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Published 4 years ago with 6 Comments

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  • leweb

    The problem is not the content, but the delivery. A good teacher can teach quantum mechanics to an 8-th grader. A bad teacher can't teach even the most basic things without making students hate theose subjects for life.

    Algebra is not useful to balance your house budget, it is useful to develop abstract reasoning. Good luck surviving in the next few decades without any abstract thinking skills.

  • spaceghoti

    I was never very good at math, but my problem was that the teaching methods were absolute shit. Finally in tenth grade I was assigned to a class where the teacher found a way to make it comprehensible to me, even though it wasn't a standard method. Learning algebra taught me more than math, it taught me abstract thinking in a way nothing else ever had.

    So no, I don't think algebra is an unnecessary stumbling block in US schools.

    • Gozzin (edited 4 years ago)

      I hated algebra and felt like it was totally useless. After finally slogging through that pointless class, I never used it again,ever. For me at least,statistics would have been a much better option to have been taught. Who knows how many times I said the below to my mother? I lost count.

      "But we don't need to learn what x and y is. When in life are we going to write on paper, 'X and y needs to be this?'"

      • spaceghoti

        I said the same thing, until one teacher finally got it through my head that "x" and "y" weren't important in and of themselves. They were abstractions that we could solve, a different way of looking at a problem until we figure out the solution. Whether you call it "x" and "y" or "a" and "b" or "xa" or "yb" didn't matter, it was the method of figuring out what they represent that was the key.

        Thirty years later I probably couldn't solve a quadratic equation to save my life, but the larger lesson of abstract thought has stayed with me.

        • Gozzin

          Well your fortunate to have had a good teacher...For me,it was a monstrous waste of time and an enormous inducer of stress and pounding headaches.

    • SteveRoy

      This is the primary argument I've heard for keeping it. "It teaches you how to think." So the benefit isn't in the algebra itself, but as a tool to learn something else.

      For several years now I've come to realise that programing does this same thing, even more effectively. Abstract, procedural thinking. Applied logic. Breaking down real problems into a procedure that can be applied repeatedly, to handle all the variable possibilities.

      I had a very difficult time with algebra the first time around in high school. After teaching myself web development and programing, the second time I had to learn it for collage prerequisites I marveled at how simple and easy it all was.

      So I wouldn't call algebra unnecessary, but it is replaceable with a modern tool for abstract thinking.

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