Education Week had a forum post, “Do We Really Need Advanced Math Classes As Required Subjects?”, where it was questioned by Ninja Nixon, if “subjects like Calculus, Trigonometry, etc. should be required for students to get a high school diploma or a college degree?” Good Question!
As a parent and PTA leader, I vehemently support strong Mathematics and Science requirements. I believe in the helpfulness of having a strong background that promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) with an appreciation for the arts as well. In Chicago’s Calumet High School, I was in a Principal Scholar’s Program that promoted having Math and Science every year! I love Math but I don’t know if I would have realized how wonderful that was if it weren’t thrust upon me, even though the program was optional. It promoted the Engineering fields. I obtained a Computer Management degree and was a Computer Programmer for the IBM Corporation.
With great teachers like Mr. Daniel Mussa, Mr. Fackler, et. al. I wished that our school had offered even more advanced courses! A couple of Calumet students additionally went to a different school to take Calculus, but I didn’t learn about that in time. In college, I also saw some students having to take remedial math courses just to get to their college requirements, which is a big trend now.
I attended NBC’s Education Nation’s Job One summit in Chicago, 2011 where the City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman observed that almost 90% of their degree seeking students required remedial courses. The Alliance for Excellent Education, a policy group based in Washington D. C. sites that more than one-third of higher education students require remediation. “The Alliance report estimated that during the 2007-2008 school year, remediation nationally cost $5.6 billion, $2 billion of that in lost wages because remedial students are more likely not to graduate. In Illinois, the group put the remediation cost at $155 million for 2007-2008,” commented the Chicago Sun-Times.
According to achieve.org, taking advanced math classes in high school is one of the single best indicators of whether a student will graduate from college– a better indicator than family background. Students going beyond Algebra II have twice the likelihood of completing a bachelor’s degree. At least half of those surveyed, wish they had taken more challenging Math. I’m apprehensive that if some of these advanced courses aren’t required, that those classes will not be selected. Children sometimes choose what appears to be easier or more popular and don’t regret choices until later in life when career choices are narrowed due to their lack of preparation. For ideas on getting youth and females more “into” math earlier, read my article, “Doing the Math.”