Saturday, November 14, 2009

Can America Remain Prosperous With Kids Who Can't Do Math?

Don't know much about geography
Don't know much trigonometry
Don't know much about algebra
Don't know what a slide rule is for
But I do know that one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be

So goes the famous song by Sam Cooke...but it won't be a wonderful world - if it's filled with dummies. We'll actually be back in the dark ages, won't we! For an advanced technologically driven society to prosper it needs highly educated people. Our American schools are not producing the goods...

When I went to school I learned math the old fashioned way: step by step from basic concepts to higher level math in a logical progression. We took rigorous exams which tested whether we knew the concepts. Now it seems that educators are bent on damaging the minds of the young. I know many people in their twenties who cannot add or divide in their heads...they must out with the calculator. "City Journal" describes this disturbing trend in America...which can only mean less prosperity if we don't turn things around (Read the whole article here.)

The statistics on U.S. math performance are grim. American eighth-graders ranked 25th out of 30 countries in mathematics achievement on the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which claims to assess application of the mathematical knowledge and skills needed in adult life through problem-solving test items...

...A form of mathematics stripped of much of its intellectual content has obvious repercussions for higher education and the American economy. Hung-Hsi Wu, a Berkeley mathematician, expressed the view of many of his peers when he wrote in 1997 that the brand of mathematics purveyed by the NCTM’s 1989 report “has the potential to change completely the undergraduate mathematics curriculum and to throttle the normal process of producing a competent corps of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.” And Larry Faulkner, the panel’s chair and past president of the University of Texas in Austin, warns that if national policy doesn’t ensure the development of a large domestic workforce with first-rate technical skills, we risk “technological surprise to our economic viability and to the foundations of our country’s security.” If the bleak math statistics in the United States don’t change soon, such “surprise” may well be imminent. The math wars, which started in debates about pedagogy, may end in questions about the long-term prospects for American prosperity. READ HERE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have seen this phenomenon in action. I am working on a master's degree in computer science, and most of the graduate students and professors in my department are from other countries. (Mostly from India, China, and the Middle East.) It may be that natural-born Americans who were educated here are just not interested in engineering and the sciences. Or maybe they lack the background in mathematics to handle it.