Page 1 of 15 1234511 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 219

Thread: Why are we still teaching algebra?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Newburgh, Indiana
    Posts
    767

    Why are we still teaching algebra?

    When was the last time you used algebra? I got C's and D's in algebra but aced geometry which I use all the time while wood working. The grandson has a five year degree from Purdue in food science and had to take endless algebra, trig, and calculus classes. He holds several patents. I asked him when was the last time he used algebra. He just gave me a blank look. Told me he had several thousand dollars wrapped up in books and classes in those subjects.

    So, we mostly did away with shop class and home economics and now a lot of people can't change a light bulb or car tire, but we still retain algebra classes in high school. Maybe it just one of those hoops you have to jump through to qualify for the next higher level.
    Life's too short to use old sandpaper.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Las Cruces, NM
    Posts
    1,557
    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Glenn View Post
    I got C's and D's in algebra but aced geometry which I use all the time while wood working.
    Debates about "Is ...such and such...useful" involve the question of whether so-and-so knows ways to use them. We tend to use things we are good at using. You could also ask the general population "When was the last time you had to use a table saw?".

    When was the last time you used algebra?
    It was the last time I had to figure out something involving geometry - because I don't figure out geometric things by making scale drawings. I draw sketches and use algebra and trigonmetry to figure out the unknowns.

  3. #3
    I use algebraic formulae every single day at work. It makes life simpler. Now the 4 semesters of calculus and one of differential equations are a different story. I haven't used those since I graduated engineering school.
    Dave Anderson
    Chester Toolworks LLC
    Chester, NH

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    19,124
    Many of us use algebra without even realizing it. Any time you work out something like "I wonder how tall a bookshelf needs to be to hold three shelves of 12" tall books." you are using algebra. Fundamentally the arm of mathematics that uses symbols for values and the methods of using those symbols. You know you need 3 shelves and that each shelf must hold a 12" tall book; "how tall" is the symbol you are solving for. I too was a solid D student in algebra but, graduated early and was well into college before my classmates donned their gowns. Obviously algebra didn't help me with that. I would have gladly swapped it for shop class
    She said “How many woodworking tools do you need?”
    I said “Why? Do you know someone who is selling some?”


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    18,334
    Blog Entries
    1
    For me the question might be how many times has my puttering in the shop made me wish trigonometry and calculus had been part of my high school classes.

    Though my math skills are decent it often occurs that if they were pushed a little harder in my youth it would have come in handy at times.

    Just last week planning a project had me pulling out my trig tables and later a slide rule just for the heck of it. My plan is to make a purpose, specific shooting board for making what is called a 'stripped' deck of cards. The deck has a taper of ~0.005". This facilitates numerous card tricks. The last set of mine, made with a rigged up holder for shooting, was given to one of my grandsons.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 08-27-2018 at 1:41 PM. Reason: wording change
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Griswold Connecticut
    Posts
    5,971
    Most days at work I use it. Whether to decay the effective source strengths of radioisotopes, determine radiation detector linearity and efficiency, or compensate for reactor fuel burn. My case is somewhat unique

    Last time I used differential calculus was to determine the erosion penalty for earthen dams in CT.

    Glen is correct though, you're using algebra everyday, you just don't realize it.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  7. #7
    Algebra teaches one that there are efficient and elegant tools and approaches for solving problems --- understanding that, and better, being able to act on that knowledge is a big part of making one's life better.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Mtl, Canada
    Posts
    2,236
    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Glenn View Post
    When was the last time you used algebra? I got C's and D's in algebra but aced geometry which I use all the time while wood working. The grandson has a five year degree from Purdue in food science and had to take endless algebra, trig, and calculus classes. He holds several patents. I asked him when was the last time he used algebra. He just gave me a blank look. Told me he had several thousand dollars wrapped up in books and classes in those subjects.

    So, we mostly did away with shop class and home economics and now a lot of people can't change a light bulb or car tire, but we still retain algebra classes in high school. Maybe it just one of those hoops you have to jump through to qualify for the next higher level.
    It is good for those who wish to have a useful tool to solve problems. Its just a question of practice practice to become at ease with it. And it help to exercise the mind in a direction it is not accustomed.

  9. #9
    I use algebra (and calculus, and differential equations) on a daily basis.

    Asking 5th graders if they anticipate needing to know algebra for their future career plans seems foolish. Better that some have skills they don't use, than to have some lack skills they need.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
    Posts
    6,781
    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Glenn View Post
    The grandson has a five year degree from Purdue in food science and had to take endless algebra, trig, and calculus classes. He holds several patents. I asked him when was the last time he used algebra. He just gave me a blank look.
    At first I thought this was a joke!

    I use algebra and trig often now, 12 years after I retired. When working I used those and other math constantly, both when designing and developing software and when creating technical graphics. (Yes, I aced the math and science courses and hold several patents too.) There is no WAY could I have worked effectively in the careers I made for myself without the math. (Try writing machine vision and control software without the math or even function in an optics lab.)

    I understand a huge percentage of our adult population couldn't derive, solve, or even formulate the problem to be solved (many can't even use ratios to solve everyday problems) but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be taught to everyone. What jr-high/high-school student knows exactly what they will do with their lives and what math understanding they will need?

    The death of shop and even art and music education in public schools is a terrible shame, but dropping math would be even more short-sighted and only contribute to our downward spiraling of the quality of education in the US. We, on the average, are already close to illiterate in mathematics and science compared to many in the world. It's especially sad when the ignorant in high places have a part in making the decisions on education.

    If it is a vote I vote to keep the algebra, trig, linear algebra, statistics, and calculus in high school.

    JKJ

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Livonia, Michigan
    Posts
    630
    When I worked I used algebra on an almost daily basis. Plus the days I didn't use it were probably the days I helped the apprentices with their algebra homework.

    When Dennis Archer became Mayor of Detroit he was appalled by the communication, writing and math skills of the supervisors and management staff. He instituted both English and math sections to the tests for promotion. Want a promotion? Better know your diction and math. With algebra. Several times after a round of testing there wouldn't be anyone that passed and the position would remain empty.

    I remember when I would turn in my daily paperwork a supervisor would catch me so I could type a memo for them. My 45 WPM seemed blistering fast to them(!). Plus I had to turn the intentions into readable sentences. On overtime!

    -Tom

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    El Dorado Hills, CA
    Posts
    1,303
    Algebra is the foundation for geometry and trigonometry. I use it all the time, mostly while solving geometry calculations and occasionally trigonometry.
    Steve

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    El Dorado Hills, CA
    Posts
    1,303
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Friedrichs View Post
    Asking 5th graders if they anticipate needing to know algebra for their future career plans seems foolish. Better that some have skills they don't use, than to have some lack skills they need.
    Good point.
    Steve

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Posts
    46,815
    Algebra is basic math and the precursor to other things. While it's true that very few folks use these skills manually today, that doesn't take away the value of understanding them which in turn helps folks to understand how they apply. That said, what's really lacking in many educational programs that's "math related" is practical applications like budgeting, simple accounting such as what's needed to balance a checking account, etc. These are necessary "life skills" and are best taught early, right along side of things like how to cook, clean and maintain a home...
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lewiston, Idaho
    Posts
    26,680
    Before I retired, I used algebra and other high level forms of math daily. I actually worked with some image reconstruction circuitry which performed algebraic equations and based on the incorrect answer the circuitry gave to the diagnostic software which allowed you to enter your own variables, you could troubleshoot the circuitry to the failing integrated circuit in the days when we troubleshot to the IC level and replaced same as they were socketed.
    Ken

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •