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Old 08-06-2012, 08:14 AM
 
24,450 posts, read 25,374,921 times
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You've got to be kidding me.

Look, I was an English major. I've never needed trigonometry or calculus. Yet I am someone who wound up not only owning a successful business. The fundamental principles of algebra came into play all the time, whether by determining the profit margin on a project or any number of other things. And it comes in handy in my personal life, too.

I think the problem with the instruction of algebra is the degree of abstraction used in its instruction. If all you do from day one is simply find X or Y, then it's very easy for kids to go off the rails. If, on the other hand, you provide real-life ways algebra is going to be useful, then it is a great motivator.

I remember being bored to tears in algebra until all those word problems entered into the picture. You know, problems such as 'if a faucet is filling a bathtub at rate X and water is draining out at rate Y, how long will it take the bathtub to fill?' Of course, the smart-ass adolescent in me thought, "Plug the drain and it will fill a lot more quickly, doofus." Nevertheless, the light bulb came on for me.

Just the other day, I was visiting a friend's house. He and his wife were trying to hang some pictures on the wall and were arguing over how to center it. I came up with a plan for doing it and it wound up perfect the first time. Saved them a huge argument.
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Old 08-06-2012, 09:04 AM
 
Location: The great state of Texas
15,059 posts, read 6,706,274 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
You've got to be kidding me.

Look, I was an English major. I've never needed trigonometry or calculus. Yet I am someone who wound up not only owning a successful business. The fundamental principles of algebra came into play all the time, whether by determining the profit margin on a project or any number of other things. And it comes in handy in my personal life, too.

I think the problem with the instruction of algebra is the degree of abstraction used in its instruction. If all you do from day one is simply find X or Y, then it's very easy for kids to go off the rails. If, on the other hand, you provide real-life ways algebra is going to be useful, then it is a great motivator.

I remember being bored to tears in algebra until all those word problems entered into the picture. You know, problems such as 'if a faucet is filling a bathtub at rate X and water is draining out at rate Y, how long will it take the bathtub to fill?' Of course, the smart-ass adolescent in me thought, "Plug the drain and it will fill a lot more quickly, doofus." Nevertheless, the light bulb came on for me.

Just the other day, I was visiting a friend's house. He and his wife were trying to hang some pictures on the wall and were arguing over how to center it. I came up with a plan for doing it and it wound up perfect the first time. Saved them a huge argument.
I'm not saying that algebra COULDN'T be used in real life - of course it can be.

However, I've never - NEVER - had to use it, at least not to my knowledge. Like I said, I'm fifty years old.

As for hanging a picture, I can do it on the first try simply by eyeballing it. I can tell just by looking if something is a quarter of an inch off. And I'm a really good shot too - always have been. It just comes naturally to me.

Of course, I realize that doing things that way is unscientific, and if I were in a career field where exact measurements or something along those lines was a requirement, I'd need algebra. But I'm not in that sort of career, so...I just don't need it.

And my wall hangings look GREAT. All you have to do to center a picture is measure the width of the area and divide it in half, by the way. I think that's just basic math.

Like I said earlier, I am still in favor of it being taught in high school as a requirement. I think kids need to be exposed to all sorts of elements of learning while in school - you never know what may trigger their interest and get them headed in a particular direction.

This reminds me of a time a few years back, when I was living in Germany and got a long distance call from my dad in the middle of the week. Since such calls were expensive, I was immediately alarmed. But he put me at ease right away because he was laughing so hard. He said, "I just had to call and tell you something - I am nearly sixty years old and I just used algebra FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME in my life outside of the classroom!" He had been building a fence or something. I asked him the other day if he remembered that and if he'd used any algebra since then. Yes, he remembered it, and no, he hadn't used algebra again since that day.

On the other hand, my husband is an oil and gas consultant and he uses algebra all the time. So yes, in some careers it's a necessary element.
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Old 08-06-2012, 09:37 AM
 
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
10,629 posts, read 8,074,615 times
Reputation: 4892
Quote:
Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
You've got to be kidding me.

Look, I was an English major. I've never needed trigonometry or calculus. Yet I am someone who wound up not only owning a successful business. The fundamental principles of algebra came into play all the time, whether by determining the profit margin on a project or any number of other things. And it comes in handy in my personal life, too.

I think the problem with the instruction of algebra is the degree of abstraction used in its instruction. If all you do from day one is simply find X or Y, then it's very easy for kids to go off the rails. If, on the other hand, you provide real-life ways algebra is going to be useful, then it is a great motivator.

I remember being bored to tears in algebra until all those word problems entered into the picture. You know, problems such as 'if a faucet is filling a bathtub at rate X and water is draining out at rate Y, how long will it take the bathtub to fill?' Of course, the smart-ass adolescent in me thought, "Plug the drain and it will fill a lot more quickly, doofus." Nevertheless, the light bulb came on for me.

Just the other day, I was visiting a friend's house. He and his wife were trying to hang some pictures on the wall and were arguing over how to center it. I came up with a plan for doing it and it wound up perfect the first time. Saved them a huge argument.
If you cannot hang a picture center, you have more serious problems. These are the things that should come natural through basic problem solving and measuring. I don't need to learn how to solve to simplify matrices to hang a picture.
The depth of the Algebra taught is completely useless as a requirement to graduate. Nothing in typical life requires the knowledge of how to solve or simplify a page long problem. I consider myself very intelligent, although I can't remember the simplest things from Algebra classes.
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Old 08-06-2012, 09:40 AM
 
24,450 posts, read 25,374,921 times
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Originally Posted by annie_himself View Post
If you cannot hang a picture center, you have more serious problems. These are the things that should come natural through basic problem solving and measuring. I don't need to learn how to solve to simplify matrices to hang a picture.
The depth of the Algebra taught is completely useless as a requirement to graduate. Nothing in typical life requires the knowledge of how to solve or simplify a page long problem. I consider myself very intelligent, although I can't remember the simplest things from Algebra classes.
Actually, it was multiple pictures. A grouping of six. Any idiot can find the center of a wall to hang a solitary painting.

At the same time, I would argue that the lessons of algebra grow to be intuitively understood. And you very likely using those principles without even realizing it, and would have just has likely been unable to solve those same problems had you not learned algebra.

Personally, I'm just not in favor of dumbing down our children's education any more than we already have. To tell a 12-year-old, "Nope you won't need that", is to do the child and society a grave, grave disservice.
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Old 08-06-2012, 10:04 AM
 
Location: The great state of Texas
15,059 posts, read 6,706,274 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
While I certainly understand your point, I would argue that you use the principles of algebra without even realizing it.

What's more, education is about creating opportunity. And a person who has zero grounding in algebra is a person who really is limited in his or her opportunity.
Considering I barely clung to the lowest C possible to pass Algebra, and got out of there as quickly as possible, and immediately purged my head of all remnants of that hellish experience the minute I turned in the final exam, I rather doubt I'm using those principles on a regular basis. And I have certainly NEVER used an algebraic formula since I sat in a classroom in a vexed state of panic and frustration, with a piece of paper in front of me that looked like the smudged doodlings of an insane person.

That being said, I've stated from the start that I support forcing kids against their will to sit through the class and pass it. Education should include elements of the unfamiliar and sometimes painful - like I've said, you never know when a kid will stumble across something that they grasp and run with - and possibly develop a passion for, and eventually a career.

Algebra just wasn't something that stuck with me - and I haven't suffered from either learning it (however fleeting the knowledge was! ) - or promptly forgetting it.
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Old 08-06-2012, 10:18 AM
 
Location: The great state of Texas
15,059 posts, read 6,706,274 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
Actually, it was multiple pictures. A grouping of six. Any idiot can find the center of a wall to hang a solitary painting.

At the same time, I would argue that the lessons of algebra grow to be intuitively understood. And you very likely using those principles without even realizing it, and would have just has likely been unable to solve those same problems had you not learned algebra.

Personally, I'm just not in favor of dumbing down our children's education any more than we already have. To tell a 12-year-old, "Nope you won't need that", is to do the child and society a grave, grave disservice.
Couple of things:

I have a photo gallery down the length of my very long hall. It contains probably fifty photos of various sizes and shapes. I not only didn't use algebra to hang them - I didn't even need a measuring tape. Like I said, I am really good at eyeballing stuff like that. It looks great. (By the way, I made a very good living for about 5 years as an interior decorator - which included hanging a lot of pictures - and groups of pictures.)

I have been decorating rooms and walls since I was about 10 years old. It is a passion of mine. Not bragging, but I was so adept at it, that my parents, and my friends, and my friends parents would often ask me to arrange a room or a wall or help them pick out furniture and accessories - long before I took the first painful algebra class. I was the only girl in my high school drafting class (this was before CAD programs - this was blueprints and rulers and pencils!). I excelled in that class a year or so before I took algebra. I just "get" spaces and measurements.

No. Honestly. I don't think I use algebraic formulas much, if at all. If I do, they were already principals in my own head prior to taking the classes. And if it helps you to understand my challenges in the classes, I had terrible teachers who did not use real life examples at ALL. One of them spoke English as a second language and I honestly and simply could not understand half of what the man said. I have no idea how I passed that class.

I think it's a common experience for kids to learn math from poor teachers. My other algebra teacher was a high school coach, with the WORST attitude EVER. No personality, no passion for the subject - and I think this is common with math teachers. At least, that was my experience throughout high school and college. Is it really that hard to make math interesting? I don't think so. When I took the real estate courses, I grasped the mathematical principles IMMEDIATELY- because I could relate them to acreage, floor plans, space in other words. Aced it. Top of the class. Same with banking principles, and statistics. I get that sort of math - and no, I don't know the difference, but there IS a difference.

All that aside, I've said from the start that kids should be taught Algebra. It's definitely a necessary skill in some careers, and a stepping stone for more advanced math that's necessary in a wide range of professions.
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Old 08-06-2012, 10:40 AM
 
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
10,629 posts, read 8,074,615 times
Reputation: 4892
Quote:
Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
Actually, it was multiple pictures. A grouping of six. Any idiot can find the center of a wall to hang a solitary painting.

At the same time, I would argue that the lessons of algebra grow to be intuitively understood. And you very likely using those principles without even realizing it, and would have just has likely been unable to solve those same problems had you not learned algebra.

Personally, I'm just not in favor of dumbing down our children's education any more than we already have. To tell a 12-year-old, "Nope you won't need that", is to do the child and society a grave, grave disservice.
I don't care if it was 100 pictures, give me a ruler or a tape and I could've hung it no problem. Any competent idiot over 15 should be able to accomplish that as well.

We all use basic Algebra, we use it before we know what it is, therefore we don't need 3 years of advanced Algebra for 80% of people who will become employed in a field where math is regulated to calculators and most likely computer programs who calculate for us.

I would be able to do everything I can do now without first learning Algebra. But, that is the kind of person I am. I teach myself everything I know. Everyone is not able to do that just as everyone is not able to grasp the seemingly meaningless concepts of Algebra 1 and 2.

It's not dumbing down, its shaving the excess fat. As a fairly recent high school student, I would have appreciated (and I speak for hundreds of people I know) inspiration in a classroom and not "Take this test and bring your grade down and risk graduation because you cannot learn a subject you will never need." There was one class in high school that I actually liked to walk into. It was Creative Writing, I love to write, I'm artistic and creative. It inspired me, it make me happy, it gave me hope in that one class. You cannot force someone to love you, why does this country take that approach on education? I Every other class was boring, had me looking at the clock all day, and I never paid attention.

When this country gets out of the dark ages and realize that these expensive classes are not inspiring or challenging our kids, then we will see a great bunch of students who will like to learn, to expand their knowledge. Not only because they have to, but because they want to.

It is a disservice to all children to force them on a subject and make them resent the entire school system, and perhaps themselves, for something unnecessary for them. It is a disservice for college curriculums to do the same.

And people wonder why we are no longer the smartest nation in the world.
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Old 08-06-2012, 10:53 AM
 
Location: Chattanooga, TN
1,489 posts, read 1,329,179 times
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"Basic Math" means learning how to do things like add, multiply, divide, etc. "Basic Algebra" is taking what you know from Basic Math and applying it. Algebra is a way to take real-world problems (the dreaded "word problem" in math) and understand how to break them down into numbers to get an answer. Algebra is simply a tool.

Any time you have an unknown number (say, the final price for something you want to buy) and several known numbers (original price, percent off, $10 coupon, sales tax), you use the rules of Algebra to solve it. Even if you don't write down a
bunch of X's on a piece of paper, you do use the rules. Unfortunately, mostly what is taught in Algebra classes are the raw rules without practical applications. Line after line of X's, A's, parentheses, exponentials, roots, etc. This scares the crap out of people so they think they are no good at math.

Retail stores in the USA are counting on the fact that people don't want to learn basic algebra; it raises their profit margins. For example, the next time you're in WalMart (assuming you go to WalMart), go to the laundry section. Take your cell-phone calculator and try to figure out the unit price of something sold in various sizes, like bleach or liquid detergent. If you flunked basic algebra in school, you're solving for X, with X being the unit price. Divide the total price by the total quantity (say $16 divided by 128 ounces = $0.125/ounce). If your WalMart is like mine, you may be surprised to discover that it's actually cheaper to buy things in smaller containers. This goes completely against what we've all been taught, which is that buying in bulk can save you money. The stores know that most consumers are too lazy to bother with math, so they actually charge a little more for the "bulk" purchases. This isn't true for all items and all stores, but I know it's true for laundry supplies at WalMart.
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Old 08-06-2012, 12:01 PM
 
Location: Richardson, TX
7,712 posts, read 6,137,984 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwkilgore View Post
"Basic Math" means learning how to do things like add, multiply, divide, etc. "Basic Algebra" is taking what you know from Basic Math and applying it. Algebra is a way to take real-world problems (the dreaded "word problem" in math) and understand how to break them down into numbers to get an answer. Algebra is simply a tool.

Any time you have an unknown number (say, the final price for something you want to buy) and several known numbers (original price, percent off, $10 coupon, sales tax), you use the rules of Algebra to solve it. Even if you don't write down a
bunch of X's on a piece of paper, you do use the rules. Unfortunately, mostly what is taught in Algebra classes are the raw rules without practical applications. Line after line of X's, A's, parentheses, exponentials, roots, etc. This scares the crap out of people so they think they are no good at math.

Retail stores in the USA are counting on the fact that people don't want to learn basic algebra; it raises their profit margins. For example, the next time you're in WalMart (assuming you go to WalMart), go to the laundry section. Take your cell-phone calculator and try to figure out the unit price of something sold in various sizes, like bleach or liquid detergent. If you flunked basic algebra in school, you're solving for X, with X being the unit price. Divide the total price by the total quantity (say $16 divided by 128 ounces = $0.125/ounce). If your WalMart is like mine, you may be surprised to discover that it's actually cheaper to buy things in smaller containers. This goes completely against what we've all been taught, which is that buying in bulk can save you money. The stores know that most consumers are too lazy to bother with math, so they actually charge a little more for the "bulk" purchases. This isn't true for all items and all stores, but I know it's true for laundry supplies at WalMart.
On top of that, on the little sign that gives the price it may also give the price/unit, just so you can compare for the best deal. However, consider a container of coffee. One container will be in $/lb and then the one you are comparing it to will be in /oz. So you have another operation to get the same units. -algebra This is about as involved as most people get in Algebra - a very rudimentary level of ratios and fractions where you have to solve for one of the factors. Basic arithmetic teaches you how to do the simple operation. Algebra shows which operation to use for the desired result and why.

Last edited by PanTerra; 08-06-2012 at 12:13 PM..
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Old 08-06-2012, 01:33 PM
 
Location: State of Relaxation
30,545 posts, read 15,872,563 times
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Originally Posted by fibonacci View Post
Good god, let's dumb down our education as much as possible so that no one gets left behind. Algebra is painfully easy, and that isn't trying to brag at all. Most kids in grade school in Asia would laugh at how utterly inept many Americans are in high school at algebra. Algebra is NOT hard at all. At some point, we have to stop lowering the bar so that everyone gets a ribbon for passing.
If Algebra is "painfully easy" and "not hard at all", why are so many students struggling? How are they teaching it in Asia? I've heard Romania is really strong in math teaching, too. We should study the methods these other math-successful countries are using. Ranting about lowering the bar isn't constructive. Someone needs to study the problem and figure out why our math instruction methods aren't working. It could be a matter of introducing it very gradually, starting with a little bit in grade school, and slowly building from there.
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