From the headline on down, this article on “A New Way to Tackle College Algebra” just grates on me. I don’t want to continue the debate as to whether or not algebra should even be something we make kids take as a course; there’s enough of that going on elsewhere. But what I do want to point out is the seemingly uninspired reasoning that lies behind sitting kids down in front of computers to learn algebra because too many of them are struggling with it in traditional classrooms.
It’s the last quote that has me scratching my head:
Dr. Moore said that he hoped U.T.-Arlington’s pass rate for algebra would eventually increase to 75 percent, and added that he believed savings would come from students not having to repeat the course.
“In my gut,” he said, “I know this has to work.”
Ok, so first of all, 75 percent is the “hope.” And what about the other 25%? What, they don’t really need to pass it?
Second, does he care at all whether or not the students learned anything about Algebra that might actually be relevant to their lives? Or is the goal just to “pass the course” in whatever form that takes.
And finally, “has to work” for what end? To avoid the embarrassment of having a school where less than half the kids get a C or better in the class?
Please tell me if you read this differently, but I see this guy sitting in his leather chair worrying about nothing else other than getting kids through algebra. I get no sense that there is anything wondrous or beautiful or interesting about the process. It’s all about “improving results” or “improving students’ success."
The way we talk about this stuff has to change. The value we place on the exercise has to change. I can’t imagine any kid would read this article and think, "Man, I can’t wait to go to UT-Arlington and take algebra."
And pay for it to boot.