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Algebra II: 2B ˄ ~2B

Here are the starting assumptions, as adopted by a multitude of professional groups: "Many jobs require at least one or two years of postsecondary education. For instance, 4 out of the 5 fastest growing job fields require that more than 90 percent of workers have some form of higher education. Thus, a high school education needs to prepare students for success in higher education." (taken from TIER, 2013)

Then, look at this summary of Clifford Adelman's U.S. Dept of Ed. Answers in the Tool Box study (1999) of 10,000+ students...it examined 20+ variables—e.g. high school courses, educational aspirations, race, socioeconomic status, and parenthood prior to age 22.

Adelman's study showed that for students of all backgrounds, tackling a tough high school curriculum is best way to maximize chances of earning a B.A.

  • Strongest indicator of academic preparation is taking rigorous, intense courses in high school
  • Taking such courses has greater impact on African-American and Latino students than on white students
  • Highest level of math course taken is most important indicator for college success
  • Odds that a college-entering student will complete B.S. more than doubles if student completed a math course beyond Algebra II (e.g., trigonometry or pre-calculus) while in high school.
Finally, look at the conclusions of a recent study (2013) funded by the Gates Foundation:
  • Community college studenst should take basic subjects tied directly to needs for their future career
  • Too many community college students take too many high-level math courses without fully comprehending them
  • Most students do not need Algebra II and should take it in high school only if headed towards a STEM career
Mark Tucker, President of education think tank NCEE, claims: "We're not saying to lower math standards, but we ought to require math that is appropriate for the direction students want to go in....Otherwise we produce failure where no failure is necessary."

So who is right...do secondary students need Algebra II? After too many years being part of math education, I have these three thoughts:

  1. Labels are tossed around too easily. Algebra II is not an entity consistent across all schools, texts, or even teachers. Thus, the focus should be content and process...i.e. what is advanced algebraic thinking and how can all "interested" students gain it?
  2. What percentage of students at the community college level know their career needs...I think it is quite small, and cutting them short course-wise at that time could lead to latter frustration, limitations, and time mis-use
  3. How can the data change so rapidly....from 1999 to 2013? But then, having taught statistics, I am well aware that data can be found to support any agenda you want!
So, Algebra II: 2B ˄ ~2B? THat is the question, but will we ever agree or find an acceptable (and rational) answer?