of students’ lives.

Reasoning: Having algebra in high school is necessary because we use it to solve problems in our everyday lives. For example, you wake up at 6 o’clock and have a meeting at 7 o’clock. It takes 30 minutes to get to your office. At what time should you leave your house to go to your office. This is a common example of a problem you encounter all of your life. Algebra isn’t like any other math, where you can memorize the facts the night before the test and still do well. Algebra is going to haunt you your whole entire life, so if you don’t learn it know, you will have to learn it later. So, what is the point of not getting done with it in high school? There is none. That is why we have high school, to learn advanced math.

Evidence: A liberal education is important for everyone because we all use some part of it everyday. People may not be using something like X+3=4Y from algebra, but they may be using the logic behind it. Similarly, people may not use specific dates and facts learned from history class, but they might use a research method that was learned.

Source: Huffington Post article “Algebra Is Essential in a 21st Century Economy”
Impact: Nothing is better than something you learned in high school that will help you for the rest of your life. Algebra trains you to think logically when approaching problems. In addition, the reasoning skills are useful for the rest of our lives. High schools should require algebra because it is used in the future and is necessary for learning a new way of thinking.

2. Assertion: Setting low standards will result in low education.

Reasoning: Algebra is very advanced material. Almost every single country that is ahead of us in math teaches algebra. It is an essential part of our education. Algebra (at a minimum) is needed to learn physics and chemistry. Physical science understanding is built upon a solid mathematical foundation. Students who do not understand algebra cannot begin to excel, or even succeed at physics or chemistry. Math teachers often don't seem to realize that science teachers apply the very same math. The mathematics does not exist in a vacuum–it has an irreplaceable value as a foundational cornerstone of physics and chemistry.

Evidence: The United States is the 32nd country in math behind countries such as Poland and Latvia. The percentage proficiency in math in the state of New York (30 percent) is equivalent to that achieved by students in debt-ridden Portugal and Spain. California, the home of highly skilled Silicon Valley, has a math proficiency rate of 24 percent, the same as bankrupt Greece and just a notch above struggling Russia. By the time we get down to New Mexico and Mississippi, we are making comparisons with Serbia and Bulgaria. The United States is 17th in math with a percentage just above world average. At this moment, the United Arab Emirates, Romania, and even Azerbaijan have the same rank as the US in science which is due to a failing in math.

Source: UK Guardian article “World Education Rankings in Maths and the Sciences”
Impact: If we don’t teach algebra to the students, then we won’t excel like other countries. Honestly, it is humiliating to be similar to small, poor, third-world countries with an education system not as good as the U.S. education system. Since we are proud of our strong public school system, we should have positive results; however, this isn’t happening at all for math or science. This can be based on the fact that algebra needs to be necessary. Algebra is the foundation for all other maths and sciences. Since algebra is the basis of so many other subjects, we need to make sure that the children are taught algebra, and America can actually be proud of our education system.

3. Assertion: The U.S. needs more kids studying math and science so that we continue to innovate.

Reasoning: During the 60’s and 70’s, the US was one of the top in math and science. We were the leader of innovation and a giant in science. For example, we were the first country to put a man on the moon. Algebra was a common subject taught in high schools in previous decades which helped create the US we know today. We must continue requiring algebra so we can continue on our path of success. If, we don’t keep up in math, we will soon fall behind a lot of other countries, pushing us farther and farther behind in technologies.

Evidence: A study taken from 1988-2000 showed that of those who held top-tier jobs, 84 percent had taken Algebra or a higher math class. Only 50 percent in the bottom tier had taken Algebra.

Source: Washington Post article “Requiring Algebra II in High School Gains Momentum Nationwide”
Impact: Algebra is absolutely necessary in high school. As proven by the statistics, people who held the best jobs had taken algebra. The only way to increase innovation is if we have more students in math and science. This can be achieved if we require algebra in high school. Algebra is the basis of many maths and sciences, as we have proved, so after learning algebra, students will be able to learn physics, chemistry, trigonometry, calculus, and many other subjects. This will result in an increase of innovation, since they will get the best, top-paying jobs after the education they’ve received. With algebra as a requirement in high school, we can increase innovation in the future.