July 30th, 2012
11:30 AM ET

Should we be teaching algebra?

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) In an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times, Professor Andrew Hacker asks “Is Algebra necessary?”

He answers that question “no.”  Hacker says that algebra “is a stumbling block for all kinds of students” and that it takes a toll on both high school and college graduation rates.

He says that while the study of math is important, “…in the decade ahead a mere 5 percent of entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra or above.”

The question of whether or not to teach algebra sparked a lively discussion on Monday’s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien.

CNN education contributor Steve Perry says for students of historically disadvantaged populations, algebra “does present a real barrier” to graduating college because “too few take requisite number of math courses.”

Perry acknowledges that “Algebra is a gatekeeper,” but adds “I don’t know that it’s necessary for every child."  He says that we need to get away from “one-size-fits-all academic experiences.”

“We need to create more compelling academic experiences that children are more connected to,” says Perry.

He says that colleges and the SAT measure algebra.  “But is what we’re teaching the best way to ensure we’re getting the best from every child?”

What do you think?  Should schools be teaching algebra?  Post your thoughts in the Comments section below.


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soundoff (256 Responses)
  1. hs physics teacher

    Algebra (at a minimum) is needed to learn physics and chemistry. Physical science understanding is built upon a solid mathematical foundation. Students who do not understand algebra cannot begin to excel, or even succeed at physics or chemistry. Math teachers often don't seem to realize that science teachers apply the very same math. The mathematics does not exist in a vacuum people–it has an irreplaceable value as a foundational cornerstone of physics and chemistry.

    August 5, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  2. Terry M. Gray

    Anybody can buy the actual footwear they such as through Religious Louboutin electric outlet and when your home the actual purchase, it will likely be prepared and can obtain shipped correct to your house Terry M. Gray

    August 4, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  3. Theodore

    Yea, because what we really need is kids giving up on a subject because it's too hard. IT'S THE AMERICAN WAY!

    No wonder the Asians are taking over.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  4. kevin

    Why make anything mandatory? I don't need to conjugate a verb on the job. When was the last time I needed to identify anatomy on the job or distinguish an acid from a base? Just teach everyone how to use a cash register, flip burgers and other hands-on skills without being well rounded.

    Do we need 12 years of English when a trip to the library a few times a year would suffice after grade 8? So far as I can tell, I don't use history, biology, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, computer science, etc. on the job either. Was all that a waste? Nope. I should know something about the world around me. But yes, teaching methods do need to change from blindly dumping information on students to making them learn tangential facts and ideas by working on projects that connect them to the world and people around them.

    August 3, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  5. Barron Tide

    Every student should learn Algebra. All arguments against it are inane. It is challenging but it is not that hard if you put a little time into it. The problem is not Algebra, but basic arithmetic. Any student who has mastered the four basic operations and understands how to work with fractions and decimals will pass Algebra.

    The question I believe that needs to be asked is whether or not we should be pushing so many kids into calculus. I think high school students would benefit greatly from a solid statistics course. I know for a fact that I have never used calculus other that in a phsics course. I have however encounter statistics problems a number of times and couldn't make heads or tails out it since I never took a statistics course.

    August 2, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  6. Kathy

    Algebra is necessary! It teaches logic and requires discipline to master.

    August 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  7. yes

    and thus the dumbing down of America continues. Algebra is necessary for helping developing minds become more logical and structured.
    differenciating pedagogical approaches in order to reach more students (including smaller class size) would be a good idea.
    why is algebra necessary? everyone else in the developed countries earns a hs diploma having algebra integrated in the standard curriculum. we can't gripe about Americans achieving less internationally if we reduce our curriculum.

    August 2, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  8. Maya

    So, the author's argument is basically that algebra is hard, so we shouldn't teach it? Are you kidding me? I mean, God forbid we should ever ask kids to do something mentally challenging. You shouldn't be able to get a college degree without passing college level algebra, either. In my opinion, the way we practically give out high school diplomas just for showing up is an abomination. If you can't pass high school level algebra, you SHOULDN'T get a diploma. This author is advocating something that should enrage anyone who truly values education: that we should gear education toward producing entry-level workers as efficiently as possible. It sounds like a dystopian novel about an authoritarian state.

    At a time when our public school students have fallen far behind the rest of the developed word in math and science, suggesting that we should stop teaching algebra because it is hard is ridiculous.

    August 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  9. Angel

    Many good reasons have been stated for both sides of this issue. They could be debated individually on their merits.

    However, IMHO, there is one supremely compelling reason that Algebra should be taught to all children. Quite simply, Algebra teaches the brain to think in ways that no other course can. It adds a new dimension to the brain's ability to process information. Algebra teaches the mind to analyze situations in life and to reason out an answer that has nothing to do with mathematics. It reaches into your mind and makes you twist your thinking into a different pattern, one that broadens your ability to think things through before making a decision.

    This new way of thinking is very difficult for some students. Perhaps these are the students who need Algebra the most. Perhaps they will benefit from it the most. Success in today's world requires a certain flexibility in thinking and a way to sort through the complexities of everyday life.

    This need outweighs any other reason for teaching or not teaching Algebra. It demands a resounding YES, teach Algebra to our children.

    August 2, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • melvinslizard

      Algebra is NOT about addition/subtraction or "numbers." It's about complex problem solving. Algebra gives the brain an opportunity to analyze progressively more complicated tasks. No other education task delivers these results. The purpose is to be able to break a big topic down to it's basic elements, to know and apply the "rules/laws" of said elements, and to slowly unravel a larger result.
      Algebra is the basis for LOGIC. It provides the tools to recognize whether the parts add up to the whole sum. A proficiency in Algebra is a basic requirement for any intelligent argument.

      August 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  10. mike proctor

    I taken algebra 1/2 in school and it was hard at first until My teacher show me the easy way understand how to work the problems and then it was easy. We as a nation is killing our children as far as education programs in this Country and our children are dumber than a box of rocks. The first program to be cut by the government is our education department and teachers,CAN ANY TELL ME WHY!!!! Professor Hacker if that what someone wants to call him need his ass kick for making sure a stupid statement and need to find a new line of work because he is no use to the children of this Country.

    August 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  11. george smythson

    It's all about teaching people how to think, reason, and solve problems. Lack of critical thinking skills is why this country is in the mess that it is... The only ones who can benefit from this insane proposal are the ones who want us to be essentially unthinking slaves under the control of the elites.

    August 2, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  12. Aaron

    So let me get this right because kids are doing bad in school we should make it easy so the rest of the world will really laugh at us

    August 2, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  13. malimel

    In 2009 the US ranked 25th in Math internationally. why do you think top companies farm out their jobs to other countries? it's not just to save money. it's also because there are a limited number of students graduating in science- and math-based discipline in the US. i agree that we should be introducing these concepts at an earlier age when children are still interested in learning. Do you think India or China or European countries pose questions like these, no, they are more focused on being the best so that they can work for a US companies, doing the job we aren't educated enough fto do. So by all means please remove alegbra from the curriculam, and while you are at it, remove life science and english. Let's focus on addtion only so that we can easily make the correct change for the customer.

    August 2, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  14. Anon

    Why would we want to cut our curriculum at all? As an educator it pains me to see the way this country's education system is going

    August 2, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  15. MK

    You can't be a cashier and not know algebra, and that IS a minimum wage job. I've seen people give me 2 quarters, 4 nickels, and six pennies to make 76 cents. Having been a cashier, that makes me sad. Make algebra an elective and eventually, we'll all get our change in nickels and pennies because only the engineers will know how many quarters are in a dollar (or 76 cents, as it were).

    August 2, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • manomundo

      That's arithmetic, not algebra.

      August 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  16. Keon

    I completely disagree with this author's opinion. In fact, not only do I believe that we SHOULD have a one-size-fits-all curriculum, I strongly believe algebra should be taught in the elementary school level. Why do we believe that children are incapable of learning? The only thing that children do IS learn. Shame on all of us for not teaching all of our children everything we can. If algebra is too hard for "most students" it must be because we did not introduce it to those children when they were still interested and engaged with school. If we wait until they are teenagers, it's far too late. Children are born to absorb information. How is it a 3-year-old can operate an iPhone, but we can't teach algebra to our high schoolers?!

    August 2, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Though you may well be correct, the question remains as to the value of teaching it to kids that will never use it. Not everyone takes trig and calculus? Why not?
      On the flip side there may be many kids that later find out they have an interest in a career that would have been well served by learning Algebra early on.
      I do not see a clear answer on this as there is merit to both arguments.
      I am a programmer and algebra is quite important, but for the vast majority it is probably irrelevant to their lives.

      August 2, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  17. Carolyn

    Based on some of the comments here, it is good to know that McDonald's will never lack for employees.

    August 2, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  18. Bill

    I find it ironic that the professor who made these controversial comments is a professor of political science. Political scientists like to incorporate the principles of game theory to understand conflict scenarios and resource acquisition in their field. Guess what, game theory is a branch of mathematics and if you want to understand game theory, you had better damn well be sure you understand algebra.

    August 1, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Not really ironic that someone who has a background in algebra could use it to understand whether there is a need to teach it to everyone.

      August 2, 2012 at 8:17 am |
  19. jim


    Enjoy the truth!

    August 1, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  20. matthew

    i really think that we should keep algebra because it a really good learning for income freshmen. also it simple basic math. the student can become better if they take algebra. please Don't take away Algebra.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  21. Michael

    My jaw just fell to the floor. Algebra is the basis of problem solving. How in the world is this even a question? It's a basic literacy tool that we all should have along with reading and writing in my opinion. No matter how hard it may be to "get it." It's not just advanced "math."

    August 1, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • melvinslizard

      100% agree

      August 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  22. Alex

    I can't believe this was even suggested. I'm in high school right now, and I'll admit that there's some subjects that I don't like and some that I don't feel that I'll ever need. Does that mean that they're useless? Not at all. To sevvie7 above, what happens when that aspiring mechanical engineer decides to change career paths and become a journalist? They will not be able to because in your hypothetical situation they have no prerequisite journalism skills that are developed through courses like English and History. The whole point of making students taking a wide-berth of subjects is so that they have multiple doors of opportunity open to them. Once they have gained the basics in many subjects, they can then choose what they want to major in and study in-depth in college.

    Algebra, and pure mathematics in general, is taught to develop problem-solving and reasoning skills. Algebra allows students to develop mentally through basic concepts such as the preservation of equality and the study of relations and functions. It's just as important as the other core subjects like English, Social Studies and the sciences. The same question many people above are addressing, "what's the use of algebra", can be applied to almost anything studied academically in high school. Why study kinematics and dynamics in high school physics? It's not because students will actually need to calculate the motion or forces on a box sliding down a ramp, but because it allows students to LEARN, GROW, and DEVELOP mentally and academically, as well as gain insight into the subject itself. Why study Shakespeare? I know no career that absolutely needs to be well-versed in the plot of Macbeth, but that's not the point of it. People are often misguided to believe that the only point of academics/education is for application in the real world, and in a way it is, but it also isn't. While there may be no job where you have to read Shakespeare, the study of works of literature develops in students critical reading and comprehension skills. Likewise History allows us to gain an understanding of what happened in the past and why it happened, leading to the development of analytical and critical thinking and writing skills. Science is a discipline that teaches us how the world works, from living organisms to the vast galaxies of the universe. Algebra is just another one these important topics that must be taught. Is it hard? Sure. Is it necessary? Yes, yes and yes. Academics, which includes algebra, leads students to higher level thinking skills, and that is the aim here.

    August 1, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I notice that you use the generic English, History and social studies. However, Algebra is a specific course in the mathematics curriculum. You are comparing an individual to populations.
      No one is suggesting that students do not need mathematics. Are you suggesting that everyone take journalism in case they later want to become a journalist?
      The point is that we already limit what core courses every student should take. This is simply a question of where to draw that line.
      Personally, I think Algebra may teach enough ancillary skills to be useful to a larger population than the one that actually employs it directly in the work/life.
      But it is a legitimate question to ask if it is hurting people that would otherwise be graduates that could work successfully without ever having mastered that specific knowledge/skill.

      August 2, 2012 at 8:25 am |
      • Alex

        No, I was not suggesting that everyone must take journalism. I was just saying that the idea that students only take the courses that they THINK they will need is ridiculous in response to sevvie7. If an aspiring engineer only did math and sciences in high school, and later wanted to switch to journalism in their later years, they would have difficulty transitioning without the skills taught in English and History courses. My point was that students should be made to take multiple courses from multiple disciplines to create a well-rounded individual with a wide-option of choices available to them.

        And yeah, I know that algebra is only a part of mathematics, but it is a major component of it. Why is no one suggesting to stop teaching trig and geometry? I personally don't know anyone that had to manually sit down and use a sine ratio to find the length or angle of something for a job. Does it matter if I'm comparing algebra to entire subjects like English and History? The argument I was trying to make is that while many of the things learnt in school have few real-life uses, it helps the student develop mentally. You can see this when I compared Shakespeare (English Literature), which is a specific component of English, to algebra. I was just using English, History and social studies as general terms to demonstrate what they teach the student.

        I agree with you that algebra does teach skills that can be useful for populations as a whole, and not just the one or two people that actually use it on a regular basis in their careers. And I'll admit that it is a legitimate question to ask if its hurting students that could be successful without algebra; I just personally think that its ludicrous that we take out a subject because its too hard. An education should be well-rounded and not just tailored to make it easier for students. A diploma or a degree should represent that the recipient has demonstrated a competent level in thinking ability in different disciplines, which is why algebra should remain a requirement in high school and colleges.

        August 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  23. Edgar CA

    I personally believe that all students should be learning algebra, stats, calculus, and sciences like biology, chemistry, physics. Although a lot of students wont really use those in the careers , schools are making it mandatory. The U.S. is falling behind in Math and Science Scores, compared to other countries like China, UK, Germany.... Is the students arent learning these subjects we will fall behind in engineering, scientist, etc.. the high paying jobs, and the U.S. will no longer be the global power it is today.. just look at China..

    August 1, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  24. Danny

    That's funny. In college I often found myself thinking that basic calculus and statistics should be required courses.

    August 1, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Yeah my English professor used calculus all the time......

      However, I'm with you on statistics since they are abused in politics, business, etc because so few people really understand the concepts. At the very least there should be a solid teaching of the concepts in statistics and how to look for smoke and mirrors.

      August 2, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  25. AntiMath

    Algebra should be an elective math class. I struggled with it in high school and it was an option in college. English needs to be a major focus in school. Everyone talks in texts speak even writing a paper or an email. I am a PhD candidate and obviously got to this level just fine without Algebra. I don't see anywhere in Statistics classes using Algebra – however at the time same time I use excel for that. Some kids aren't great mathmaticians, give the kids a break – consumer math and math about finance, banks use and about everyday is the most important.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • me

      You don't see anyone in Statistics class using algebra? Derive Bayes' Theorem from the definition of conditional probability....

      Consumer math IS algebra; if six beers are $21, how much are thirty? And math about finance isn't just algebra, it's calculus, unless you want to deliberately prevent yourself from understanding compound interest.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
      • antimath

        consumer math is not algebra, if I still had the book from the class 20 years ago I would show you that. That Pro Algebra people are not going to agree with Anti Algebra people from what I have seen on this comment post.

        August 1, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
      • MarkinFL

        Perhaps there should be an Algebra Lite course?

        August 2, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Bob

      I am not sure how you made it as a Ph.D. candidate. Your response is barely coherent. Obviously proper English wasn't taught in your curriculum.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Steve

      To "AntiMath":
      If you're a Ph.D. candidate, may I suggest you hone your skills at proof-reading, because your post has a few grammatical errors. Now, If you do not understand the role that algebra plays in statistics, then you need to seriously reevaluate your comprehension of the subject. I agree with you that English in an important part of our curriculum, but so is mathematics. Mathematics encapsulates our very existence, from grocery shopping to the beat of a drum, to the creation and annihilation of particles via quantum field theory. Taking away elementary mathematics that serves to hone problem-solving skills will to nothing but expedite the already out of control downward spiral that is the United States educational system. As a Ph.D student, you should be ashamed spouting off such nonsense! I too am a Ph.D candidate; my field is mathematics, so I may be a little bias but I believe my words ring true. You have committed yourself to scholarly pursuits and should not regurgitate the same mind-numbing, math-o-phobia rhetoric that already plagues modern society! Shame on you!

      August 1, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Alexm

      dude, your name is antimath...... You're obviously not a phd candidate

      August 2, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
  26. Gary R

    Too many graduate from high school not knowing how to balance a checkbook much less master algebra. Call it what you will, but all schools should be alternate routes to HS graduation: one route that makes a student functional in society and another that prepares him for college.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  27. Jeremiah Graves

    This is sad.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  28. nyc rich

    Best way to US students perform better? Answer: Lower the standards. Andrew Hacker is a complete moron. Algebra is the first step in truly logical process thought. Math is the only global constant. Ideology like his will turn this country into an even bigger bunch of idiots. I can't believe he even said that. Still stunned....

    August 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  29. Kevin in Atlanta

    I love how just a few weeks ago CNN was running an article stating that America is pretty far behind other countries when it comes to science and math. And now here's an article arguing that Algebra should be taken out of the core curriculum. Because clearly we can regain our status as the world leader in scientific study without the need for basic problem-solving skills.

    Good job America...

    August 1, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • me

      It's not an article, it's an op-ed. The opinion that we should stop teaching algebra is not CNN's, but Dr. Hacker's. But yes, it's certainly interesting to compare those two issues side-by-side - America is losing ground in STEM education, and some lunatic is suggesting we're not losing ground fast enough.

      August 1, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  30. Tori

    I can't believe this is even being considered. As mentioned by many, algebra teaches logic, processes and other important daily concepts. Math is not about numbers; math can be taught without numbers. Numbers are simply the medium we use to teach math. Math is about teaching certain concepts. If students are having problems with algebra, then teachers are not teaching it correctly. Algebra should never begin in high school. The basic concepts should be taught along side other math concepts, such as addition and subtraction$0.75 each? And that does not include the logic or step-by-step processes that are learned in algebra.

    August 1, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  31. me

    As a computer science teacher,... hell yes, we should teach algebra. Algebra is usually the first introduction students have to abstract, logical, thinking. Algebra is usually the first introduction students have to STRUCTURE (e.g. the idea that you can sometimes do things in any order you like, and it you get the same outcome - in algebra that's calle "commutivity"). While it's true that most students will never have to factor a polynomial, those same students WILL have to figure out how to convert dollars into euros, and that's an algebra problem.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  32. Dianna Ross-Clark

    I am a 58 year old woman who has NEVER in my entire life used algebra for ANYTHING! It destroyrd my chance in school to study other, more appropriate math skills, like geometry. So I say, let algebra be an elective, not a mandatory requirement for kids.

    August 1, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • VJ

      So you've never had to figure out how many cups are in a pint or how many miles you get to a gallon of gas? You probably use it more than you realize.

      August 1, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • ObammySucks

      Ross-Clark: people like you gladden my heart because after all, the world needs plenty of ditch diggers.

      August 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  33. Luke

    No math, more ebonics!

    August 1, 2012 at 2:51 am |
  34. Steven

    It makes me quite happy to see so many people who have decided to take a stance on this important issue and stand in favor of keeping a vital aspect of school curricula alive. Algebra, as many have said, teaches important sequential, logical thinking skills that carry over into practically every aspect of one's life. Removing from the curriculum will guarantee that America's substandard performance in mathematical and scientific disciplines will continue to decline. Our society, our economy, is predicated upon mathematical literacy, whether it be in pure branches of math, science, or engineering, we need mathematics. It appalls me that anyone other than a disgruntled hate of mathematics would actively campaign to remove algebra.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:28 am |
  35. StarfishPrime

    I am a student in high school, and I say "we need algebra". Why? you will most likely need to have some knowledge of algebra and equations in the real world. I always hated it when people said this in my math classes: "when am I going to use this?", and the answer is: more frequently than you think. Whatever it is you're doing, balancing checkbooks, planning for retirement, budgeting etc, you'll need to know at least the basics of algebra! I'm going to be taking the most advanced math class that my high school offers next year, and it's called calculus.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  36. Mary

    ...sure take algebra away from the Americans, then we can be certain that the U.S. will NOT keep up with the rest of the world. (sarcasm would be a much better class to teach)

    August 1, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  37. Bob

    This country is so going into the toilet! Today almost 30% of kids don't even graduate high school but we want to focus on dumbing it down even more so kids can get "entry level jobs?" If you wonder why the poor get poorer in this country, there's your answer.
    I had friends in college from other countries that learned algebra in our equivalent of elementary school!

    August 1, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  38. Duane

    Both of my college students have had to take multiple algebra classes repeatedly to move on and start thier major classes. I have never had a need for algebra before, during or since graduating from college other than satisfing the requirment nor do I feel my children will eithier. I wish schools would teach math skills that are needed in real life like how to balance a check book, set and maintain a budget, how to establish and maintain a good credit score so you can buy a home one day, understand and invest in the stock market, plan your retirement and so on...... The only people that will have a use for it will be the next generation of teachers that will teach it to the next generation that will have no use for it!

    August 1, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • moonsurfer

      They could always set up an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all those things. But, wait, they'd have to enter an algebraic formula in various cells to make it work. Go figure 🙂

      August 1, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • Luke

      I see that you passed on your intellect to your kids.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • wassupUSA

      I can live a perfectly productive life without knowing who are first president was or without ever having read any Shakespeare. Do you think we should stop teaching those things in school too?

      August 1, 2012 at 2:15 am |
  39. Luke

    The suggestion that algebra should not be taught to everyone is absurd. In addition to everyday uses, algebra teaches analytical skills, something that a great many Americans do not have. Perhaps no difficult courses should be taught at all. That way, everyone graduates and is dumb and happy. What should the schools reach in lieu of algebra, social justice? Unbelievable!

    August 1, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  40. scott

    Yes, in a nation where we cannot produce enough high skill workers, a nation where we outsource many of our IT and high skill jobs overseas, a nation where the majority of students entering science, technology and engineering graduate programs come from other countries, the answer is to further dumb down the curriculum we are teaching our kids. You do what you want with your kids, my kids will be learning algebra and every other subject I can get them interested in so that someday the kids that didn't take algebra will have the joy ofwaiting on their table or serving them their french fries.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  41. moonsurfer

    This is a true story: A prof is teaching future elementary school teachers, and the class of the day is about adding fractions. So, he explains the formula a/b + c/d = (ad+bc)/bd, both its derivation as well as many examples. After class, a student comes up and tells the prof that when he went to school, they used the formula a/b + c/d = (a+c)/(b+d), and he wanted to know if this new formula is the new math. If you don't understand ridiculousness of this story, go back to school.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:14 am |
  42. Al

    Yes, it should. Logic is extremely important. Math is hard logic. The more logical you are, the better you are at reasoning.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • Al

      But I agree, the vast majority of jobs out there don't require algebra, and really much thought at all. How about we get rid of everything that challenges the brain since the vast majority of jobs require people to be able to move their hands or follow some cookie cutter template.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:24 am |
  43. Bart

    Incidently, look up "shop math". This is the math that pipefitters, welders, carpenters, and the like NEED to use. It uses algebra and geometry. It is needed in Votech by people who didn't even get a GED. If you cannot do the shop math, you are not allowed to be more than a helper or apprentice. An awful lot of people need math, and they don't know they need it until its there in front of them. If we arbitrarily restrict who gets this enabling education, we cut off their future options. The writer of this article clearly hasn't spent as much time in the world seeing how education is put into action.

    Final thought - its been cited how we are no longer leaders in educating our kids. Do the countries that ARE leading cutting out algebra? Do they find this to be a waste of time? Or is the problem that some of the education system is failing to meet the challenge to provide required skills and simply want to be relieved of their responsiblity?

    August 1, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  44. Steve

    Algebra isn't needed for performing most jobs, but the same can be said for plenty of other subjects taken in school.

    Algebra probably is a student's first introduction into logical based thinking. Really, algebra is just a framework for deducing facts that aren't immediately obvious but implied by the facts you already know. That mental process is probably helpful for anyone, but the manner in which algebra is taught in high school doesn't really make it obvious that that is what's going on.

    By this logic, we really should be providing more vocational training options in every public high school. Hell, basic automotive maintenance/repair, basic plumbing, and basic carpentry would likely all be more useful than many of the subjects taught in high school.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:08 am |
  45. B

    I work in commercial real estate and use Algebra every day. If one cannot balance equations (solve for X), one cannot analyze investments or even figure out a capitalization rate. It's basic stuff in the financial world. My Algebra education comes into play far more than geometry, trig, or calculus.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:07 am |
  46. Shane

    High School – not unless student wants to

    College – not unless student wants to.

    Most math is useless to adults.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • StarfishPrime

      That statement is so erroneous, you don't know what you're talking about.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • Luke

      Shane- did you go to college?

      August 1, 2012 at 2:53 am |
    • max3333444555

      sorry – only ignorant adults dont see the value in algebra. im sure there are many mundane, minimum wage jobs that dont require any kind of problem solving skills but we arent teaching (supposedly) kids how to get mundane, minimum wage jobs. we are supposed to be educating them so they have more options, not less.

      August 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  47. Bart

    Six sodas go in a six pack. Four six packs in a case. If you're having a birthday party with 30 kids and 10 adults, how much do you buy? If a case costs $19, what's the estimate for cost?

    We do this EVERY DAY! Algebra teaches basic problem solving skills. It connects the basics of math to how to solve problems. We need it. Further - how do you know which child will end up being an engineer? scientist? doctor? If we do not teach the foundations, who are we depriving of career options. This article is proof that too many educators are too discipline focus ... starting at liberal arts vs STEM, and then within the those groups. They fight for their little turf and do not see how to apply learning in the real world. Technical peope absolutely need liberal arts training - if you cannot communicate your solutions clearly, they won't be of use. You need to understand history and culture, otherwise you can't form a solution that works for a given group nor understand were things came from. No one in liberal arts disputes this. They revel in this and point out we also need foreign language skills. True. But if you do not understand math, science, statistics, engineering, and all these other things how will be able to know how to weigh out facts, discern what is and isn't signficant, work with the technology that encompasses all of our lives? How will you write policy and develop education and training without technical background? Life is full contact and multi-disciplined. The seperation of disciplines is an administrative decision in academia on how to resource things - but do not confuse how to educate for life with how to live life and make changes in the world. I am an engineer, artist, writer, journalist, military enlisted and later military officer. You cannot excel by limiting yourself to narrow bands unless you are in a very functionally structured job - and most of us do not get that. As you go up in management, you need even broader expertise - more math, more psychology, more finances, more everything whether you're a school principal, shop manager, or company president. This article would do little to advance our nation. It may make some people's lives easier in the short term, but the future would pay for it.

    As far as university access goes - what in the world is a university degree supposed to be worth? They have already been devalued by cutting courses and requirements. I deal with the people coming out of school. I help instruct college courses. Again, this is the wrong path

    August 1, 2012 at 1:05 am |
  48. Levrault Yvan

    Algebra is the base of all Mathematic classes. Yes It should be taught in high school. It should not be taught in middle school. Some middle school students are not ready for it. Algebra is an abstract concept which is difficult for some students to grasp, and turn off many adults. One thing for sure Algebra develop certain parts of the brain, and enable students to be more intelligent than other.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  49. MLatino

    I love math, I loved algebra. But I think the math students should learn is statistics. When I worked for an after school program, it seemed that students couldn't do statistics to save their life, yet it is statistics that is actually used in life. Everything from interest rates, to percentages, it's things we use when shopping, or buying a house or car. Students can learn algebra, then forget it. The sad part is they do the exact same thing as students with statistics, which is math they will use.

    So I would hope that maybe algebra 1 and geometry stay, but instead of algebra 2, we would instead go to statistics.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • wassupUSA

      Percents and interest rates are actually algebraic concepts. Some schools offers classes that teach "everyday math" (concepts you described). Statistics is a completely different beast that is actually more difficult than Algebra 2.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • jdoe

      Algebra is the foundation for other math courses, such as statistics. Algebra is used to solve statistical problems.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:14 am |
  50. cja

    I can't believe how dumb this is. Certainly one need not know algebra to deliver a pizza or work at the car wash. But one does nee algebra in order to to have even a basic level science education.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  51. LindaLou

    College – yes. High School – some but not all. All college graduates should study algebra, as it teaches the basic logic and concepts of mathematics. Just like with history, we may never use specific knowledge again, but if we understand history and math concepts, we have achieved the well-rounded thinking that a college degree is supposed to represent. At the high school level, we should return to the two paths of college prep or vocational. The vocational kids don't need formal algebra but should master basic mathematics and learn business mathematics and trade-specific math skills. Vocational courses went out of favor because it was deemed to be a dumping place for minorities and the poor, but forcing people to take math they can't handle in a sink-or-swim environment has proven to be an even bigger negative which increases drop-out rates. We did not value the manufacturing trades when we had them here in this country but we should start emphasizing them again. We would be a much stronger country if we had them.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • cja

      No. We can't return to the two track vocational/collage prep system. There are no middle class vocational jobs left. What would they study? Department store sales and pizza delivery. In the 21st century you either have a university degree or you are dirt poor. The middle is going, going gone....

      August 1, 2012 at 1:05 am |
  52. tmark

    We should continue to teach Algebra! I tutor math, and I let my kids know that it is not just about direct application of mathematics, but to strengthen our ability to problem-solve. Every day we have real world problems to solve, and like physical exercise, we need "barriers" to make us stronger to face those challenges, instead of degrading into mentally 'obese' couch potatoes...

    August 1, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • Shane

      So basically you teach a worthless skill and waste taxpayer dollars and student time.

      August 1, 2012 at 1:08 am |
      • wassupUSA

        I could live a perfectly productive life without ever knowing who won the Civil War, so would you argue that we shouldn't teach the Civil War in school?

        August 1, 2012 at 1:18 am |
      • wassupUSA

        Considering I could live a perfectly productive life without ever knowing who won the Civil War, would you argue that we shouldn't teach the Civil War in school?

        August 1, 2012 at 1:18 am |
      • Luke

        Shane- what sort of job do you have? Or do you have a job?

        August 1, 2012 at 2:55 am |
      • max3333444555

        are you still young enough to have hated school or just woefully under-employed?

        August 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  53. Dr. Dave

    As I read through the plethora of interesting and some factual comments I am compelled to offer a divergent explanation for the dumbing down of academia. The author makes a point to state, "students of historically disadvantaged populations, algebra “does present a real barrier” to graduating college because “too few take requisite number of math courses.” Who is he talking about? Is he making references to a particular race of people because if he is there is no evidence to support that assertion. If he is insinuating Blacks/Afro-Americans are less capable of grading college or understanding logic and abstract concepts, I would tell him for every one that does not understand it, I can introduce him to one that does. No population as a whole is superior to another. I use Blacks/Afro-Americans because when someone indicates a population is historically disadvantaged, it all comes full circle to this particular race of Americans. College is not for everyone and everyone is not for college so why should we devalue the scholarly impact for those that can learn in favor of those that are not suited for the rigors of higher education. The issue of not teaching algebra is another venue for socialism and liberals to say we should all be the same and nobody has the right to excel.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  54. Kevin Barbieux

    I think this guy is confusing college with vocational training. VT teaches a person how to perform a job, college teaches a person how to think. Should colleges just crank out a bunch of task completors, or should colleges work to expand humanity's comprehension of life?

    August 1, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • KJC


      August 1, 2012 at 1:02 am |
      • KJC

        (That was a reply to Kevin B above about the difference b/w college and vocational training.)

        August 1, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  55. roricka

    Can we all just calm down a sec? I think I may have something to contribute. First of all, of course it is absurd to say algebra is hard so let's not make it a requirement. But the same can be said, for very similar reasons, about requiring Latin. There's some knowledge that is reqired to be considered educated, and certainly algebra qualifies.
    Nevertheless, my daughter, who has a learning disability, spent seven years getting a two-year degree, and two of those years were specifically spent learning algebra. And for her, I do not think the requirement made sense. It was very painful for the whole family and clearly did not help my daughter to be any better at critical thinking. She did pass the course, eventually, but the extra time was not well spent. In her case there should have been a consideration to waive the requirement. I imagine there are a good 5 or 10 out of every 100 for whom it makes sense to not require algebra. But to make a blanket statement about dropping the requirement is foolhardy and shortsighted.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  56. Ryan

    Sure, Algebra is an extremely difficult subject for many individuals. Where is this country's work ethic and desire to succeed? Where's the desire to master a topic or skill? Problem solving is something that the next generation lacks. Everyone talks about more efficient energy sources or a cure for cancer, but how can the next generation of engineers or doctors solve these problems without learning how to solve problems?

    August 1, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  57. sevvie7

    Yes, we should still teach algebra...regardless of popular belief, adults use algebra more than they think. However, I think the lower level algebra should be taught entirely in a "real-world" format...e.g., finance. Some students (STEM) should get more (detailed) algebra instruction, others (arts/humanities) less. With that said...what we need to do is tailor an individual's K-12 and higher education to their career plans, or more so an interest. That means an aspiring mechanical engineer doesn't have to sit through Ancient Literature and Human S_xuality and can instead take calculus, physics, chemistry, etc. The same goes for one who is a journalism major–more emphasis on composition/writing/humanities, less on math/science. I am an information technology student (STEM-oriented) and I can tell you firsthand how irritated I get being forced to take multiple English classes, history classes, arts classes (music appreciation) and even psychology/sociology classes that are completely unrelated to my career, not to mention uninteresting to me. It's for creating a "well-rounded" individual, but when the majority of students dislike having to take these classes, that no longer flies. What happens when you're forced to learn something you don't like (or need)?

    By the way, algebra is a great foundation for problem-solving (even non-mathematical), proven fact. It's like a mind exercise. And, algebra is a "gatekeeper" solely because many school systems put too much emphasis on state standards (a WHOLE different story, later), leaving little room for concept reinforcement. There's other factors, such as poor curriculum and/or teaching format, etc.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  58. Elbonian

    Force all kids to take algebra? No. But certainly most kids should. As the job market for less-skilled people dwindles down and down in size, it will never reach zero, but on theother hand, it should never be a majority (and nowhere near the 95% claimed by Professor Hacker) who don't get fed on the math concepts necessary to do many fairly basic jobs in the US economy. Somewhere between 50% and 75% of US workers should be well-versed in the STEM subjects, and all of those require algebra as a base. To not take algebra is to consign yourself to a life of menial labor and poverty.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  59. Mr. 6th Grade Social Studies Teacher

    I found Algebra easy, its much easier than geometry, and STAT.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  60. Kevin Barbieux

    Learning Algebra isn't so much about knowing algebra as it is exercising one's brain. The more strength a brain has, the more it understands of everything. There is no vocation I know of that requires a person to do bench presses. But, doing bench presses will make a person capable of successfully doing a whole host of physical activities.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  61. Ben

    As a student who frequently struggled and hates algebra I was stunned to see this story. I'm actually not sure if its necessary because I've often wondered "will I ever use this"? The answer it helps with problem solving skills. Honestly I think people can learn that on there own. I think it should be in the curriculm... For now.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  62. Mary

    Absolutely yes! It develops the part of the brain that solves problems. Just like working out muscles prepares you for physical challenges, doing algebra prepares you for the mental challenges you will face every day of your life. It's a mental discipline for thinking through steps logically to an answer. I teach in a prison surrounded by those with poor problem solving skills. Nearly all also have poor math skills. I am convinced there is relationship.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:38 am |
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