Education letters 10/26

Students need basic math skills to thrive

Ken Sprague is right on the mark with his criticism of Georgia’s math requirements. The most challenging courses possible should be offered to students who choose them. To expect such work from all students, however, is elitist and discriminatory.

For most students the emphasis should be on math needed in daily life, including lessons on budgeting, investing and even running a business. It’s time for Georgia educational leaders to say the emperor has no clothes and to lead the nation by preparing an innovative math curriculum that includes economics and the basics of business. This is the type of math that should be required for all students.

Dorothy Huenecke of Decatur is a retired education professor.

Higher-level math is critical to workplace

If students are to succeed in the real business world, they will use this math again. Algebra is basic to understanding financial statements and cash flow: A balance sheet is an algebraic expression. I think Sprague’s opinion is based on our students having computers to do all their thinking, and doing so will not prepare them for the time when the computer is “down.”

Rational business decisions require logic that includes knowing how to find the unknowns, and computers will put unknowns anywhere they please, defying comprehensive evaluations. Consequently, I think Sprague’s assertion that math might prove useless to real life is wrong-headed, and I think algebra should be a prerequisite for high school graduation.

Jack Franklin, Conyers

Odds are against new math working out

Thank you, Ken Sprague, for bringing balance to the discussion of the “magic” of math. While communication skills languish, the focus on math reins supreme in the classroom and at district and state levels.

The state Department of Education has created a new math curriculum very different from the usual algebra, geometry and algebra II course work offered in other states. Many parents have questioned this move toward integrated math and have questioned its hype. It is a roll of the dice being played out in classrooms across the state.

The state of Georgia has never proven itself to be a leader in educational matters. Hard to believe they can pull this rabbit out of its hat. Drastic funding cuts over the past eight years have further harmed real school improvement. Sadly, it doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that the odds are against this new math’s success.

Faye Andresen, Atlanta

New math jeopardizes generation of students

Ken Sprague was right on the money in his column on math. As a retired CFO who is raising grandchildren, I have been protesting the new state math curriculum for several years to no avail. I have also had to listen to my grandson, who raises the very question Sprague writes to in his article. I very well know the answer, but the state bureaucrats continue to plow ahead, determined to make it succeed while risking the future of a generation of kids.

It is time for the voters of the state to stand up and be counted on the matter by electing a new state superintendant of education who will put Georgia on a different path of educating our children in math. The other states in this country sure don’t follow our state. The answer to the question “why not” should be justified by the state.

Randy Edwards, Marietta

The logic of math important in daily life

Ken Sprague’s guest column on math is shocking, given he is a high school math teacher. I’m amazed at his claim that subjects such as algebra II and geometry are impractical from a daily life perspective, and that he fails to recognize the cognitive skills that math imparts.

Of course, most of us will never have to deal with “imaginary numbers or conic sections” in real life, but learning the logic and precision of mathematical functions and the rigor of a proof teaches skills that any person should find useful in his or her adult life.

We teach art, music, drama and literature for the same basic reason — that each develops skills beyond the subject matter itself. Perhaps Sprague should re-evaluate why he is teaching.

Dr. Stephen Needel, Marietta

North Hall High displays poor sportsmanship

After attending the Oct. 2 North Hall versus White County game, I found the behavior of the North Hall students and cheerleaders appalling. As a former North Hall cheerleader and graduate, I have a unique perspective on the night.

I am an educator in the White County school system, but I live in the North Hall area. Since I am a White County educator, my children attend White County schools. After witnessing the game behavior of some of the North Hall students and parents, I was even more thankful that my children don’t attend North Hall.

North Hall is not the same school it was when I attended. We didn’t have a winning football team; the record in 1982 was 5-5, and the stadium was more like a cow pasture than a brickyard. I am proud of the improvements made to the facilities, but I wonder if those improvements have been made at the expense of intangible values that were not represented in the stands.

My sons play football for White County. When they left the field at halftime and walked to the field house, those precious children recognized at the beginning of the game lined the fence. Young children were chanting “Boo Warriors” with their parents proudly standing behind them.

My 17-year-old turned to one of the parents and asked what lessons they were teaching their children. How sad that a 17-year-old has to scold adults about forgetting to teach children good sportsmanship, respect and dignity. This is a sad reminder that it is difficult to teach something you don’t model yourself.

I am honored to be associated with the White County School System, and I am embarrassed that our students, players and parents were treated with such disrespect. I recognize that the actions we observed were the actions of a few, but their behaviors seemed to be condoned by those in authority.

If adults are to impart wisdom and understanding to the generations that follow us, how can we do so when we don’t use those qualities in our own walk?

Patsy Lewis, Gainesville

Income redistribution: The coach has it right

“Everyone benefits, but is system fair?” (Sports, Oct. 17) describes how DeKalb County high schools must share their football ticket revenues countywide, including revenue from playoff games. Tucker football coach Franklin Stephens states, “[Playoff revenue is] bonus money for a team that’s gone out and been successful, and they don’t get their reward. Why should the county be privy to that money?”

Hmmm. This sounds similar to successful workers wondering why the federal government is privy to their money.

The coach has gotten to the heart of fiscal conservatism — letting people keep the fruits of their labor. This drives the incentive to work hard, which ultimately increases everyone’s standard of living.

Hopefully, the downside of football revenue redistribution in DeKalb County will convince more people that government-mandated income redistribution is not the answer to our current challenge of growing the economy. I hope President Barack Obama is listening.

Dana R. Hermanson, Dinos Eminent Scholar Chair of Private Enterprise, Kennesaw State University