Georgia, like most states, has imposed higher math requirements on students. But do all students need to learn higher-levels of math? Vino Wong vwong@ajc.com

Are we forcing students to take higher-level math they don’t need?

In raising math requirements in high school, have we created needless barriers to graduation? Do all kids need higher levels of math?

That question is hotly debated even among teachers. And it certainly has caught the attention of parents whose children are struggling with math they may never use outside the classroom.

Georgia requires all students take “Coordinate Algebra or Algebra I or the equivalent, Analytic Geometry or Geometry or the equivalent, Advanced Algebra or Algebra II or the equivalent, and One Additional Unit to be selected from the list of GSE/AP/IB/dual enrollment designated courses.”

In their review of U.S. Census data back to 1990, Washington University researchers found the U.S. dropout rate rose to a high of 11.4 percent when students were required to take six math and science courses, compared with 8.6 percent for students who needed fewer math and science courses to graduate.

Political scientist Andrew Hacker, author of The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions, contends the rising math requirements imposed on American students have contributed to the high number of students who don’t finish high school or college. Hacker suggests a more practical math syllabus that teaches the math most people will actually use in their lives.

Teachers divide on this question. In discussing the issue on the AJC Get Schooled blog, a math teacher said, “I promise you they there are a great number of topics and skills these kids will never ever use outside of a classroom. Or like other professionals, they will use the computer to do it.”

However, an English teacher countered: “I am an English teacher. In high school I struggled with algebra and geometry. But I use them in some form almost every day. Measuring. Fractions. Calculations. And the most important ones of all: Thinking and reasoning my way through problems. Higher math develops the brain and expands its capabilities, just as reading difficult classics like Shakespeare does.”

To read more about this debate, go to the Get Schooled blog.

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