Monthly Archives: July 2015

When Math Isn’t About Math

Missouri Colleges Examine Math Requirements

I remember after taking (and failing) Introduction to Algebra for like the sixth time, I had a full breakdown. I mean, I didn’t go to work or school for like an entire week. Every dream I had for myself slipped away because they all hinged on me successfully completing three semesters of algebra. I spent that week thinking to myself, “This is it. This is my life. It will never be any more than what it is right now. I’ll never be the person that I know I can be. Never.”

College algebra has been the general education math requirement for graduation for decades. For many students, that’s also meant sitting through remedial math, or taking algebra two or three times – Missouri could offer options to college algebra more relevant to students’ majors | The Kansas City Star.

I understand the critical thinking that math offers. I know how to look at a large complex problem and break it down into smaller components, gather my like terms, do my simple order of operations, and solve. I can do that and I use that math skill every day. But there’s no way to measure that math skill for someone like me. People think I hate math but I rather admire its logic (except for when previously established intransigent rules suddenly have no meaning). I may not be calculating the path to Pluto but I know how to tip appropriately. I know figure out if a BOGO Sale is really a sale. I know how to balance my bank account. I know how to pay my bills.

A committee appointed by the Missouri Department of Higher Education is recommending that two- and four-year public schools that require algebra instead give students the option of taking a class in statistics or another math subject more relevant to their field..

If the KC Star article was about reading or writing, I’d be sad because reading and writing are such joys for me. Yet, I also know that for some people reading is their math. Writing is their math. Public speaking is their math. If there are people out there who are living what they know for them is a meager life, a life short of their dreams, simply because of reading or speech or math, then we’ve got do to what we can to help them. That’s what college is all about.

“Students have been told, ‘You don’t think mathematically,’ because they struggle with algebra, but algebra is just one small aspect of mathematics.” 


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