Rantings and tirades of a frustrated economist.
"I was only required to take two years of math in high school, but I forgot a lot of it."There's your culprit. We had the same requirement when I was in high school, and the result was that people who didn't like math took it in Grade 9 and 10 and then promptly bailed on it forever. That two year gap in practicing the skills is what's showing up here.Personally I think English, mathematics, science and history ought to be mandatory each year of high school. Possibly not as separate credits - you could fulfill English and history in a single course that studied the Constitution and the Federalist papers, for instance - but present in significant class time every year.
Here's the kicker: the math teachers in high school have to satisfy stringent requirements to become certified by the state to teach, or else they wouldn't be eligible to be hired, even to do the job badly.Meanwhile, the instructors at the college level, who presumably are the ones who would have to repair the damage in these cases, aren't certified by the state and would not be able to be considered to be hired to teach high school math.Proving once again that credentials do not equal competence.
I personally blame this on it being socially acceptable to be bad at math. Whenever I tell someone that I have a math degree it is very likely that I’ll get a response like "I’m terrible at math. I can’t even figure out what to tip at a restaurant!" I have personally never heard of someone proudly proclaiming that they couldn’t read because there is an appropriate level of shame associated with it. Now, what is the likelihood that a parent who is proud of their awful math skills is going to discipline their child (and ensure they’re doing the necessary work to learn math) when they come home with a mediocre math grade? What is the likelihood that they will invest money into a tutor? Who wants to bet me that they will just say "That’s all right, I was bad at math too; and it’s not like you need Algebra in the real world!"
I don't ever recall having to use calculus ever in my work or private life. But I use geometry quite often and of course doing the geometry usually drags in some algebra.Besides the lack of expectation of mathemathical competency by adults, I think a lot of our problems with education in general and with math learning specifically is that schools have lost their primary focus of basic education and that children now have so many other things to do other than homework.Even kids in elementary school now have a plethora of things vying for their out of school hours - everything from video games, TV to sports or music lessons. It's gotten to the point that teachers cannot assign daily homework because their students' schedules are already full.There are so many things going on in schools that take time away from the teaching of basic skills - many are well-intentioned, but regardless they suck resources away from the business of education.Many of our students do no more than occupy a seat - totally unmotivated to study or do homework. Perfect emulation of their parent(s) - do as little as possible to get by.
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