3:00 PM EST, November 7, 2012
David Tager expressed what has been on my mind for so long ("Don't force higher math on our kids," Nov. 5)! As a parent of a college sophomore and a high school senior, I have seen the effects of forced higher math for years. My children are high achievers and successful students in language, reading, writing, history and art, but math has never been their strong point.
Hard work and out of pocket tutoring got them through. In my experience, the path to higher math starts as early as elementary school when the children are grouped according to ability. In my opinion, at that point, mastery of the curriculum is much more attainable. The problem starts in the transition to middle school math where the children are now set on a path. For those who are mathematically gifted, the path leads to success. For others, the path leads to failure because at that point the material becomes somewhat of a foreign language for those without a "math mind." I have had numerous conversations with math teachers and department chairs over the years regarding this matter. Some students do not have math minds. They can't see what everyone else sees on the chalkboard. They end feeling embarrassed and frustrated that they can't seem to "get it."
For those students who are not headed into the science, math, medical or computer fields, forcing this math on them is a waste of time. Time and energy would be better spent on teaching these students the basics of daily living in the real world where you use basic math skills on a daily basis — credit card interest rates, savings accounts, using discounts and coupons to stretch your dollars, etc.
Let's stop setting these kids up for failure! And lets work to teach them skills that will make them productive and responsible citizens. Let's let them study what excites them the way that those that excel at math get to do. It might be history, music, art, psychology or language. It's time to stop filling their hours at school with curriculum that is meaningless to them.
There will always be those gifted math students. They will always rise to the top. Let's teach those students the higher skills so that they can be the engineers, computer programmers and scientists of the future. Let's give these other students the same opportunities for success in their curriculum of choice! And let's hope that colleges are paying attention because they might be passing up some great students just because they can't master the sine of 30 degrees. What a shame and what a loss to them.
L. Allen, Owings Mills
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