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Comments about ‘Walter E. Williams: To compete globally, American students must learn to do math’

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Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

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VST
Bountiful, UT

Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.

- Albert Einstein

raybies
Layton, UT

Walter 4got 2 menshun that Math is BOOOOOORING and so Uncool! With the cal-q-later app on my iphone, Y do I need 2 lern it? U sound like my English teecher!!

EJM
Herriman, UT

The majority of US students hate to do math. They hate to have to problem solve, especially if it is time consuming. I see it everyday with students in my office. If they can't get it done immediately then they want no part of it. We have raised a generation of "let me do my work immediately and get it over with". Math is a process. Today's young people, by and large, want nothing to do with it. Pretty sad.

kibitzer
Magna, UT

If we could do math we might not use our credit cards so much. "Practical Math" is the way to go. Invite Congress to take part in the classes.

worf
Mcallen, TX

Math is great. It strengthens the mind, and improves reasoning.

Unfortunately, math is being presented through a standardized test format, and is destroying student motivation and interest.

How can teachers and students find interest when subjects are mandated with penalties attached.

Over the past twenty years, I have asked hundreds of people their opinions of these tests. Not one has ever stated it as a positive for improving learning. No one has ever made comments similar to "I'm glad we have these tests, my child has learned so much more".

Wasting time and money, I'm amazed the public hasn't spoken up about it. These tests are hurting our education, and students are bored.

Gildas
LOGAN, UT

Basic Math is great; my daughter thinks so too. When she was almost five I remember her writing out addition sums on the sidewalk with chalk and then solving them. Then she went to school and suffered a regression in math and in English.

I think that children have deficit attention problems though. They are used to being entertained and too many cannot seem to concentrate on anything that is not
obvious "fun". Give teachers clown makeup then and tune into Sesame Street. That will give them at least a smattering in fundamentals.

Lagomorph
Salt Lake City, UT

Can it be, a column by Dr. Williams that I actually agree with? If anything, I would say he didn't go far enough. I would add to his list:
- enough statistics to understand the meaning of a probability p value, normal distributions, variance, confidence levels (margins of error)
- an understanding of exponential functions (has relevance to interest rates, population growth, etc.); the Rule of 70
- a smattering of calculus to help see the world in dynamic terms rather than static (the rate of change is often more important than the magnitude of a measurement-- e.g. global temperature); the concept of marginality (e.g. tax rates)
- how to interpret graphs of functions: the slope of a line has meaning, as does the area of regions on a graph (see the calculus point above-- this is just another way of describing differentials and integrals)

I'm not saying everyone should study and be able to solve second order partial differential equations (I've long since forgotten how), but some grounding in the basic concepts would really help people function in the world and interpret the numerical data they encounter every day. It may be a pipe dream in a world where many don't even know how to subtract to make change, but it's a good fantasy, right?

Gildas
LOGAN, UT

Balancing a household budget; the advantages (good investments) and disadvantages (mortgages etc) of compound interest applied to individuals not in banking; making change without a computer; prioritizing expenditures; the cost of a car on a payment plan as against saving for a cash purchase; planning for a "rainy day". Present real problems of life for individuals.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

The problem is motivation.
And Capitalism motives via $$$

Mathmatics/Engineering/Science does pay jack-squat.

Kids see their iPhones, SmartPhones, and the Mark Zukerbergs of Facebook making $Billions and want nothing to do with Math and Science.

Why bust your butt for 18-20 years going to school, racking up a $50,000 Student Loan, only to get out making $15-$20 an hour?

The bottom line --
American Capitalism -- you get what you pay for.

Perhaps you'd be better off studying Mandarin or Cantonese.
That's where the jobs went.

E & EE
PROVO, UT

@ VST:

If you're interpreting that quote to mean that Einstein was bad at math, you have been misled. Google it and you'll see that he actually excelled in math his entire life. If that was not your interpretation, then I apologize.

@ Lagomorph:

I completely agree! I wish it wasn't just a fantasy though. It is a shame that Americans are dismal at math when it is so necessary.

patriot
Cedar Hills, UT

Have you taken a look at any of the high school math books lately? Of course that is assuming you child even gets to have a math book. My son took a physics class in high school with no book! The class was a joke. I had to use my old college books to teach him with. American Idol is more important than math anyway -right?

Blue
Salt Lake City, UT

So are you going to just sqwawk about it, or will you finally stop re-electing the guys who consistently force us to have the lowest funding per pupil and the most crowded classrooms in the nation?

Esquire
Springville, UT

Wow, I actually agree with old Walt. How did that happen?

So are we willing to invest in the education system to address this issue? Are we willing to make the cultural changes necessary? Are families going to step up, or will they continue to take the path of least resistance, seek entertainment first, and ignore the realities that will affect the future?

Truthseeker
SLO, CA

Do schools in Utah differentiate in math classes? Our former school district on the east coast, tested and then differentiated students for math class starting in elementary school. I don't know if research has shown this to be effective, but I would think it could benefit the lowest performers and the highest performers, while be a neutral factor for those in the middle.

VST
Bountiful, UT

@raybies: What would you be using if the engineers/scientists had not used their math skills to invent that calculator/cell phone that you are now using? Paper and pencil; right? Also note that adding/subtracting, etc. is not REAL mathematics; it is arithmetic. The two disciplines are not even in the same universe when it comes to understanding.

@worf said, "Math is great. It strengthens the mind, and improves reasoning."

I could not have said it better, worf.

@LDS Liberal said, "Why bust your butt for 18-20 years going to school, racking up a $50,000 Student Loan, only to get out making $15-$20 an hour?"

The following data is taken from the 2010 annual averages for persons age 25 and over. Earnings are for full-time salaried workers.

Education Attained: Professional Degree (Engineering and Science)
Median Weekly Earnings: $1,610
Unemployment Rate: 2.4%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

@E & EE: Yep, you really did blow that interpretation. That was a direct quote from Einstein - I did not make it up nor imply anything other than what he actually said.

worf
Mcallen, TX

Gildas,

"I remember her writing out addition sums on the sidewalk with chalk and then solving them. Then she went to school and suffered a regression in math and in English."

I've seen that with my children and grandchildren. For whatever my opinion is worth, children are spending too much time in school and are denied their childhood. They need time of their own to explore, observe, and build curiosity. They'll do this naturally. Forty hours a week being micro managed, and held accountable to some test score isn't cutting it. We're teaching kids to dislike school.

If our present school system existed in the 1800's, we wouldn't have the light bulb, and the Wright Brothers wouldn't have the time inventing an airplane.

Joe Schmoe
Orem, UT

7% of American students perform at an advanced level in math?

That number is higher in Utah.

At any rate, less than 7% of the available jobs require advanced math so I'd say we are just about on target.

This fascination with math boggles my mind. The math teachers have done a tremendous job with making math important in the minds of the public but the fact of the matter is 90% of the people don't need math beyond basic algebra.

In the US, those that need it, get it.

This is coming from the parent of two future engineers.

Hutterite
American Fork, UT

He did mean to say basketball, didn't he?

Nate
Pleasant Grove, UT

@Hutterite "He did mean to say basketball, didn't he?"

Of course. Why do you ask?

pragmatistferlife
salt lake city, utah

A lot of good comments here. Just want to add that the benefits of math are many, but once you get beyond the basics the beauty of math is that it teaches you that the world is not linear. It's not either this or that. It's maybe this, if that, or possibly that, if this. That's how the world actually works.

America could really use of dose of that reality at present.

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