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Education Math

Discouraging Students from Taking Math 509

Posted by Zonk
from the every-child-left-behind dept.
Coryoth writes "Following on from a previous story about UK schools encouraging students to drop mathematics, an article in The Age accuses Australian schools of much the same. The claim is that Australian schools are actively discouraging students from taking upper level math courses to boost their academic results on school league tables. How widespread is this phenomenon? Are schools taking similar measures in the US and Canada?"
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Discouraging Students from Taking Math

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  • by SomeJoel (1061138) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:05PM (#20188657)
    After a few generations of not taking any math, administrators won't be able to figure out why not taking math increased their average scores in the first place. At that point, they'll re-institute a math program, probably cutting out history, since that's over and done with.
    • Incentives (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 11, 2007 @03:27AM (#20193421)
      In *general* (not in *all* cases but in the majority of them) people tend to do whatever they have been given incentive to do. When you judge the success of a school by how many A's they give to their own students, you have given them just as much incentive to exercise statistical manipulation and practice grade inflation as you have to provide an education.

      I believe that the people who test students, and the people who educate students, should be different people. The educators should not be able to rate their own success by giving whatever grades they please to their own students. Instead, the public school should only provide the education. Then, at the end of the year, the students are sent off to take some standardized tests which are graded by people who do not work for the school board, and who focus primarily on objective criteria.

      Since the educators will no longer be able to determine the grades, and since the grades will still be used as a determination of the success of the educators, they now have to focus their efforts on the providence of a good education (rather than the grade inflation and what have you).

      I think it would help. It would create its own set of problems (schools trying to expel special-needs students rather than help them, for example), so it is not a perfect solution. But I do think it would help.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:06PM (#20188665)
    It was sweet. I went from six classes to four.
  • by glindsey (73730) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:06PM (#20188669)
    Oh... wait... I thought it read "discouraging students from taking meth."

    My mistake.
  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:07PM (#20188681) Journal
    It would make a little more sense if this was college when you have an idea what you want to do with your life and realize it doesn't make sense to take calculus to finish out an art/language major. But really, a student that is not interested in going into the sciences is unlikely to use calculus or higher mathematics much, but that doesn't mean they should drop it just to boost their GPA.
    • by happyemoticon (543015) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:18PM (#20188883) Homepage

      The mistake you're making is looking at this from the perspective of the student. They're not talking about boosting the students, they're talking about boosting the school's ratings. I don't have the full story on Australian/UK educational policy, but the climate sounds like the US's "No Child Left Behind Act" policy, which diverts teaching resources away from actual teaching and focuses on teaching students to perform well on yearly standardized tests.

      The net result is overwhelmingly bad. Just as the article describes, by attempting to make your kids appear better statistically, you make them less educated in actuality.

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        "No Child Left Behind Act"
        More appropriately titled, the "No Child Gets Ahead Act".
      • by Stradivarius (7490) on Friday August 10, 2007 @06:25PM (#20189821)
        NCLB does not divert resources away from teaching. It influences what is taught. If one happens to think the standardized tests actually test what we want students to learn, then this is a good thing. If one happens to think the standardized tests fail to measure what we want students to learn, then it's a bad thing.

        In either case, however, the solution is to make sure the tests are measuring the right things. There are a lot of people who feel the tests aren't doing that - so let's fix the tests.

        What we should NOT do is abandon the whole premise of measuring progress just because the tests could be better. (I'm not saying you did or did not advocate this. But a lot of anti-NCLB folks do just that). The only real way to know where a school needs improvement, and whether attempts at improvement are actually working, is to get some sort of empirical evidence, which pretty much boils down to testing.

        • by digitig (1056110) on Friday August 10, 2007 @06:53PM (#20190143)

          What we should NOT do is abandon the whole premise of measuring progress just because the tests could be better.
          Measuring is good. The issue is what you do with the measurements. If they're out of parameter then they should be investigated; there may be good reason, in which perhaps you refine the tests to take that reason into account, or there may not be, in which case you intervene. I don't know about the NCLB situation, but all too often here in the UK the measurement is tied automatically to the measurement, with nobody actually looking at why the measurement is the way it is: management is replaced with administration; it's cheaper and you can always blame somebody else. And the results are disastrous, because the measurements end up rewarding people who are good at manipulating the measurements, and penalising those who focus on the job. Anybody who looks can see it happening, but those who set the targets choose not to look, and the whole performance indicator tied to reward/punishment system doesn't have anybody whose job it is to look.
        • by happyemoticon (543015) on Friday August 10, 2007 @07:59PM (#20190823) Homepage

          I disagree. Teaching a student so that they perform well in a test and teaching a student so they will eventually perform well in college and life are very different things. I have heard reports of colleges who complain that students are increasingly ill-prepared in terms of reasoning, thinking, researching, and persuasive writing, because these things are hard to test in the standardized testing environment. From what I have heard first-hand from people in teaching credential programs, many kids in charter schools are barely being taught to write. They are being taught to take standardized tests.

          I don't mean "Teach this fact, which will be on the test, and not this other fact." I mean teaching only to parrot facts without achieving a depth of understanding. Teaching to bubble in responses rather than write a clear and convincing argument or extracting knowledge from a book unaided.

          I know there are a lot of holes in that. I don't have time to really back up my position. However, if you want empirical evidence, testing is not the only way to get it. Testing is just pretty cheap and fast. A far more effective way to get a real sense of the problems in schools would just be to send actually human beings to them to write reports, but it would be very costly and subject to variance and human eccentricity. In fact, I think that our aversion to any type of evidence that doesn't fit in a spreadsheet is part of the problem.

        • by phulegart (997083) on Friday August 10, 2007 @08:16PM (#20190993)
          "NCLB does not divert resources away from teaching. It influences what is taught."
          --Wrong.

          "In either case, however, the solution is to make sure the tests are measuring the right things. There are a lot of people who feel the tests aren't doing that - so let's fix the tests."

          Let me give you some real world perspective. In 2005 I worked for an after-school tutoring company, in Las Vegas. We would tutor high school kids in basic math and English, so that they could pass the state proficiency tests. This was not to boost a school's ratings. This was because just about half of the high school students in Las Vegas were flunking the math portion of those standardized tests. Were the tests too difficult? No. These students could not do math involving fractions. These students could not do math involving decimals. Some of these students could not do math involving division. These were 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. There was no predominant racial bias to the spread of students. I know that these students could not do these things, because I had to tutor them 2 to 3 times a week for between one to two hours a session. I would tutor up to 5 students per session, and it was a full time (40 hour work week) job.

          Do you know what No Child Left Behind means? It means that regardless of whether or not the student can do the work they get promoted to the next grade with their classmates. It also means that at graduation time, if they cannot pass the standardized tests, they are out of school without a diploma. If you find that you cannot believe this, then educate yourself. I was one of the people that had to take a 12th grader who obviously would have been held back much earlier because he did not know algebra, geometry, trigonometry, or even basic fractions, and teach him all of these things so he could actually graduate with a diploma.

          The tests don't need to be fixed. The students need to stay in those classes until they learn the information that the tests are testing for.
        • by hazem (472289) on Friday August 10, 2007 @08:46PM (#20191193) Journal
          NCLB does not divert resources away from teaching

          Having worked in a school district when NCLB was instituted, I can tell you that it does, indeed, divert resources from teaching.

          NCLB requires use of standard tests, which cost a lot of money to administer. In Oregon, those tests are done by computer, and the systems required upgrades to the computer systems and computers. In fact, several schools in the district created computer labs that were only to be used for testing and not for instruction. In addition, new administrative staff have to be hired to handle the workload of ensuring compliance.

          In a rural school district with limited resources, the money for all this testing and equipment has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is usually the budget for optional programs, laying off teachers, skimping on resources such as needed new textbooks, and building enhancements.

          This is why many school districts claim the NCLB requirements are an unfunded mandate. They have been required by the federal government do to these things yet were not given funds to do it.

          On top of that, the testing regime takes about a week of class time out of the year.

          So basically NCLB is a big win for companies who sell and administer standard tests. Everyone else pretty much gets screwed. Schools have less money, students get less education, and the country gets dumber.

          If you really want to help the US education system, do the following:
          * ban sodas and candy and fastfood
          * expand the free lunch program to every kid and include breakfast - hungry kids can't learn - and there are too many of them
          * go to year-round schooling with longer non-summer seasonal breaks
          * make physical education mandatory at every grade level - they need breaks and exercise
          * allow merit-based pay/bonuses for teachers who do a good job (using a variety of metrics)
          * lower class sizes - a teacher can't manage 38 kids AND teach them
          * lower the administrative burden on schools so they can hire more teachers and fewer administrators
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ShakaUVM (157947)


            If you really want to help the US education system, do the following:
            * ban sodas and candy and fastfood
            * expand the free lunch program to every kid and include breakfast - hungry kids can't learn - and there are too many of them
            * go to year-round schooling with longer non-summer seasonal breaks
            * make physical education mandatory at every grade level - they need breaks and exercise
            * allow merit-based pay/bonuses for teachers who do a good job (using a variety of metrics)
            * lower class sizes - a teacher can't
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        In Ontario, there's a board that you apply to when you are applying to university/college. They know about all these stupid tricks that highschools try to pull to make their students seem smarter. They know that some schools hand out A's like candy on halloween, and they also know that some schools don't give out a lot of As. My physics teacher told us that he could give us all As, but that wouldn't make much difference for getting into university, because they would look at the class average and conclud
        • by TapeCutter (624760)
          "I think they should take the same approach in this situation."

          I'm an Aussie with two grown kids and a partner who selects students for a university degree in the state of Victoria. I can attest to the fact that your post describes the way the system works in Australia fairly accurately, the math to determine the final "score" is quite complex and the "score" cannot be determined before all year 12 students in the state have taken the test.

          Truth is some people can't do math just like some people can't
    • by sqrt(2) (786011)
      If kids are doing that now, and it was kind of like that for some back when I was in the public education system here in California (which wasn't all that long ago), it's because they're responding to outside pressure to have the highest possible GPA any way they can, no matter what they have to sacrifice--including actually learning anything. I never paid much attention to grades in high school, I took classes that interested me (and admittedly had rather poor attendance for classes that didn't) regardless
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Gilmoure (18428)
        Man, I loved physics, and, once I could see the problem in diagram or demonstration, I was able to get the math part of it. Then I got to college and took basic Algebra 101. Failed it twice. Finally, third time, had a teacher who taught it a different way and I was able to pass it. A few years later, working as a mechanic, figuring cylinder chamber pressures and such, I was using it again. Am one of those people you have to draw a diagram for.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Chandon Seldon (43083)

          Am one of those people you have to draw a diagram for.

          The only difference between people like you and the people who are "really good at math" is that they can visualize the diagram by themselves. There are some people who can pass math courses by memorizing formulas and pattern matching them to problems; a lot of math teachers (especially women) learned that way, and so they try to teach to that learning style. Problem is, with that learning style you never really learn the math, you just memorize formula

      • by happyemoticon (543015) on Friday August 10, 2007 @06:03PM (#20189521) Homepage

        True education has been replaced by the ersatz education of testing and scoring, which is one big, complex game which has little to do with the true advancement of knowledge.

        It helps to think about this in economic terms (by the way, feel free to shoot me down here, I'm not that good with economics). With fewer new schools being built and more students wanting to go to college because it is increasingly a factor in one's success, there is a lot of competition to get into college. One would think that more competition would result in brighter kids in college overall. However, colleges are increasingly complaining that incoming freshmen are not prepared for work at the college level.

        However, we do not select freshmen based on factors which will lead them to success in college, such as reasoning, curiosity, or perseverance. We select them mostly based on grades and test scores. The tests test the student's ability to solve brain teasers. They are easily subverted, and there are myriad non-cheating ways to game the system in order to inflate your score. Also, classes are increasingly being taught to the tests, because that's what the parents want.

        Therefore, there is increased competition, but due to highly imperfect information on the part of the colleges about which kids will perform best, they make worse choices as to who gets in. Furthermore, because the kids are less prepared, and there's nothing to do about it, they must make the courses more remedial. And then, everyone in the educational system gets stupider.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hey! (33014)
          The same argument could be made against honors math classes.

          When I was an MIT freshman, many, many moons ago, the European students were from the elite. They had tons more calculus than the Americans. This was a big advantage -- for about half a semester. By the end of freshman year, there was no difference in mathematical skills between European and American students.

          In the end what matters is the ability to reason mathematically, not having a checkmark on your transcript, or a high grade on a test.

          Her
    • by Cassini2 (956052) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:35PM (#20189113)

      Math still has its place. If you want to go to graduate school in humanities, then you may still need some advanced math. In particular, many students from medicine, political science, humanities, and the arts, do advanced multi-variate statistical studies as part of their post-graduate studies. Understanding the tools used in these advanced statistical studies typically requires first or second year statistics skills. If you want your Master's degree, you need your undergraduate math.

      As such, a significant number of undergraduate degrees require "Math for Humanities" or "Statistics for Non-stats Major" courses. It is a good idea to keep math throughout high school. It gives you many more options when you reach university.

      • by digitig (1056110) on Friday August 10, 2007 @06:59PM (#20190221)

        Math still has its place. If you want to go to graduate school in humanities, then you may still need some advanced math. In particular, many students from medicine, political science, humanities, and the arts, do advanced multi-variate statistical studies as part of their post-graduate studies.
        As an example, I'm doing an English language degree for fun (already having degrees in Electronics and Computing, for my career). One aspect of my (undergraduate) course is corpus linguistics, which involves multivariate statistical analysis. Another area is trend analysis in type-token ratios to identify critical points in texts. I've rather enjoyed seeing how maths applies to linguistics (and my tutors are bewildered by how quickly I can whip up a Python script to do some esoteric analysis :-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      When I took mathematics at A level (That's the hard 6 module version and mostly pure maths for people who care) in the UK, more than 50 people started the course. Many people left of their own accord because they felt it was too difficult and some were 'encouraged' to leave. 12 people finished.

      Physics A level started with 10 poeople iirc, and finished with 3, all of whom left of their own free will, as my physics teacher welcomed everyone and believed - correctly in my view - that even if they didn't do wel

    • by Bluesman (104513) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:46PM (#20189247) Homepage
      That might be true, but why doesn't the "well rounded education" argument ever come up when math and hard science classes are in jeopardy?

      There's no shortage of people willing to defend the liberal arts because a well rounded education is so necessary to being a good person, but they're strangely silent when attendence in technical courses is dropping.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Mathematics, like reading, exercises the mind, which is never a bad thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sigma 7 (266129)

      It would make a little more sense if this was college when you have an idea what you want to do with your life and realize it doesn't make sense to take calculus to finish out an art/language major.

      The problem with that line of reasoning is that it seeped over onto the more technical paths, including Computer Science. Most students (incorrectly) believe that they won't need the advanced math when they go out into the business area, which has resulted in focus being removed on what should be a critical course.

      In my opinion, I feel that high-school has suffered from this reasoning as well - especially when combined with the fact that you do not get to keep a permanent reference for future study.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      if this was college when you have an idea what you want to do with your life and realize it doesn't make sense to take calculus to finish out an art/language major.

      Why not? I took shakespeare and comparative religion to round out my CS degree.

  • Math discourages you!
  • Shhhhhh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RealityMogul (663835) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:08PM (#20188703)
    The US doesn't do that, we just hide our heads in the sand and ignore the problem: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20205125/site/newsweek / [msn.com]
    • Re:Shhhhhh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jc42 (318812) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:27PM (#20188985) Homepage Journal
      Well, in my high school (a couple decades ago now), they went past ignoring the problem. In my sophomore year, I decided that math was interesting, so in the first month, I read through the entire textbook. Then I started borrowing books from the math teachers. By the end of the year, I'd made it through their college calculus books.

      Their response? They finally woke up to what I was up to, and let me know that they wouldn't be loaning me any more math books. I was supposed to learn it in classes, not on my own time. They were all in agreement, and I didn't get another math textbook from them.

      However, I did have some good friends at a nearby college. I borrowed math books from them. The high-school teachers didn't learn about it until the next year, when I didn't enrole in any more math classes, and explained why.

      What was especially bizarre was that when I finally graduated and went off to college, I passed all their entrance math tests and got the most "advanced placement" that they gave bright students: They let me enroll in second-year calculus. I knew the subject better than the instructor did, which didn't exactly endear me with the instructor. But "That's the rules", and there were no exceptions; I had to have that class to be allowed into more advanced classes.

      (Note that I've carefully said nothing that would identify the schools. This is intentional, so you might suspect that it might be schools in your area. ;-)

      • (Note that I've carefully said nothing that would identify the schools. This is intentional, so you might suspect that it might be schools in your area. ;-)

        Let me guess.. Washington State and Wisconsin?? ;-)

        But seriously, that's pretty pathetic. At my highschool, there were a handful (out of a graduating class of ~300, maybe ... 4-5?) kids who were above AP Calc BC level and were going to a local university to take math classes. I kinda feel like in a situation where teachers are hostile and unhelpful, parents really need to get involved if the teachers are too lazy to do anything on their own!

        With regards to prerequisites... they are about knowledge yes, bu

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sqrt(2) (786011)
      I read that same article earlier today. Did you notice the part where Germany and several other countries dropped out too? And the price tag? We could throw that money somewhere else, maybe...hire a few more math and science teachers?
  • by jcorno (889560) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:08PM (#20188705)
    In my high school (it was a Georgia public school), you had to have skipped 6th grade math to get to super-basic (no AP) calculus in high school. Otherwise, you topped out at trig. On top of that, trig was optional even for what they called "college prep" diplomas. Guess how many people were in that class. That was going on 15 years ago, though.
  • Worrying (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:09PM (#20188729) Homepage Journal
    This is what you get when schools do what it takes to look good. While they are too blame, the blame also lies on governments and parents who are looking for schools which turn out the most graduates.

    Ideally a rating system should be based on the "quality" of those grades. What I mean by this is that the maths levels would be broken down into categories from easy to advanced. A school should be given higher marks if they manage to turn out a few good maths students as opposed to many low level maths students. I am not sure how this could be made to work in reality though.
    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      income tracking throug the IRS. schools which turned out statiststically more successful students, controlled for socioeconomic factors, woulf get funding bonuses and larger districts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pecisk (688001)
      This "tweaking" of performance is one of the reasons WHY I hate ratings of schools. I mean, wtf, we already have competitions between students themselves at country, world level. So let's stay it that way.

      Ok, maybe it is fun to have such competition between schools once in ten or five years, but in long term it is hurtful. Education is NOT competition, when you learn, you just start to understand what to do with your power of knowledge and wisdom. Competition at such level crushes pupils which are emotional
    • by jd (1658)
      At the moment, students are graded in absolute terms at the end of the year, which means schools who bring in only people who are superb already at the subjects will get good grades. Schools working with less-able students can do a brilliant job but get lower grades than the lazy schools who merely tread water. So, how would you test this?

      The expected change in ability will roughly follow an S-curve. Those who know very little will need to learn a lot to advance just a little. Those who know a lot must le

  • Wouldn't it be easier to give everyone an "A" just for registering? At least society would get the benefit of 'whatever stuck to the wall' by the student's exposure (at least) to higher-math concepts...
  • by Kerrit (1023859) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:12PM (#20188773)
    I, for one, welcome our new woefully innumerate overlords.
  • ... 300 Math (grade twelve) was REQUIRED for University entrance. And based on the CURRENT entrance requirements of my alma mater, this is still the case. So, as far as I know, Canada is still good.
    • by Lockejaw (955650)
      Unfortunately, both "300 Math" and "grade twelve" are meaningless descriptions to people who went to schools which did not use those terms to describe their curricula.
      • As far as I know those terms (and the new one 40[S,G]) are the only ones used in Canada. But, since you didn't do anything remotely helpful to a discussion (e.g. mention a different term), I can't really comment further.
  • There is little reason for most students to take upper level math. As a historian and a writer, i never EVER use anything more than arithmetic or geometry. Not being able to do calculus has never ones been a problem in my education or work.

    In fact, when i was applying for grad schools a year ago, i asked the head of the department that i am in now if my VERY low GRE math score would be a problem. The answer was very clearly "no"

    at any rate...American schools need to give kids the option of doing a calcul
    • by The Queen (56621)
      A writer, you say? Lovely writing skills; too bad we're talking about math or I'd be obliged to smite you.

      I agree with your idea of splitting math for high schoolers, though - I've always felt I was done a disservice by being forced to take geometry and algebra instead of something along the lines of "Balancing Checkbooks 101" or "How to Budget your Minimum Wage Paycheck and still afford University Tuition" - where are the USEFUL math classes for kids?
      • They already have that. It's called Academic Math or Applied Math:

        Academic courses develop students' knowledge and skills through the study of theory and abstract problems. These courses focus on the essential concepts of a subject and explore related concepts as well. They incorporate practical applications as appropriate.

        Applied courses focus on the essential concepts of a subject, and develop students' knowledge and skills through practical applications and concrete examples. Familiar situations are

    • How do you know? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WrongMonkey (1027334) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:37PM (#20189145)
      If you never learned calculus or any higher maths, how do you know that you would have never used them? Math is used for all kinds of research in history: population extrapolations, statistical correlations, dynamic modeling, hypothesis testing, etc.
      You're like a blind person who has found ways to cope with what you're missing, but that doesn't mean that you wouldn't benefit from sight.
      • by lawpoop (604919) on Friday August 10, 2007 @06:41PM (#20190021) Homepage Journal

        If you never learned calculus or any higher maths, how do you know that you would have never used them? Math is used for all kinds of research in history: population extrapolations, statistical correlations, dynamic modeling, hypothesis testing, etc.
        This may be a red herring argument. He didn't say that he didn't use math; all he said was that he's gotten what he's needed: arithmetic and geometry ( and I would bet he also uses some statistics ). Can you think of some examples where you would need trig or calculus to understand some historical phenomenon?

        Can you tell whether you understand something or not? If he's grasped every graph or math-based explanation he's needed to, and knows only arithmetic and geometry, that means that he's never needed trig or calculus.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tftp (111690)
          Can you think of some examples where you would need trig or calculus to understand some historical phenomenon?

          Between 1400 and 1500 the population of Languedoc doubled, but the war in 1450 reduced it to 88% of what it was in 1400. During this time the average profits per household tripled, except the 40% dip in the drought of 1470. Can you estimate the taxes that kings collected over this period of time if records give you some absolute numbers to fit the curves to?

  • by rsavela (597141)
    At my high school 10 years ago, I was not allowed to take Calculus senior year. An A or B+ average was required in trigonometry to take the calculus course. Other than pushing up the schools average on the AP exams, I didn't understand why I was not allowed to take the course. Trig is a small part of differential and integral calculus. Memorizing double and half angle formulas turned out to be a waste of time anyway (my professors later in life insisted that we be able to derive them ourselves, rather t
  • by EMB Numbers (934125) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:24PM (#20188939)
    I taught 8th grade science, and we were always encouraging students to take as much math as possible.

    Unfortunately, students make short sighted decisions in 8th grade that determine whether they are on the calculus track or not. You must start on the path that leads to calculus in 8th grade or it is unlikely you can catch up by 12th grade.

    We held an annual pep-rally for 7th graders encouraging them to enroll in math and science courses in 8th grade. If they don't, they are closing doors for future opportunity. Without calculus in high school, it is difficult to be accepted directly into technical/science degree programs in universities. At a minimum, some remedial college math is likely to be required. If you think you might want to be an engineer, scientist, doctor, mathematician, actuarial, astronaut, architect, etc. you should take the most advanced math offered by your school.

    In fact, with few exceptions, if you want a high paying job that doesn't require graduate school, you are well served to take advanced math in high school.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fermion (181285)
      Here is my experience. Everyone is encouraged to take four years of math, science, english, and social studies. If one does this, then one can have full schedules for all four years of high school. Practically, however, students often skimp on the free, albeit not neccesirily relevant, education and try to minimize classes in the senior year.

      Given that students do not want to take 4 years of math, and in many cases are not required to take four years of math, and there is often not a fourth year of mat

  • Weight scores. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Etherwalk (681268) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:25PM (#20188949)
    That's ridiculous--the moment there's even a shadow of that problem, you weight upper-level classes with a 1.1 or so. The idea is not to punish someone for taking a harder class, after all. (High school math was probably trivial for all of us, but it isn't for everyone.) My high school weighted honors classes at 1.05 when they averaged them into your GPA, and AP classes at 1.10; a similar technique would work here.
  • Let them deprive their children and let them show their children that they have no hope in them. This will be great and will keep Japan, China, USA, India, and other countries at a higher level than Australia all because they want a higher score.
  • Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RichPowers (998637) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:28PM (#20189013)
    Maybe not intentionally. But the way math courses are setup discourages many otherwise capable students from being successful in the subject. My middle school district did a poor job of coordinating math courses with the high school district. As such, I was behind by the time I reached high school and struggled the whole way.

    Couple this with the ridiculous "integrated math" fad that plagued countless districts (at least in California). We barely covered trig functions, factoring, and other critical topics. (Anyone else have a thought about integrated math?) High school physical science courses did a poor job of incorporating math.

    In college, I changed to a geology major that required calculus courses. Having struggled with math in high school, I had to start from intermediate algebra and work my way up. At least college math curriculums were organized in a logical and relevant fashion. It helped when the professor said, "Yeah, pay attention to this because you might have to derive the formula for centripetal acceleration in a physics course." Connections are important, especially when dealing with abstract math concepts.

    My friends had similar experiences and, not wanting to blow a year taking bonehead math like me, decided not to explore their interests in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and other math-intensive subjects. It's a shame, really.

    There needs to better curriculum coordination at the middle- and high-school levels so kids understand the importance of math and have a foundation that preps them for college. I understand how easy it is for a student's math foundation to get ruined. Such foundations, at least in my case, take years to build. Oh yeah, and (excessive) testing doesn't help -- but that's a whole other rant! If you want to encourage kids to take math, do a good job of setting up the courses in the first place...and tell them how important it is!
  • Is a C in an advanced math class equivalent to an A in a lower math class?

    Fudge the numbers, not the students.

  • Math in Canada (Score:5, Interesting)

    by umStefa (583709) on Friday August 10, 2007 @05:32PM (#20189055) Homepage
    As a former mathematics teacher in Canada (Winnipeg, Manitoba if it matters) I can say that there is a worse scenario, it is not uncommon for school principals to put pressure on math teachers to give all students good grades. The logic being that since math courses are mandatory for graduation, failing a student will socially stigmatize them.

    As a specific example, I personally had 3 students who did not attempt a single assignment and all of them had attendance rates below 50%. I was told by the principle that if I wanted to be hired on next year I would need to give these students an extra assignment for 'Bonus' marks so that they would pass. I refused and hence am a former math teacher.
    • Re:Math in Canada (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jeko (179919) on Friday August 10, 2007 @08:33PM (#20191113)
      No, you're not a former Math teacher. You're still a Math teacher, only now you're a math teacher with integrity. That's a former school. You're still a Keeper of the Flame of Knowledge. That building used to be a place where Knowledge was passed on. Now, like me, you're probably making the money you should have made as a teacher doing something else. And, yes, our world is poorer for it.
  • They should do that with pretty much any program that guarantees that your entire career will be spent at or below minimum wage for the vast majority of graduates. "You want an art degree? Do you REALLY want to be bagging groceries for a living when you're in your mid 40s? Why not try our MBA program instead. You can still do all the drugs, but you'll have a six-digit earning potential the day you graduate..."
  • The article just says "upper level", but doesn't hint at what the courses are.

    I took Calculus in high school. I'm sure i got A's in it. Everyone did. All six of us. The course was offered, and we self selected. We were the ones who were going to get it. But the article was about not encouraging weaker students. As far as i know, everyone who didn't take it self selected out of it. But really, with such a small class, if there was a weak student, they'd get lots of help. So, i don't see how it would
  • who needs math (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Friday August 10, 2007 @06:00PM (#20189479) Homepage Journal
    When you are being bred to be a bunch of mindless controllable sheep?

    A country of dishwashers and burger flippers dont really need an advanced education.

    Eventually it will backfire of course, when the country slips into place as a 3rd world nation that cant even support itself. But until then, it keeps the ones in power, in power.
  • by Bengie (1121981) on Friday August 10, 2007 @06:11PM (#20189627)
    Screw math, we need a class on general problem solving and trouble shooting. In IT we have to understand *everything* in order to help someone. My CIS teacher told me "The client doesn't know what he wants or needs, you need to find this for him" and the client being the owner/CEO/whatever. "my speakers stopped working" = the *green* plug is plugged into the *blue* port next to the *green* port.. WTF?! This is your average person. How can the speakers stop working if they couldn't have worked in the first place. We need people capable of figuring out stuff on their own and researching. Once we can start getting this down, math will come naturally. The only thing I've learned as IT is "Never underestimate the stupidity of average intelligence." I love working with and helping people... but wow.. it's never ending
  • My Experience (Score:4, Informative)

    by eepok (545733) on Friday August 10, 2007 @06:19PM (#20189739) Homepage
    In high school, they took the me and other 49 or so kids that were taking more than 2 AP classes aside for an entire day of testing in the school library. We had snacks and were able to take breaks. They did this so that we would have a calm, cool, environment to do the best we could and thus bring the school scores up. Far from ethical, but better than denying others the same test.

    Working now in education and having worked with a very large school district, I've seen a similar system practiced.

  • Funny. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheLink (130905) on Saturday August 11, 2007 @01:40AM (#20192943) Journal
    A lot of students here in Malaysia like math at the high school levels because it's easier to get high grades.

    With high school math it's pretty clear when you're right or not.

    Whereas stuff like art is subjective, and same with stuff where you have to write essays/papers - where it can be a matter of taste whether you get an A or not.

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.

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