Do Utah high school students need four years of math?

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  • K Mchenry, IL
    Dec. 15, 2013 12:30 p.m.

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

    Dec. 15, 2013 11:24 a.m.

    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.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    Dec. 15, 2013 10:06 a.m.


    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.

  • Rural sport fan DUCHESNE, UT
    Dec. 15, 2013 12:27 a.m.

    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.

  • Here Sandy, UT
    Dec. 14, 2013 7:43 p.m.

    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.

  • Here Sandy, UT
    Dec. 14, 2013 7:42 p.m.

    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.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Dec. 13, 2013 10:54 a.m.

    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.

  • GiuseppeG Murray, Utah
    Dec. 13, 2013 10:30 a.m.

    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.

  • Erika Salem, Utah
    Dec. 12, 2013 2:14 p.m.

    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.

  • Mister J Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 9:52 a.m.

    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?

  • Mister J Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 9:50 a.m.

    @ 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!?

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Dec. 12, 2013 8:13 a.m.

    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.

  • Oak Highland, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 9:31 p.m.

    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.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    Dec. 11, 2013 5:16 p.m.

    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.

  • utahprincipal801 Sandy, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 12:45 p.m.

    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!

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 12:19 p.m.

    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?

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    Dec. 11, 2013 10:59 a.m.


    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.

  • Carolyn Sharette Sandy, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 10:20 a.m.

    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.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    Dec. 11, 2013 9:27 a.m.

    Farmington, UT:

    Some added suggestions:

    * Eliminate standardized testing. What an expense that is.
    * Three schools sharing one football field.
    * Students feed themselves.
    * Students pay fifty cents a day to ride the bus.
    * Less schooling would be better than more school. Kids need independence to develop curiousity, and creativity.
    * more parent volunteers.

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 9:13 a.m.

    The worst thing you could do for your kid is let them opt out of math their last couple years of High School -- IF -- you intend your kid to go to college.

    They MUST be conversant with mathematics even if it's at a lower level, or they face a steep climb once they get to college. I tutored a guy who fell out of math and wanted a simple community college degree in medical equipment handling or something like that. He'd failed all his attempts to take the most remedial math class these tradeschools offered Nine TIMES! He did math at about a fourth grade level and could only hold a job at places like Burger King, as a result.

    We spent about 15 extra hours a week working to pass his math class. He was ecstatic that I brought his grade up to a B, after about 5 weeks of concerted effort. Many folks don't get as lucky as him, because they simply can't spend that much time on it, and they're so lost they can't even do the basics.

    High School is a free time, don't waste it.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    Dec. 11, 2013 8:45 a.m.


    I have read many of your posts. Most are critical of teachers and always critical of teachers unions. Why not get off the sideline and run for school board and then see if your ideas will work. I think you have some good ideas, some however I think are probably not practical or legal. But again anyone can come on a message board and criticize, why not run for your local school board? Its real easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize, it is much tougher when you are the one responsible.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 7:36 a.m.

    More Reading, Writing and Arithmetic should be required, rather than more Football, Basketball and Hockey.

  • My2Cents Taylorsville, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 4:18 a.m.

    I almost agree with abolish public education where governemnt and propaganda are too powerful in the hands of politicians to allow them to control how much education a student needs to be a public dependent. This article is saying education has become too expensive and they want to cut costs and knowledge by defunding quality education.

    Education has become an industrial government asset to profiteer from govnerment handouts and children are pawns to expand control. Education and training are too expensive in the business world where it eats into their profits and produces nothing.

    People wanted their government run like a business so CEO's turned government into business to expand itself with stockholders and share holders accruing power as it expands. Its not about the good of the people, this is not what education is or means.

    Education it to provide quality education in knowledge for children to discover the unknown with knowledge of the past in science, math, arts, and physical skills. Language skills have become too expensive and they have stopped proving children with the ability to read, write, and comprehend a language. There is no such thing as too much education, just too much corporate government.

  • first2third Elmo, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 10:31 p.m.

    There is a disconnect between our legislator's/USOE and the Colleges, especially Jr Colleges in Utah. The Jr Colleges in the state do not want to let High School teachers with masters degrees teach Concurrent Enrollment. If kids take and get a semesters worth of credit for a year long class in High School, then they will be at college less time and take fewer classes. This makes it so the students don't attend college as long and therefore aren't paying the college more money. The heads of departments grant the approval of Concurrent Enrollment applications. They know if granted their staffing at the college level goes down, so they just reject the Concurrent Enrollment.

    The way Math is taught is not conducive to learning procedures, processes, and problem solving. (BTW this is why math is valuable). I teach a Senior class that starts with ACT Prep and then moves into subject matter taught in 1010 and 1050 classes to prepare them for success in college. Students averaged a 2.6 point gain on the math portion of ACT. Some gained 5 points. Yet, the state doesn't approve because it isn't Secondary Ed III. Call it helping students learn 101!

  • jpc53 Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 9:23 p.m.

    Do people use math in everyday life? Yes. Do students need 12 years of math? By all means Yes!!

  • toosmartforyou Farmington, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 8:58 p.m.


    I have posted numerous times suggestions for improving education. Here are a few examples:
    1- Year round school. Less buildings and installing and running air conditioning is cheaper than new buildings.
    2- Make teaching a true profession. Increase teacher salaries by 25 - 33% and have teachers work 12 months of he year, with two weeks vacation like everybody else, not 3 months.
    3- Get rid of teacher unions and organizations that constantly "want more money" but refuse "education reform." It's time to change the education model.

    I helped my children through school as I ought to have done.
    4- Expect students (and parents) to be involved with learning. If a student needs to be baby sat, then they shouldn't progress to the next grade. High school students should have a heavy curriculum with solid subjects, not "play time for those with senioritis."
    5- Reward teachers and schools who improve performance; weed out those who lag behind and don't care if they truly teach and inspire learning or not.
    6- Pare back extracurricular activities a bit. Don't eliminate them, but don't worship them, either.
    7- Appreciate what you have and quit screaming how little Utah spends on education. Every personal income tax penny goes to education---100%.

  • junkgeek Agua Dulce, TX
    Dec. 10, 2013 8:29 p.m.

    4 years of high school mouth = "raising the bar"

  • Sasha Pachev Provo, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 6:52 p.m.

    I think we've got it backwards. We assume that taking 4 years of math equals a certain level of skill, which is not necessarily the case. What we should do is decide how much an ACT score of let's say 25 is worth to us, and then how much each additional point is worth and pay a fraction of that to the student who achieves it instead of investing the money into the schools. If the students feel the immediate tangible value of his high ACT score he will find a way to learn math - either by hiring the right tutor, going to the right school, or but simply finding the right kind of online resource - but let him decide. When you focus on the process, you get the process, but when you focus on the results you get the results.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 6:18 p.m.

    A few observations:

    Let me fill in the blank with one possible answer: Students need to learn math so that they can ____THINK____.

    High school math classes don't teach about sales tax and making change. That's taught much earlier than high school.

    I have the impression that folks who think math can't be used in most careers or most lives didn't really understand math.

    I have the impression that it's very important to do well in math classes, not just pass them. A student that learns math at a B or C grade level basically didn't learn it and won't be able to use it for much.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    Dec. 10, 2013 6:07 p.m.

    DN Subscriber 2 and toosmartforyou,

    I am hoping with your vast of the problems with our public school system in Utah that you are on your local school board. I would hate to think that your just people who criticize the school system without doing something to make it better. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Matter of fact I have a better idea, maybe you should become teachers and improve our pathetic school system rather than simply criticize.

  • seegum OREM, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 5:43 p.m.

    Debating what another person's child should or shouldn't be learning is an affront to human dignity and freedom. I reject the entire premise of the discussion. Public education should be abolished, and these politicians should fulfill their duty to defend liberty rather than meddle in our lives.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 5:24 p.m.

    Public education needs radical reform. Maybe revolution. Kids are wasting their time and hard earned taxpayer money. Some very drastic changes need to take place. Cutting out four years of high school math would be a good start. Here's a simple math equation. Four years times times one hour of lecture plus two hours of study times millions of kids who will never use high school level math in their careers = many, many wasted hours and taxdollars.

  • toosmartforyou Farmington, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 5:16 p.m.

    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.

    Believe it or not, some jobs depend upon it. A former employer told me "Do you know how many people bother to take trig or even remember thing one about it?" He was pleased I knew it, plus I could write a detailed letter representing engineered solutions to a problem a customer was experiencing. That is real life. Factory technical experts need some education that is useful and math is right at the top.

    Of course I guess you could always work in fast food and demand $15 an hour......

    Good luck with that.......

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    Dec. 10, 2013 5:17 p.m.

    @DN Subscriber 2:

    "and the government will do the math for them"?

    How can that be, when they can't balance a budget?

  • DN Subscriber 2 SLC, UT
    Dec. 10, 2013 5:05 p.m.

    Why waste the time? People can collect welfare and the government will do the math for them to tell them how much they will get. Or the cash register at the Burger Joint will tell them how much change to give out.

    Besides, all the high paying engineer and scientific jobs are fleeing to other countries, where foreign secondary schools are almost all teaching their students more than what our kids learn. And, their colleges teach all the math and science they need. (But, the don't have the advantages of environmental studies, Latvian Lesbian Literature classes, or similar majors that our colleges thrive on.)

    The worst part is, if our kids did get all the high level math courses, them might end up getting really high paid jobs, and contribute to "income inequality" and oppression of the lower classes, which would require them to be taxed at much higher rates to help "pay their fair share" to the less fortunate (or studious) voters.

    But, if the students really do need all those math courses, they will be offered as part of the remedial classes offered by colleges to make up for the shortcomings of our failing secondary school system.

    Dec. 10, 2013 4:38 p.m.

    Utah (and the U.S. in general) students need something to help with math, science and English test scores. But, it might be nice to test a plan first, in different types of schools, to see if it really makes a difference.

    Another idea would be to let High School students test out of courses with competency exams. Then, those that don't need specific courses would be able to quickly move on and students would have an incentive to get competent in a subject during the summer months.

  • Michael Matthews Omaha, NE
    Dec. 10, 2013 4:36 p.m.

    Of course they don't need it. They don't need ANYTHING taught in high school. People can live.... and have done for thousands of years... with very little understanding if not complete ignorance of what is taught in high school. So it's easy to argue they don't need it. The questions should be... do they need it so that they can________________. Fill in the blank, if our society could just really decide what should go in that blank we'd be able to answer that question. I think it varies too much though to require 4 years of math. But for that matter, I think it varies too much to require 4 years of anything in high school.

  • dalefarr South Jordan, Utah
    Dec. 10, 2013 4:16 p.m.

    They do not need it in life. Our college math mandates should be changed.