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Education Math United States

Requiring Algebra II In High School Gains Momentum 490

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-got-their-alphabet-in-my-math dept.
ChadHurley writes with this quote from the Washington Post: "Of all of the classes offered in high school, Algebra II is the leading predictor of college and work success, according to research that has launched a growing national movement to require it of graduates. In recent years, 20 states and the District have moved to raise graduation requirements to include Algebra II, and its complexities are being demanded of more and more students. The effort has been led by Achieve, a group organized by governors and business leaders and funded by corporations and their foundations, to improve the skills of the workforce. Although US economic strength has been attributed in part to high levels of education, the workforce is lagging in the percentage of younger workers with college degrees, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development."
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Requiring Algebra II In High School Gains Momentum

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  • And algebra II isn't already required? 0_o

    Perhaps my kids will get a better schooling at Khan Academy afterall.

    • This ^. My kids already are enjoying Khan Academy.

      Also, it took quite a few seconds before I remembered that Algebra II was optional at my high school (back in '94), though I partook.

      • by Cylix (55374) *

        Algebra, Algebra II, Geometry and Calculus were available at my school.

        I remember not doing so hot in geometry, but the teacher was also evil incarnate.

      • This ^. My kids already are enjoying Khan Academy.

        Also, it took quite a few seconds before I remembered that Algebra II was optional at my high school (back in '94), though I partook.

        I have to wonder if that's the real predictor: the willingness to take Algebra II, rather than the act of taking it itself. And perhaps the willingness to take it is based at least in part on aptitude in math in particular or academics in general.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      It depends where you're at. But I was surprised that it wasn't required, IIRC we were required to have Algebra III, but that might be because we were using integrated math which used a spiral approach, meaning that you'd have to have 3 semesters just to see everything that would be in Alegebra I.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      This was my thought. How was it not already required? I took it in 9th grade along with geometry. 10th was Pre-Calc & Trig. 11th was AP Calculus (one of 2 Juniors in the class) and senior year I drove to a community college for Statistics & Calculus II.

      Although what we REALLY need a class on is "common sense" how to deal with money. Interest, balancing a 'checkbook'/banking account. Hell I'd settle for 'this is how you count back money.'

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tangelogee (1486597)

        Although what we REALLY need a class on is "common sense" how to deal with money. Interest, balancing a 'checkbook'/banking account. Hell I'd settle for 'this is how you count back money.'

        That's what Home Economics used to be...

      • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Monday April 04, 2011 @01:58PM (#35710586)

        I got that, along with "repair" level sewing, some cooking, and baking skills when I took Home Ec.

        Being the only straight male in class with 24 females was just a bonus.

      • by vlm (69642) on Monday April 04, 2011 @02:04PM (#35710668)

        Although what we REALLY need a class on is "common sense" how to deal with money. Interest, balancing a 'checkbook'/banking account. Hell I'd settle for 'this is how you count back money.'

        We had tracks based on ability, and you're describing the "general math" / "consumer math" track.

        Lots of bitter feeling toward it... Generally speaking, the kids who were not going to make any money got all the education about money, while the kids who were going to make fat stacks of cash were carefully not educated about money but instead educated on stuff far beyond what they'd ever use on the job.

        Set up for failure, by careful design.

  • by Chemisor (97276) on Monday April 04, 2011 @01:23PM (#35709952)

    Come on, people! We should all know this already. Just because "Algebra II" is a predictor of success, doesn't mean that it causes the success. It is much more likely that the smarter students who are (or at least were, before the depression) more likely to succeed are also more likely to take Algebra II. Making everyone take it is going to have about as much success as cargo cults did.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04, 2011 @01:27PM (#35710032)

      No kidding. Just because education is a predictor of success does not mean that we should educate our kids. Some kids are guaranteed to succeed without education whatsoever.

      • by Chemisor (97276)

        Yeah, Benjamin Franklin, for example.

      • This is about requirements, not options. When I was a teenager, you didn't have to require me to go to school. I didn't like it, mind you, but a necessary component of getting ahead in life is putting in effort to become good at things that people will pay you to do, and I was smart enough to understand this.

        "Education" in the abstract is one of the most overrated things around. A good elementary education covers the vast majority of people's needs. Anything beyond that ought to be up to parents and kids
    • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Monday April 04, 2011 @01:29PM (#35710078) Journal

      Is this catchphrase a restatement of the "Necessary vs Sufficient" principles? So Algebra might be Necessary (on a percentage scale) but it is not Sufficient. Also the percentage scale means you can succeed without it if a more difficult spread of counterbalancing factors shows up.

      • by russotto (537200) on Monday April 04, 2011 @02:52PM (#35711478) Journal

        Is this catchphrase a restatement of the "Necessary vs Sufficient" principles? So Algebra might be Necessary (on a percentage scale) but it is not Sufficient.

        Algebra II could be neither necessary nor sufficient, but still correlated with success. For instance, it could be that kids who are able and/or motivated to take Algebra II are likely to be successful.

      • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday April 04, 2011 @03:34PM (#35712124) Homepage Journal

        To be frank, for most occupations Algebra II is simply not necessary, and most will forget it anyhow.

        I suggest that Boolean logic, set theory, and basic statistics be required instead. Those are more applicable to the actual work world. As manufacturing drifts overseas and the US specializes in fads, marketing, and finance, "physical" math is less needed, while discrete and statistical math is replacing it as a need.
             

        • by yuna49 (905461) on Monday April 04, 2011 @04:53PM (#35713270)

          I would like to see more emphasis on statistics in high school as well. Too many otherwise intelligent people don't understand things like random sampling, estimation, and error. We'd have a lot fewer of those, "how can only 1,000 people in a poll represent the opinions of 250 million adults" types of questions.

          Sadly we still see those types of comments here at Slashdot.

          BTW, there's very little in statistics that requires more than Algebra I.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday April 04, 2011 @01:30PM (#35710084) Homepage Journal

      Come on, people! We should all know this already. Just because "Algebra II" is a predictor of success, doesn't mean that it causes the success. It is much more likely that the smarter students who are (or at least were, before the depression) more likely to succeed are also more likely to take Algebra II. Making everyone take it is going to have about as much success as cargo cults did.

      Require Algebra II - teachers will teach to the exam. Alas, this is what is happening. We don't want you to be able to think for yourself, just memorize a lot of stuff and hope it will get you through. Never mind once you understand concepts of Algebra it's really easy stuff.

      Beware the candidate who says "I'm an Education Candidate, I want to revolutionize educations!" What they really mean is I'm going to pretend and just throw another mandated test at the schools.

      • Teach it in context of its potential applications. Without this, it's no different than diagraming sentences all day.

        Sure, you'll know all about sentence structure, but you won't be able to write worth a damn.

        • Math education was terrible when I was in school. I am a practical person: without real world problems, I can't get a real handle on anything. When I took Calculus I hated derivatives...It was never explained what they were *for*...It just seemed like masturbation. The next semester I took physics and the prof made some offhanded remark about the equations of motion, and the whole thing became perfectly fucking clear! I had goddamn twitching foaming epiphany right in the middle of fucking class! I wanted to

      • by jpmorgan (517966) on Monday April 04, 2011 @02:35PM (#35711190) Homepage

        I hear the complaint "teachers will teach to the exam" all the time as an argument against standardized testing. Damn right they will. If this results in a poor education, it means they weren't good exams (e.g., the SAT). I had standardized exams at the end of my secondary education and we had to know the material damn well to do well on them.

        "Teaching to the test" is a talking point, not a valid criticism. It presupposes the system will be implemented badly. Anything and everything will fail when the execution is poor.

      • by bkaul01 (619795)
        It's a common talking point to complain about "teaching to the exam" but if the exam is compiled appropriately to test the students' knowledge of the material, how exactly is that a bad thing, especially in STEM classes, where the knowledge being gained is objective? If the student can pass a reasonable exam over the material covered, that's evidence that the student has learned that material. That's the whole point of an examination!
    • by JamesP (688957)

      If more people realized that "correlation is not causation" the world would be a much better place, with a lot less BS

      Thanks

      Funny is that according to the Article, Algebra II is really one of (IMHO) useless parts of the curriculum (yes, I had it in High School)

      ended up using some of it in Engineering School after all

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Funny is that according to the Article, Algebra II is really one of (IMHO) useless parts of the curriculum (yes, I had it in High School)

        ended up using some of it in Engineering School after all

        Remind me to stay far, far away from anything you engineer.

    • by DivemasterJoe (932367) on Monday April 04, 2011 @01:44PM (#35710344)
      From TFA:
      Among the skeptics is Carnevale, one of the researchers who reported the link between Algebra II and good jobs. He warns against thinking of Algebra II as a cause of students getting good jobs merely because it is correlated with success. “The causal relationship is very, very weak,” he said. “Most people don’t use Algebra II in college, let alone in real life. The state governments need to be careful with this.”
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      True, correlation is not *necessarily* causation. But you cannot show causation without correlation.

      It is equally possible that Algebra II teaches the necessary math tools and problem solving skills to be successful, or that those likely to be successful will take algebra II. Well, actually, I would be inclined to guess the former. I don't know specifically what Algebra II teaches in the US, but in canada to do well at any of the sciences and a large chunk of math/econ knowing how to do algebra makes a h

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      "Making everyone take it is going to have about as much success as cargo cults did."

      Oopsie. You not only assumed a correlation (smarter kids take algebra), you also assumed it was also causation (smart kids taking algebra do better later in college). Yes, you should know better.

      The proper thing to do is an experiment. Make some kids take algebra and see if they do better. Oh, that's what they're trying to do.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Especially since in this case there's good reason to think that the folks proposing this have it precisely backwards: Any student who is seen as being college material will be pushed to take Algebra II and do well in it, whereas any student who is seen as being burger-flipper material will be pushed towards more vocational classes. So it's not so much a predictor of future college-level success as it is an indicator of some other predictors being present.

      Most of those other predictors are well-known:

    • One of the study's authors actually says that:

      Among the skeptics is Carnevale, one of the researchers who reported the link between Algebra II and good jobs. He warns against thinking of Algebra II as a cause of students getting good jobs merely because it is correlated with success.

      It's a mindless "We gotta do something!" attitude. From what I've read over the years, your early childhood environment (nutrition + parenting + stimulation) plus your parents (educated parents => educated kids, successful p

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        This is going to sound cruel and like crazy librarian ranting but I the only reason that anti-education and anti-intellectual thinking persists is because people can get away with it!

        If not doing well in school (for a regular person not being disabled or something) doomed one to life of virtual slavery taking any job you can get for any pay someone might be willing to give you and usually not having enough to eat, I suspect few people would waste the opportunity public education affords them. Teenagers are

  • Who's going to pay for it? Every state is cutting funding and increasing class sizes. You don't just learn this stuff on your own, and how the heck is a teacher with 45 students (2 or 3 special needs and a few ESL ones mixed in) going to pull that off?

    Of course, if your goal is to give public schools impossible goals so they can fail and be replaced by private schools, this is a great idea. It'll mix well with no child left behind. And the great thing about private schools is they get to expel their prob
  • I guess I'm surprised it's not simply offered.
    Last I recall the math sequence 'way back in my day' was Algebra 1 - Geometry - Algebra 2 - Trig.

    So even if Trig fell off the map Algebra 2 would be senior year.

    • by PCM2 (4486)

      At my school, Algebra 2 and Trig were one semester each. If you took them both Junior year, you could take Calculus your senior year.

      • What is "Algebra I" and "Algebra II" You can call it anything you want. I'd me more interested in knowing what standards/concepts were being taught. In my school it went Algebra I, Algebra II, GTA (Geometry, Trigonometry, Algebra III) or Geometry as a stand alone, Pre-Calc, and if you were advanced, Calc I at the Community College. Algebra I and II were required.
  • Um, I took Algebra II in high school, and it was required.

    In 1971.

    When did the nimrods decide to ditch that? And in favor of what other requirements?

    Actually, I'm afraid the answer will annoy me to no end.

    • by gander666 (723553) *

      I will second this. When did Algebra II fall off the curriculum? It was not optional in my highschool. Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II were minimum requirements. Those interested in sciences and college took pre-calculus and Trigonometry as their fourth year (unless they qualified for the AP calculus)

      I am shaking my head.

      • by rickb928 (945187)

        Yes. And my niece who teaches fifth grade last year was required to teach vertice edge graphs and parallel/series resistance. to meet state testing requirements.

        Not Ohm's Law, mind you. Just series/parallel resistance.

        I had to go look up vertice edge graphs. What the &*($ does a fifth grader need those for? The state exam? Stupid.

  • ...told me what exactly Algebra II is. Whatever it is, we don't call it that where I live.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      im guessing its an American thing .. like Web 2.0

    • by xs650 (741277)
      It is normally the 2nd year of Algebra in American High Schools.
      • by vlm (69642)

        It is normally the 2nd year of Algebra in American High Schools.

        No kidding... You sure its not the third year? How bout "What topics do they cover?"

        I'm guessing what we called Algebra in the 80s got dumbed down and perhaps they no longer cover the quadratic equation, etc, in "algebra" anymore. So, Algebra II would pretty much be the second semester of what we used to call Algebra.

        If its not that, then I'm not sure what Algebra II could be. We were offered four classes, to be taken in strict order, Geometry, Algebra, Pre-calculus (I guess the word "trigonometry" doesn'

    • by Imrik (148191)

      If I remember correctly it was algebra for things more complicated than linear equations, powers, roots, etc.

      • by vlm (69642)

        If I remember correctly it was algebra for things more complicated than linear equations, powers, roots, etc.

        You mean things like trigonometric identities? Basically a renamed trigonometry class, then.

    • ...told me what exactly Algebra II is.

      IT'S AWESOME, didn't you see it? Wellm you remember at the end of the first one where Trigonometry had a gun to Calculus's head and Differentiation was fighting the zombie and vampire hoards. Well the Theory gang arrive just in the nick of time, destroy Probability and Statistics to put an end to the the Dynamic Systems and save the day. The 3D is EPIC

    • Solving equations, graphing, factoring polynomials, reducing polynomials, square roots, cube roots, n-th roots.
      Imaginary numbers, complex numbers, quadratic equation.

      Matrix math.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Solving equations, graphing, factoring polynomials, reducing polynomials, square roots, cube roots, n-th roots.
        Imaginary numbers, complex numbers, quadratic equation.

        Matrix math.

        If you take all that stuff out of my algebra class, that would have left.... Um... the concept of what is a variable and variable substitution, and not much else? I'm struggling to think what would remain in Alg I if that all got pulled out into Alg II.

        There was a "pre-algebra" class expected to be taken in middle school that covered stuff like matrix math and imaginary numbers, complex numbers, etc. Perhaps the order has been inverted and they do that stuff after algebra now instead of before?

  • As many others have noted correlation is not causation, but I have noted a correlation that those who want to make Algebra II a requirement should pay attention to. I have noticed that as we as a nation have increased the "requirements" for graduation, the education level of our graduates has diminished. Central planning does not work, not even in education.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      The phrase "correlation is not causation" doesn't apply here. It's pretty well understood what students are missing out on when they don't take that level of math and what knowing it does for people. If we were talking about calculus or differential equations, I'd say that you've got a point, but a surprising amount of life is made harder by an ignorance of high school level math.

  • "Of all of the classes offered in high school, Algebra II is the leading predictor of college and work success, according to research that has launched a growing national movement to require it of graduates."

    Maybe we should require Probability and Statistics, then, since people still think they can reverse cause and effect.

    "Look! Successful people drive expensive cars! Tell your brother to go buy one, that ought to get his business back on its feet in no time!"

    • by timeOday (582209)

      "Look! Successful people drive expensive cars! Tell your brother to go buy one, that ought to get his business back on its feet in no time!"

      And yet even your counter-example has some validity. Any salesperson or real estate agent will tell you that dressing nicely and driving a nice car DOES matter.

      There are no easy or guaranteed solutions in education, but I think adding a little more math is likely to be fruitful.

    • Statistics was the only class I took in college that I wished I had taken early in high school. I might have gone to a different college!
  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Monday April 04, 2011 @01:34PM (#35710154)
    Boy, that's backward thinking. It is because it is optional that it is such a good indicator. Only people who are planning ahead to college, or who actually enjoy math take it. Forcing everyone to take it won't magically make everyone else start planning ahead to college or enjoying math too.
    • ...maybe. The failure of correlation to prove causation does not mean that a causal relationship doesn't exist.

      I think certainly your argument holds water, kinds of people who elect to take more advanced math courses are probably more likely to continue learning math. But it also seems probably (at least plausible) that the kids that receive higher math education are then better equipped to succeed. And these points are not dichotomous, both effects can be happening at once.

      At the very least, this is an

  • Cause students who are not smart enough to do this to fail or get a bad grade lowering their GPA and making it more difficult for them to get into a good college.

    • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Monday April 04, 2011 @02:48PM (#35711416)
      If they lack the necessary intellectual prowess why "should" they be allowed into college? College used to be about actually learning something, not putting up with incompetents that slow the pace of learning and erode academic standards. College should be more than a piece of paper that permits a job interview. It shouldn't be necessary to waste time and money on an advanced degree simply because dumb asses were permitted entrance and allowed to waste everyone elses time as an undergrad. We have trade schools for a reason.
  • Schools that just haven't required Algebra 2 are the working-class providers of America. Schools that do require it already seem to be producing students that do succeed better in college and beyond.

    I took Algebra 2 in 10th grade and then Precalculus in 11th grade, and then Calculus in 12th grade. I went on to college and graduated with a degree in civil engineering. I have a friend who took Algebra 2 in 12th grade. He went to Devry and.... well, let's just say he wished he worked harder back in high sch

    • by kehren77 (814078)

      Let's not limit this to Math either. Most schools should be requiring more credits of Math, Science and English Language/Literature. We needed 4 credits of English to graduate from my high school, but only 2 Math, 2 Science, 3 Social Studies and 1.5 Phy Ed credits. Each year long class was a credit and you needed 23 credits total to graduate. 7 periods in a day. That leaves way too many elective courses for students.

      I think students should be taking at least 3 years of Math and 3 years of Science. And given

  • Algebra II, and its complexities

    What complexities?

  • by eepok (545733) on Monday April 04, 2011 @01:41PM (#35710274) Homepage

    "Algebra II is the leading predictor of college and work success"

    This is not precisely true. The most accurate statement is "The taking (and passing) of math levels beyond Algebra I (and maybe Geometry) is the leading predictor of college and work success." There's nothing about Algebra II as a subject that would innately give humans an edge in college or life success. It's going above and beyond the minimum requirements that's good for the student.

    Moreover, a student going above and beyond the minimum may be more than a sign of innate mathematical competence. It may be a symptom of certain school, peer, or family pressures-- all of which combine in the "culture of education" which is a fantastic predictor of being accepted into 4-year institutions of higher education.

  • As they say in the study, it's quite possible motivated kids take Algebra II and that's why they do well in life. One of the study authors says the causal relationship is "very very weak." Meanwhile, requiring that everyone take this to graduate means more kids drop out, and then try to go into the workforce with no degree at all.

    It'd be really great if we were all Philosopher-Kings that understood everything, but one-size-fits-all education is the sort of utopian idea that has difficulty translating to r

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday April 04, 2011 @01:48PM (#35710408)

    Ok, let's look at this. First part of the quote:

    Algebra II is the leading predictor of college and work success

    Ok, that makes sense. Second part of the quote:

    according to research that has launched a growing national movement to require it of graduates.

    That is idiotic. The reason why Algebra II is a predictor of success is because it is one of the classes you opt-in and take if you're going to college. Only people with career plans in high school take Algebra II - of course it's a predictor of success. And conversely, if you make it mandatory it won't be an indicator anymore.

    Reminds me of the joke about the guy who heard that most accidents happen within ten miles of his home, so he moved.

    • Only people with career plans in high school take Algebra II - of course it's a predictor of success.

      That's it! We'll make career plans a high school requirement!

    • I like the one about the guy who brings his own bomb on a plane because while having one bomb on a plane is rare, having two bombs on a plane is even more rare.

  • At least Stats or Calculus 2xx and Biology, Chem or Geology for Liberal Arts.

    More for people getting a teaching certificate, even if you are going to teach English or Arts, have some background knowledge.

  • Where does Algebra II start up? It's been 20+ years since high school, so I forget the line between Alg I & Alg II.
    Also, nothing wrong with a little edumication! [yes, that was on porpoise]

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