Thursday, October 30, 2008

Judge Orders Halt to Algebra

Wow. Judge orders halt to algebra. Only in California could you have a court case that results in this type of headline.

I am a huge advocate of STEM lament the loss of our competitive edge in the world marketplace. But I support the judge in this case. It is wrong in so many ways to force all students to take algebra in the 8th grade.

In the real world, we solve problems the old fashioned way. We identify the problem, gather real data, brainstorm possible solutions, pick the best possible solution, test the solution, make adjustments and fully implement.

Because education has so many problems, the current problem solving method is – pick any solution, find a problem, fully implement, never bother to see if it works.

We have a serious lack of technically trained high school students. But the problem is not the numbers of people taking algebra in 8th grade. The problem is a lack of good mathematical foundation in elementary school due to crappy curriculum and teachers who fear math.
If you create a great foundation in math in the early grades in all elementary schools with great teachers teaching a great curriculum, then the demand for early algebra will go up because students are ready. You cannot force this top down solution just because it looks good. The only thing you do is dramatically increase costs, create more math teacher shortages, end up using untrained algebra teachers and ultimately water down the algebra curriculum because too many students fail.

I applaud the judge! When I was in the Navy we had a cynical slogan that applies to California – “Why manage when you can over-react”. Stop the over-reactions and fix the real problems.

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