@LesleyChang: *Should math be an elective in high school?*

I can understand that sentiment, since so many people struggle with trigonometry, algebra, and calculus. I can also appreciate the fact that we probably grow the most as people when we focus on our strengths. While I understand her viewpoint, I wholeheartedly disagree. Math should definitely be a required course in high school.

It doesn’t really matter if math is your worst subject in school, because math is fundamental to our everyday existence. It is the one true universal language and I feel that mathematics cannot be demoted to an elective course during the early part of our education.

@LesleyChang: *Does any of your HS math help you in any way as a writer now?*

And this is the most common rebuttal. Why should we be learning something in school that seemingly has no practical application in the real world? Since you picked up your high school diploma, have you ever made use of the quadratic equation outside of an academic setting? While it may very well be true that you don’t need to use the quadratic equation in your day-to-day life, the underlying skills and concepts are very useful in everyday life.

What lies at the core of learning geometry? You have to be able to view things from different perspectives, twisting and turning three-dimensional objects in your mind’s eye. What lies at the core of algebra? You have to consider those equations logically, taking the different variables into account and getting them to fit with one another in a logical fashion. If it weren’t for this foundation in logic, I would not be able to use formulas in my Excel spreadsheet. If it weren’t for this learning, I would not be able to compute a logical rate sheet for my freelance writing business. So yes, I do use my high school math today.

For me, mathematics and English (or whatever is the official language in your country) are the two subjects that serve at the core of any high school education, particularly in grade 11 and 12. Perhaps a career preparation program should be included in there as well, but the other subjects can be more easily denoted as electives.

@LesleyChang: *If that’s the case, then why aren’t core fundamentals of biology, physics, earth science, etc. not taught past gr10?*

While biology, history, geography, and so on are surely important subjects that we should all take some time to learn, I don’t consider them to be core fundamental subjects that should be required beyond grade 10. If you choose to pursue a career remotely related to any of these subjects, then by all means, take these classes in school. However, English and mathematics are the two main core subjects, because they will permeate many aspects of everyone’s life.

Humans are social animals and we need to communicate with one another in an effective manner. That’s why English (or some other official language) is so important. That’s why you need good grammar. Without a foundation in English, you won’t be able to learn anything else.

Math is also very important to everyone. It’s there when you buy a pair of shoes, when you receive your paycheque, when you pay your bills, and when you split a dinner bill with your friends. The underlying *logic* of math has an even wider reach. Our lives are filled with if-then statements. You need logic to be an effective programmer, engineer, account executive, or plumber.

The core fundamentals of English and math are useful to all job hunters, regardless of profession or industry. Your resume needs to be grammatically correct and make logical sense, right?

Tune in tomorrow for part two…

*UPDATE: Here is part two – But I Don’t Need William Shakespeare*

…There’s a part 2?!

Stay tuned!

It should be an elective based on your areas of expertise. My GPA would have been a 4.0 when I got my BFA in Studio Art if it weren’t for those 6 math classes I failed in a row, only needed to pass one (not for lack of trying).

As far as High School is concerned they shouldn’t require it (Of course keep it for those who can do it well and somehow enjoy it.) past your freshman year where they should teach you about your future finances rather than how to factor an equation.

I don’t really understand why a BFA would have math as a requirement, so I can appreciate that sentiment. Anything after high school should be up to you, based on your areas of expertise and interest.

Regarding high school, you’re saying that math should only be required up to grade 8/9? There’s so much more foundational work after that. By grade 8, you’ve barely touched the concepts of algebra, which serve as the foundation for so much else in the real world.

I will concede that understanding the basics of math (algebra to an extent, geometry as well) is important. Especially for a texture artist who needs to understand polygons and how light bounces off surfaces, Animators who need to understand basic physics, etc… I get that.

I like Jetgirl’s second point regarding future finances and financial planning – this is a skill that certain people (myself included) lack. Others are better at controlling it, but it’s not a skill taught in high school, it’s not a skill that’s taught exclusively by parents, and it’s something that needs to be addressed. If people actually learned how to efficiently control their money, we might not be in this economic slump (it’s a reach but hey, you get the gist).

I personally hate math, but I love using Excel. Figure that one out.

I agree that personal finances are underrepresented in the standard curriculum. Perhaps they could integrate it better into math classes, using more real-world examples related to money rather than trying to figure out the arrival time of two trains.

Alternatively, personal finance could be integrated into the “career preparation” program that I mention briefly. This could be expanded as more of a “life skills” kind of program.

New course: How not to suck at life.

I object…the quadratic equation is not in the picture. It surely should have said “But I don’t need Derivatives, Natural Logarithms and Matrices…” right? (lol).

BTW, in response to jetgirl’s comment “Of course keep it for those who can do it well and somehow enjoy it.” If it is not required for students to take Algebra and Geometry, how will we know if they do well or enjoy it? Yes, I hear you say, “well, graphic arts [and other similar fields] are not required and lots of people go into those fields. Of course, I have a retort for that argument. I would submit that fields like graphic arts, music, computer science are so pervasive in our society that children and teens have so enough exposure to allow them to have that desire to try it out. Math, on the other hand, while incremental, does change and get bigger as you take more math (algebra is based on arithmetic, geometry contains a great deal of algebra, trig contains large parts of both algebra and geometry, calculus takes it all the next level, etc) and to say that a student can make a determination about whether they would like or do well in Algebra or geometry based on their experience in arithmetic would be akin to saying someone could determine that they would be good at carving in stone based on their success in drawing stick figures.

I was just about to post something similar to this. Like your parents said, you never know unless you try. I know I suck as an artist. I can’t draw a convincing stick figure. Even at that, my endeavors in art class taught me that I am creative. This has lead my to pursue programming (which I found out I hated in the long run), web design (didn’t much care for that either), and then writing as a tech journalist (love it). All those different interests and careers require creative abilities. Some of the best programmers could be considered artists.

In the end anything you try to do, no matter how hard to may fail at it, gives you some sort of transferable skill. At the very least, failing at something teaches you that you aren’t very good at it. You’re still enriched for even trying.

There is a study that shows that Math helps all subjects. Everything is dependent on math, whether you are adding or using math formulas. As Michael has pointed out, math teaches a lot of basic concepts such as logic.

You become better at your other subjects by learning how to use formulas, use logic, and to look at different options before making a decision. Theorems based on hypotheses and writing proofs teaches more than just math.

The delivery method is math, but it is the basis for everything we do in life.

Now this is just my opinion, but I have rather strong feelings about such things.

This whole perspective that people need to be comforted and their egos stroked while they learn is taking steps towards degradation of the human species. And I’m one who’d love to have some of that comforting and ego stroking.

To learn and to progress requires challenging and overcoming. It requires conflict. Taking a class in any subject is not about acing it. Those people that I know (myself included) who struggled hard through certain subjects growing up learned more and have much better foundations than those who floated through. Ironically, I fit on both sides of that actually. I floated through Language Arts in Elementary. I was passed over and over without having the proper foundations of the English language. Sure I could analyze (case and point) but my grammar and spelling was the pits.

Then I “was forced” to take English in University for my Engineering course. It was even considered the remedial English because it was easier than the normal English courses. And you know what, that course was the greatest course I ever took! I didn’t even know when to use a semi-colon until that point.

The point I’m trying to make is that there are fundamentals that we all should be taking as we grow up, whether we like them or not, and whether we are good at them or not. Math, English, Science and History have always been the cores; but as time progresses, they are being slowly dismembered to make things easier for the kids. Because failing a course is just so devastating. I received 13% as my report card grade in Grade 7 Art.

Honestly, I think the 4 cores should remain, and there are a couple things I’d like to add to the list, such as Physical Education. Yes, another one of those classes I floated through. I’m learning to appreciate it so much more now that I’ve started going to the gym. It’s important to know how to maintain one’s physical fitness. Why do you think there is an obesity problem in North America? I know lots of people have trouble with weight gain (my family is considered genetically disposed to it), but if you learn early on how to deal with it, it doesn’t have to be a problem later on in life. My dad just had knee surgery because he didn’t have them anymore. They were ground to dust, literally, due to his weight.

I’m ranting. Sorry. The point is, letting the children float over classes to save their self esteem isn’t the answer. Taking subjects off the list of required isn’t the answer. The answer is figuring out how to help them learn the tough things better. And yes, it will hurt at times. I survived it. Most everyone else I know has survived it. Are we really wanting to demote the children’s ability to deal with the world because it’s a little tough? Because we cannot see how something like the quadratic equation is useful in day-to-day life?

BTW, I DO use the quadradic equation in my day to day life. No, not every day, but it comes up. And yes, I acknowledge those who know me and consider me weird and crazy for those reasons. When did I use it last? When I was a manager for Graphic Artists, to help with the drawings…

I just wish they would force Geography, History, and Science just as hard as they do Math. Its worse here in states where the entire curriculum is based around students passing a statewide standardized test.

As I mention in my post, I think it’s because math is so pervasive and serves as the foundation for almost everything else. A lot of science is based in math, for example. Without math, chemistry and physics could not exist.

I think this comic pretty sums up the point

http://xkcd.com/435/

The study I mentioned actually is about how to be good at science is to take more math. It’s all based on math. Take math away and you have basically nothing.

I think Richard hit the nail on the head. As a teacher I can tell you that parents expect A’s on their child’s report card. Even though, in the key on the report card, it still says that A=Excellent, B=Above Average, C=Average, etc; they expect A’s from the students. For some students, if they get a B on their report card, the parents are raising heck about why they weren’t notified about their child’s progress. This has caused enormous grade inflation…to the point that our district is finally asking “if so many students have such high grades, why aren’t those students doing well on the state tests every spring?” I think it’s a valuable question. When we have 15-20% of our students making honor roll (3.5 and up gpa) and honorable mention (3.0-3.49 gpa), why do we have less than 10% scoring proficient (supposedly at grade level) and advanced (above grade level) on the state test? Two words: Grade Inflation. When I was in school, B’s were still considered a good score and I was happy with C’s in some of my harder classes. Now, C’s are nearly considered failing for some parents and only A’s are considered acceptable…this is at the middle school level!

As an IT support in a middle school seeing the students, parents and teachers everyday I believe that we are catering to the parents in the case you point out Allen.

We send agenda books home daily that parents have to sign, they have parent conferences at least once a quarter. As educators we need to properly educate, not pander to parents. We need to communicate as best as we can with the parents. The parents need to face the facts that they are responsible for their child or children; we are responsible for giving them the best education we can.

It has to be fair and equitable, if it’s not then we are not doing our part as educators.

Yes! Yes! A slightly late reply but I just happened to come across this and this is exactly the post I wanted! Being a math/science student, I naturally feel that quantitative reasoning is important in society.

But just think… what if math were an elective? Then there would be people in society who may not know how to solve equations. 2x+6=7. No idea. Do we want that kind of society? I don’t think so. I want to blog about calculating interest or whatever and have my readers understand what I’m doing when I am dividing or converting to decimals. When TIME reports statistics in its articles, it expects that the readers can interpret the data with their prior knowledge in math. Every educated person should have basic mathematics in their knowledge base, as well as the logic it requires.