Beth Fertig is WNYC’s Contributing Editor for Education. She previously covered politics, which included City Hall during the Giuliani administration, and the U.S. Senate campaigns of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. She also covered transportation and infrastructure.
Is Algebra Really Necessary?
Monday, August 26, 2013 - 05:07 PM
Writer Nicholson Baker asks a simple question in next month's issue of Harper's Magazine: “Why, if math is so great and timeless and beautiful, do millions of people hate it so much?”
During an interview with WNYC's Leonard Lopate last week, Baker discussed his article, "Wrong Answer: The Case Against Algebra II." He explains how the "great art" was founded in Baghdad in the 1500, and why it became part of the high school curriculum. A study found students who take Algebra II have higher incomes.
But Nicholson argued that this correlation that has more to do with the degrees those students pursue in college, and that this higher level of algebra it isn't for everyone. He says high schools "should confront that" because their aim isn't to make everyone good at the same thing, but to "lodge a few life enriching nuggets and knowledge" into students' heads.
"There are lots of things you can do in life that don't use math," he said.
Do you agree with his provocative statement? Or do you side with those who say math is increasingly important in the 21st century economy? Listen to the segment by clicking the link above.
And check out WNYC's 2009 series on a remedial class at LaGuardia Community College, where students debated this same topic.
Part 2: How to Keep an A