Comments about ‘Do Utah high school students need four years of math?’

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Published: Tuesday, Dec. 10 2013 4:00 p.m. MST

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Carolyn Sharette
Sandy, UT

It really isn't about having 4 years of classes - it is about competency. If students were required to master the skills at each level, things would change dramatically. Passing students who are not demonstrating mastery is the norm in many, if not most schools. This happens when a C or D grade is given and the student is passed on to the next level without the requisite skills and the teachers are then highly challenged to help. Most schools and teachers simply aren't equipped to remediate half the class while they try to teach the other half the course material. It is VERY challenging and quite impossible in most settings with most teachers.

I believe the promoting of students without mastery of prerequisite skills is the major reason our math education is largely a failure in Utah.

We need a straight-up skills assessment students must pass before being admitted to the next math class. This would give students and parents something clear to shoot for. The assessment should be given within 30 days of the beginning of the school year in a neutral environment, not in the prior year's math class by the previous teacher.

Salt Lake City, Utah


I often disagree with you, but you hit a home run on this one. Mastery is the key. If students have not mastered the necessary skills they need remediation until they do. You are also right on when you say that a teacher cannot move 15 students in a class forward while remediating 15 other students at the same time.

USS Enterprise, UT

Adding another year of math is not the answer. What is needed is to raise the standard. Let the HS kids only take 3 years of math, but require that for graduation they must have passed Trigonometry. Why Trig you ask? Well, even little Johnny when he is married and earning $30,000/yr may need to build a shed. If he has some understanding of trig, he can at lest figure out how to build a decent roof.

To "toosmartforyou" you have some good ideas, but many have been tried and don't work. Just paying teachers more won't work. Until getting a degree in Education is like getting into Law School or better yet Med School, they will never be paid well because there are too many teachers trying to get the same job.

How do you plan on legislating that parents care or help their children in school?

Sandy, UT

Teachers using better math instruction techniques, plus a common curriculum core plus requiring all kids to do math like we require all kids to read equals a better future for all of us and our children!

Mcallen, TX

Einstein couldn't teach with today's set up.--Excessive test preparations, and lack of discipline support, are hindering our students.

And yes! Too many students passing without earning the grades.

Highland, UT

The problem isn't the number of years students have math in high school, it's the quality of the math instruction they are being given. Utah's state office of education has an infatuation with constructivist math. It's been proven a failure and parents hate it because the curriculum prevents them from helping their children with their math homework. What Utah needs is to jettison Common Core math, and adopt our old standards from 2007 which would get more students through algebra by 8th grade, and calculus by 12th. Or we adopt CA's or MA's excellent math standards prior to Common Core. Utah's adoption of Common Core has been a disaster. Dr. David Wright in BYU's math department has documented that. We are headed for some serious problems in STEM fields. We don't need to force a 4th year of high school math on all students. We just need solid years of preparation with real curricular materials and direct instruction which has proven to be far better for students than constructivism.

Layton, UT

I disagree that it's just about mastery. You don't master something and then never do it, but that's exactly what's happening, even to decent students of math, when they take math and then skip a couple years to play around their last years in High School. Showing you are competent at something in the Freshman year says nothing about competency in the Senior. Once the general math credits are out of the way in College then, fine, if your major doesn't require it, then ditch math, but don't do it until you get through those require courses.

Otherwise you're setting up kids to fail at a much more expensive and consequential level. This is why many young college students drop out. Personally I believe math helps focus the mind and is a valuable skill to maintain throughout adult life... I meet a single mom, or a druggie dude who's a loser in his mom's basement, and more often than not, they have never tried a day's worth of Calculus and can't tell me a thing about the Unit Circle, or Fast Fourier Transforms... Math sets you up for success.

Mister J
Salt Lake City, UT

@ toosmartforyou

"Of course they need more math. When a teenage employee can't figure how much sales tax should be collected on a $1.79 loaf of bread and how much change to give you back from a $5 bill when you buy the bread and include sales tax, because of a power failure and the automatic cash register isn't functional, then yes, we need more math."

Agreed. But, why when there is an app for that? ROFL!?

Mister J
Salt Lake City, UT

re: RedShirt

"Until getting a degree in Education is like getting into Law School or better yet Med School, they will never be paid well because there are too many teachers trying to get the same job."

You forgot to add (pun intended?) getting into an MBA program? Or did you?

Salem, Utah

As a parent, I have been disappointed in the changes resulting from Common Core in the math arena. My oldest child ran out of math classes to take after her junior year in high school, so she settled on statistics when she'd rather be doing more calculus.

I suppose the Common Core has some merit, since most kids don't know what kinds of careers they'll pursue yet, let alone what type of maths to pursue along those lines. Business math is still a completely different animal, and most kids will end up having to make payments on an amortization schedule at some point, regardless of career.

Murray, Utah

Yo Fred44,

Go talk to high school math teachers and see if they agree that 1) this 4 yr mandatory math proposal and 2) common core requirements will benefit our kids.

I suspect you'll get mostly disagreement. Then take that information and lobby hard against any more of this ridiculousness to the State Legislature and the State Board of Education. Then YOU too can become part of the solution instead of the problem.

Deep Space 9, Ut

To "Erika" there are options if your school does not have enough math classes for your child. There is the online High School, which may allow her to take a more advanced math class. A better option is to find a college that has an online calculus class and enroll her in that. She can get college credit and HS credit at the same time.

Sandy, UT

What about the home's role in successfully passing math. The teachers I know are frustrated, but dedicated and concerned about these very issues. I'm guessing there may be some less-than-competent teachers, but to give equal time, let's examine the family's and child's own motivation level.

From what I've seen, if a student doesn't want to learn, he won't, no matter how many programs, requirements, or incentives we throw at them. We can change the curriculum as many times as we want, but if the parents don't somehow get involved or set expectations, it won't happen. If the home is dysfunctional, it's less likely the student will be able to learn. You don't need a scientific study to understand that.

Sandy, UT

The motivation to learn has to start long before secondary school; in primary and middle schools. If students are passed on to the next grade year after year (even if they don't understand math) till they get to high school, they aren't going to pass (or understand) high school math either. How can they without any foundation. The joy of learning should happen in early childhood, at the parents' knees.

Let's quit blaming teachers for everything that's wrong in the world.

Rural sport fan

Why do we insist in forcing every kid to prepare for college? Isn't this America, where choice and freedom are paramount?
The reality is, many kids don't, and shouldn't, go to college. Many of them should go to trade school, because as much as we need scientists and engineers, we need a LOT more plumbers and HVAC technicians.

4 years of math to graduate is ridiculous, when you consider how hard it already is to get every kid to pass three years of math.

And please, let's get rid of the common core. It's an absolute mess, when the kids that have gone through it hit college in the next two years, we are going to see how we wasted our time and money on that crack pot idea. The people that wrote the books are finding they can't even get through the course in a year, and everything is terribly disjointed.

Salt Lake City, Utah


I speak to math teachers everyday. There are four of them that teach down the hall from me. I have talked to them about the common core multiple times. They have two concerns and neither one is directly related to the common core. The first is we continue to advance students without them having gained basic skills and at the point the reach high school they are unable to do the math expected of them because they lack the basic skills. The second is they want the state to pick a curriculum and stick with it. They don't care if it is common core or something else just want to quit changing every few years.

Requiring an extra year of math is foolish. In terms of the legislature, I take one of my two personal days and go the state legislature every year to talk to legislators. I regularly email my state legislators about my concerns, I attend almost every school board meeting in my local district.

So in terms of being part of the problem or part of the solution I am very comfortable with what I have done and continue to do.


I noticed when I came to BYU not fifteen years ago that the Utah students generally speaking felt that college was harder and required more of them than students from elsewhere. I had the rare experience of having BYU be a little easier than my last year of high school. My high school had many students head to top universities.

Mchenry, IL

There should be four years of math and English in every high school in the country.

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