George Lucas Educational Foundation

Dump the Math Requirement

Dump the Math Requirement

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You can read my profile, I went to a private boarding school in the 1950s. My brother got his PhD in Education from Stanford. I got my degree in Music during Viet Nam. Neither one of us had a math requirement and we did just fine. In fact, I was a math major in high school. I scored in the top 3% in the nation on something called the Iowa Tests. Remember the Iowa Tests? They were pretty controversial at the time, because parents believed that the government was trying to hone in on education. The Iowa Tests were replaced by the Stanford achievement tests. And then somebody decided to make a pile of money selling tests and putting the toughest subject of all, at the top of the list. Nobody needed a lot of Black engineers showing up at Cal Tech and MIT. The Math Requirement is a way to keep people out of higher education. Can't pass the math? Perhaps you should try career college. And Career college costs the same as MIT. I was recently involved in an investigation of ITT Tech. A lot of kids who just can't make it in school, are sold student loans to attend technical schools, with the promise of a career. Most of these careers never happen, and they get stuck with a lot of loans for the rest of their lives. ITT Tech is not exactly proud of their track record on this. There are a number of these private career colleges involved with the Dept. of Education. Meanwhile, the kids from wealthy schools are whizzing thru the math requirement, and getting into publicly funded colleges. It's literally impossible now for a student to go straight to a 4 year college, and a great number flunk out. I have spoken with a number of students who had quit college and go to career colleges, over the Math requirement. My husband is a software engineer and mathematician. I was a math major. My kids talk math like they're ordering at McDonalds. Let me explain something about teaching math. There are some children that excel at Math - and those children need to be identified, and offered more classes in Math. And leave the other kids alone so they can study what they do, and succeed in life doing it. In fact, I'm positive, if you gave the President the math test, he would flunk it. I can't even go to graduate school without taking this stupid math test. But the math majors are not given a test to determine whether or not they can play a Mozart Sonata. When you guys get your head out of the sand, on the math requirement, be sure to let the rest of us know about it.

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Katherine Judd's picture
Katherine Judd
College writing and communications teacher

I think some math is necessary in today's world (balancing finances, value of money, percentages, amoritization scales for loans, etc.), but it should NOT be a hinge-point on getting into college. What I see happening here is another flood of engineers into the labor market. It happened in the '90s, and we still have unemployed engineers trying to find jobs. When you think about it, math is simply logic expressed in numbers. Students needn't fill their minds with numbers that mean nothing to them. Instead, they need to learn how to recognize, analyze, and solve problems. While math may assist in the solving arena, it seldom assists in the recognition or analysis realms.

I began my education as a violin major, then switched to computer science (since technology was beginning its rise). I quickly realized that, while math was great in writing computer programs (yes, I learned Fortran, COBOL, Pascal, etc.), I quickly realized I found greater knowledge in writing, reading, and researching. That's when I became an English major, and that's when I also realized mathematicians have problems with commuication. Thus began my teaching career! :)

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