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Discouraging Students from Taking Math

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the every-child-left-behind dept.

Education 509

Coryoth writes "Following on from a previous story about UK schools encouraging students to drop mathematics, an article in The Age accuses Australian schools of much the same. The claim is that Australian schools are actively discouraging students from taking upper level math courses to boost their academic results on school league tables. How widespread is this phenomenon? Are schools taking similar measures in the US and Canada?"

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Math? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188633)

"Following on from a previous story about UK schools encouraging students to drop mathematics, an article in The Age accuses Australian schools of much the same. [...] How widespread is this phenomenon? Are schools taking similar measures in the US and Canada?"

I'm sorry, what's this "math" you speak of?

Re:Math? (0, Redundant)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188651)

sorry - maths

Where the FUCK is iLife '07??? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188675)

Come ON you homosexual deviants in Cupertino. QUIT FUCKING AROUND and update your fucking software every so often. You mincing faggots are worse than Debian...

Re:Where the FUCK is iLife '07??? (-1, Offtopic)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188845)

I hate feeding trolls, but you can buy iLife 08 [] now. You'll have to figure out something else to toss abuse at...

Re:Math? (-1, Troll)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188979)

"sorry - maths"

Ok...I noticed that too...from the article:

"...Hyam Rubinstein, said because maths was viewed as a difficult subject in schools, only the best and brightest were encouraged to pursue it at an advanced level."

The whole article had that misspelling of math as maths? How could a publisher misspell so badly throughout a whole article like that? Do they not proof read?

Re:Math? (4, Informative)

dosius (230542) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189007)

In the US it's "math". In the UK (and also Australia, at least) it's "maths". Like elevator/lift or color/colour, prolly.


Re:Math? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189253)

"In the US it's "math". In the UK (and also Australia, at least) it's "maths". Like elevator/lift or color/colour, prolly."

Hmm...ok. Well, with the other words like colour, I'd seen that before, and understood that as a spelling difference. Looking at this article, it appeared to be a problem with making the plural form of the word at the wrong time.

I guess this is like how I've seen people from the UK saying they "go to university", rather than I go to a university, or I go to the university or I got to college. When I read that in the past, I thought it was just a typo, but, I've seen it on here so many times, I learned it was how they phrased things over there.


Re:Math? (3, Informative)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189349)

Math and maths both being short for mathematics. I guess it depends on whether you consider mathematics to be a science (ergo singular) or a group of sciences (ergo plural).

Re:Math? (0, Redundant)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189091)

The whole article had that misspelling of math as maths? How could a publisher misspell so badly throughout a whole article like that?

Because in Australia it is called maths, not math (if you consider that it's short for "mathematics" you'll see the logic).

We have other spelling differences as well; colour (indicating that it's pronounced differently from "colon"), for example.

Re:Math? (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189337)

Because in Australia it is called maths, not math (if you consider that it's short for "mathematics" you'll see the logic).

So... it's short for mathsematic?

Re:Math? (1)

Anarchitektur (1089141) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189103)

The author obviously has a lisp. One that carries over into her writing...

It'll all work out (5, Funny)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188657)

After a few generations of not taking any math, administrators won't be able to figure out why not taking math increased their average scores in the first place. At that point, they'll re-institute a math program, probably cutting out history, since that's over and done with.

Re:It'll all work out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20189053)

You know an administrator who can figure things out?

I dropped my math course (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188665)

It was sweet. I went from six classes to four.

Re:I dropped my math course (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20189037)

With those two classes that you dropped, you'll have that much extra time to be flipping burgers. You'll make manager in no time!

Re:I dropped my math course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20189117)

You see the joke was, uh, I dropped one class but my poor math skills led me to think I had gone from 6 classes to 4 classes because you see I was an idiot at math but now I have extra time for english classes which are covering sentence formation next week so that gives me like 20 days to prepare for that.

Re:I dropped my math course (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20189231)

It's okay, no one understands us ACs, but I do. I sure do....

Isn't this a good thing? (5, Funny)

glindsey (73730) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188669)

Oh... wait... I thought it read "discouraging students from taking meth."

My mistake.

Re:Isn't this a good thing? (1)

Chilled urine. (1132739) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189387)

Oh... wait... I thought it read "discouraging students from taking meth."

Me too... that's what I thought I read the first couple times.

Tinfoil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188679)

Would it be bad to put my tinfoil hat on and say that this is because math is the ultimate expression of logic and truth, and society these days doesn't want anything to do with logic or truth?


Re:Tinfoil (4, Funny)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189257)

Stick it to da' man: factor a polynomial!

in college this would make some sense (4, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188681)

It would make a little more sense if this was college when you have an idea what you want to do with your life and realize it doesn't make sense to take calculus to finish out an art/language major. But really, a student that is not interested in going into the sciences is unlikely to use calculus or higher mathematics much, but that doesn't mean they should drop it just to boost their GPA.

Re:in college this would make some sense (4, Interesting)

happyemoticon (543015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188883)

The mistake you're making is looking at this from the perspective of the student. They're not talking about boosting the students, they're talking about boosting the school's ratings. I don't have the full story on Australian/UK educational policy, but the climate sounds like the US's "No Child Left Behind Act" policy, which diverts teaching resources away from actual teaching and focuses on teaching students to perform well on yearly standardized tests.

The net result is overwhelmingly bad. Just as the article describes, by attempting to make your kids appear better statistically, you make them less educated in actuality.

Re:in college this would make some sense (1, Interesting)

dosius (230542) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189035)


No Child Left Behind leaves all children behind.


Re:in college this would make some sense (2, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189087)

Absolutely - I think the NCLB should be unceremoniously dropped, the Department of Education abolished, and the money saved used for debt reduction.

Wait - you want to KEEP the money given to states under NCLB? Just not comply with the terms? I understand now.

Re:in college this would make some sense (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189167)

Since NCLB tends to cost more money to comply with than the federal government provides for it, I think many districts would be happy to give up the money if it meant dropping the program entirely.

Re:in college this would make some sense (4, Insightful)

Lockejaw (955650) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189121)

Indeed. The NCLB folks need to realize that if you only teach what the least capable students can learn, the class will only be taught what the least capable student can learn.

Re:in college this would make some sense (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189125)

"No Child Left Behind Act"
More appropriately titled, the "No Child Gets Ahead Act".

Re:in college this would make some sense (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188951)

If kids are doing that now, and it was kind of like that for some back when I was in the public education system here in California (which wasn't all that long ago), it's because they're responding to outside pressure to have the highest possible GPA any way they can, no matter what they have to sacrifice--including actually learning anything. I never paid much attention to grades in high school, I took classes that interested me (and admittedly had rather poor attendance for classes that didn't) regardless of how difficult they were even if that meant getting a lower grade. I could have easily gotten a full point higher on my GPA if I had taken "safe" classes.

Some people just don't grok mathematics. I'm one of them. But strangely, I really enjoyed my Physics classes. The sooner you can identify who those kids are, the sooner you can get them learning things they're going to be able to actually absorb and use. Obviously some math is necessary for everyone to learn, the cutoff point is probably around the algebra-precalc area where learning more isn't going to help anyone who isn't considering pursuing a science or engineering degree. When you're talking about advanced math courses like mentioned here, let's keep those classes stocked with students who: 1) actually want to be there and 2) can use this environment to excel and advance there science/math education

Re:in college this would make some sense (2, Interesting)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189401)

Man, I loved physics, and, once I could see the problem in diagram or demonstration, I was able to get the math part of it. Then I got to college and took basic Algebra 101. Failed it twice. Finally, third time, had a teacher who taught it a different way and I was able to pass it. A few years later, working as a mechanic, figuring cylinder chamber pressures and such, I was using it again. Am one of those people you have to draw a diagram for.

Even in Art, Math has its place (4, Insightful)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189113)

Math still has its place. If you want to go to graduate school in humanities, then you may still need some advanced math. In particular, many students from medicine, political science, humanities, and the arts, do advanced multi-variate statistical studies as part of their post-graduate studies. Understanding the tools used in these advanced statistical studies typically requires first or second year statistics skills. If you want your Master's degree, you need your undergraduate math.

As such, a significant number of undergraduate degrees require "Math for Humanities" or "Statistics for Non-stats Major" courses. It is a good idea to keep math throughout high school. It gives you many more options when you reach university.

Re:in college this would make some sense (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20189161)

When I took mathematics at A level (That's the hard 6 module version and mostly pure maths for people who care) in the UK, more than 50 people started the course. Many people left of their own accord because they felt it was too difficult and some were 'encouraged' to leave. 12 people finished.

Physics A level started with 10 poeople iirc, and finished with 3, all of whom left of their own free will, as my physics teacher welcomed everyone and believed - correctly in my view - that even if they didn't do well in the exams, it was still time well spent.

She is the most highly educated person, I've ever met incidentally, possessing seven undergrad degrees as well as her postgrad.
I could also tell you the story of the person with two E grades in physics and mathematics, who got in to the University of Cambridge when his contemporary with four A levels, at grade A, didn't.

Fact of the matter is that subjects like physics and maths are valued more highly than many other subjects even when you haven't got such a good grade as you would have done if you'd taken sociology or geography instead.

Re:in college this would make some sense (3, Insightful)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189247)

That might be true, but why doesn't the "well rounded education" argument ever come up when math and hard science classes are in jeopardy?

There's no shortage of people willing to defend the liberal arts because a well rounded education is so necessary to being a good person, but they're strangely silent when attendence in technical courses is dropping.

No such recommendation around here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188691)

I can't say that schools are taking similar measures in the United States (in particularly in Boston), since I was actively encouraged to take AP Calculus this year and to continue with higher-level mathematics courses for the duration of my college-level studies.

In soviet Russia... (2, Funny)

frieza79 (947618) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188693)

Math discourages you!

Re:In soviet Russia... (1)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188983)

I can't believe I'm actually responding to this.
But don't you mean "You discourage math!"?

Re:In soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188993)

Actually, that's pretty much the case everywhere.

The New Math (1)

olivercromwell (654085) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188697)

Teachers discover that if you don't teach them math, they don't have to write the exams and thus get low scores. This safeguards the teacher's unionized, establisment job that they have DESPITE not being able to do an adequate job teaching. What a great way to run a system. Every teacher in the UK, and Australia if this should prove to be the case there, and all school administrators should be sick with shame for pushing this kind of "fix" on the system.

Shhhhhh (4, Interesting)

RealityMogul (663835) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188703)

The US doesn't do that, we just hide our heads in the sand and ignore the problem: / []

Re:Shhhhhh (5, Interesting)

jc42 (318812) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188985)

Well, in my high school (a couple decades ago now), they went past ignoring the problem. In my sophomore year, I decided that math was interesting, so in the first month, I read through the entire textbook. Then I started borrowing books from the math teachers. By the end of the year, I'd made it through their college calculus books.

Their response? They finally woke up to what I was up to, and let me know that they wouldn't be loaning me any more math books. I was supposed to learn it in classes, not on my own time. They were all in agreement, and I didn't get another math textbook from them.

However, I did have some good friends at a nearby college. I borrowed math books from them. The high-school teachers didn't learn about it until the next year, when I didn't enrole in any more math classes, and explained why.

What was especially bizarre was that when I finally graduated and went off to college, I passed all their entrance math tests and got the most "advanced placement" that they gave bright students: They let me enroll in second-year calculus. I knew the subject better than the instructor did, which didn't exactly endear me with the instructor. But "That's the rules", and there were no exceptions; I had to have that class to be allowed into more advanced classes.

(Note that I've carefully said nothing that would identify the schools. This is intentional, so you might suspect that it might be schools in your area. ;-)

Re:Shhhhhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20189409)

I'm surprised how prevalent attitudes like this are ("you're not supposed to learn in your OWN time") I'm starting graduate school in September and no one at the university will give me the list of books I'll need for the first semester (despite them giving me a full scholarship and stipend). It's crazy.

Re:Shhhhhh (2, Informative)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189015)

I read that same article earlier today. Did you notice the part where Germany and several other countries dropped out too? And the price tag? We could throw that money somewhere else, maybe...hire a few more math and science teachers?

What upper-level math courses? (3, Interesting)

jcorno (889560) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188705)

In my high school (it was a Georgia public school), you had to have skipped 6th grade math to get to super-basic (no AP) calculus in high school. Otherwise, you topped out at trig. On top of that, trig was optional even for what they called "college prep" diplomas. Guess how many people were in that class. That was going on 15 years ago, though.

Importance (1)

dr. wat$on (1073244) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188713)

It's not like math is an important part of everyday life anyway! Who needs it...

True story: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Crowhead (577505) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188807)

I worked in a lumber yard one summer when I was in college. I worked on the end of line that spit out two by fours cut from logs. The pallets were always of different height, but always the same width - 10 units. At the end, you had to paint the total on the side. So if it was 14 units high, you'd have 140 pieces. Me being "just a kid" wasn't trusted to paint the number. The "senior" person busted out a calculator every fucking time. To multiply a number under 20 (the max) by 10.

Re:True story: (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189181)

I have observed people countless times that will count every single item even when it is organized in a grid, and even when the last row is completely filled. I try to explain to them that you can just multiply the number of full rows by the number of columns and then add in the number on the last row, and sometimes they will do that, but then count them all individually just to be sure. Sigh.

:) weird. back in my time we loved this (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188717)

Back when I was going to school in India this was one subject where we could score a 100/100, boosting our overall grades. In any other subject (civics/history/english, even physics/chemistry to an extent) there is always some section where you need to write prose or some explanation of something and it leaves some scope for the teacher to maybe give us 4 out of 5 marks. With Maths the questions and answers were always unambiguous and so was the scoring. It was the easiest subject to max out your marks.

Re::) weird. back in my time we loved this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188847)

There's a few overacheivers among Americans, too. I knew lots of kids who worked very hard to get 100% in every class on every exam, and cried when they got a 99, etc. These people were unusual however, I'd say 1 out of every 100 or so kids were that serious. I wonder why every single person you knew was like that, and in my schools in the US it was very few? Perhaps you're exaggerating, or perhaps kids where you came from were more serious about making their way in the world rather than expecting it to be handed to them as so many US kids do.

Re::) weird. back in my time we loved this (1)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189187)

Or perhaps where he came from they didn't provide schooling for anyone except the privileged top 1%. Children of intellectuals and the wealthy. It's a very good way to appear to have a fantastic school system. Shuffling your non-over achievers into vocational schools after junior high is another popular method.

Re::) weird. back in my time we loved this (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189321)

In math, unless the question is worded poorly or they are trying to pull some sort of trick on you, there is exactly one right answer (though that answer may be that there is more than one answer). Therefore, as the guy from India says, it ought to be easier to score highly in math than in some subjects where there is more subjectivity. It used to be easy for me to get above 95% on any given math assignment, and that was because I was too lazy to go back and check my answers for silly mistakes. Really, there was no excuse for me not to get 100%, since the right answer is absolutely the right answer, and can be logically, mathematically derived. But hey, 94% and above was an A, so why shoot for 100%.
Now, in English, I tended to get bad grades from our sport coaches that taught English part-time. This is because in High School, creative writing also had only one right answer, and often the one I came up with wasn't it. On the other hand, when I got to college, my English teachers asked me to drop my engineering major and become an English Major.
I remember in grade school being tested on something or other and they determined I needed to be put in remedial reading. This was in first grade. In fourth grade, they decided that the prognosis was wrong and I needed to be put in Gifted and Talented. It seems the characteristics of a child who is behind the class are similar to those of a child who is ahead of the class.

Not surprising... (1)

TruePoindexter (975295) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188721)

At my high school those of us in AP Calc and honors math analysis were bombarded with constant state/federal exams to make the school look really good. What about the regular math analysis students or the people who did not take calc? They were in the gym playing basketball. Good times...good times... That was at Redlands East Valley High btw. []

Worrying (4, Insightful)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188729)

This is what you get when schools do what it takes to look good. While they are too blame, the blame also lies on governments and parents who are looking for schools which turn out the most graduates.

Ideally a rating system should be based on the "quality" of those grades. What I mean by this is that the maths levels would be broken down into categories from easy to advanced. A school should be given higher marks if they manage to turn out a few good maths students as opposed to many low level maths students. I am not sure how this could be made to work in reality though.

Re:Worrying (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189023)

income tracking throug the IRS. schools which turned out statiststically more successful students, controlled for socioeconomic factors, woulf get funding bonuses and larger districts.

Re:Worrying (1)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189287)

The education system is really trying to deal with this.. they are trying to make is so that an A grade is an A grade regardless of which school the student attended. The obvious way to do this is to implement standardized testing across a region. Sadly, we end up hearing about crap like this where schools are ditching dumb kids to make their average scores go up. Stupid, stupid people.

No. Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20189299)

I'm almost sure that anyone who really wants to know about mathematics will learn mathematics, regardless of what recommendations student advisors make.

wrong-headed idea... (1)

MollyB (162595) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188739)

Wouldn't it be easier to give everyone an "A" just for registering? At least society would get the benefit of 'whatever stuck to the wall' by the student's exposure (at least) to higher-math concepts...

Re:wrong-headed idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188953)

We already have an A for everyone.. It's called No fool left behind !
Now not only can a 5th grade mentality mental midget loser with mere strength get a college degree on a sports scholarship.

Today any loser gets a real but meaningless diploma as well!!

I agree with this progress. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188743)

We should cut more of those boring science classes and replace them with something genuinely useful, such as football and liberal arts.

Ob... (0)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188763)

<barbie>Math's hard!</barbie>

The obligatory... (3, Funny)

Kerrit (1023859) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188773)

I, for one, welcome our new woefully innumerate overlords.

Heh. (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188781)

U.S. schools don't have to take similar measures, we already largely avoid mathematics. Really though, is it such a bad thing? Highschool is too generalized as is, instead of really letting students focus on what will be important and helpful for them in the future. Higher level math courses do not help most students and prove to be nothing more than a time sink. If you're going to go into a field that requires it, or simply want to soak up the knowledge, then take advanced math classes by all means. Otherwise, I'd say that anything over algebra and geometry (even those, perhaps) are largely useless to most folks.

Re:Heh. (2, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189363)

Teaching people to learn to think is a worthwhile endeavor. Especially in the age of Wikipedia teaching people facts is somewhat useless. I can lookup almost anything I want to know on the Internet, but I can't necessarily interpret what I've read or tell if there's any value to it.

Teaching a vocational education sounds good in theory, but what happens when your job gets moved over to a cheaper country? You have been left with no skills to learn a new trade.

Not to mention the fact that I use a large amount of what I learned in high school. When my wife got pregnant my Biology came in handy, as it does when planting a garden and deciding the best types of plants and where to plant them. I needed my Geometry and calculus to build a non-rectangular deck behind my house. I use English when writing programming documentation and to communicate with other people. I use German and Latin in deciphering words I come across as well as some low-level communication. I use Chemistry in cooking. I use History, Government, and Economics to analyze the world I live in and truly understand the news. I use theater with my theater company. I use musical concepts I learned in band to understand my musician friends. I'll be honest, I haven't really used by health education much, but I think that was probably just because it was covered better in my two years of biology. Frankly, I've found my high school education immensely helpful.

There are people who don't seem to have needed their high school education, but is it the fault of the education that the recipient doesn't want to use it?

To be expected (1)

Enlightenment (1073994) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188785)

So it turns out that school administrators are willing to compromise the educations of their students in order to make themselves look good. This behavior is wholly contrary to human nature. How could it possibly happen?

Semi-misleading headline! (1)

T_ConX (783573) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188809)

"If a school wants to maximise their performance, they may feel that 'if we encourage weaker students not to take [advanced] maths, our results will look better',"

As much as I hate the 'make out results look better' argument, the concept of pruning the mathimatically inept out of the advanced math classes. They're not getting rid of Math all together. They're just encouraging those with weaker skills in math to avoid the high end classes. Surely the /. crowd is tired of having to share a classroom with folks who still can't wrap their heads around imaginary numbers...

Re:Semi-misleading headline! (1)

T_ConX (783573) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189085)

Ah, and I forgot to mention something. They did this to me back in highscool. This is in Alberta, Canada BTW.

At the end of grade 9, teachers in the four major subjects (Math, Science, English, and Social Studies) had to decide which level each student would take once they started grade 10. You could only go as high as your teacher recommended.

Options for Math were Pure Math IB (10-20-30-31, the high end, where I was!), Pure Math (10-20-30), Applied (forgot the numbers for this one were), and regular Math (14-24). The provinces diploma requirements stated that you only needed to pass two classes (a 1X and a 2X) in any group to graduate. If you wanted to get into an Engineering Program at the local University, you needed Pure Math 31 IB.

On the other end of the spectrum, I was once told that the kids in Math 14 were learning how to do pictographs... The graph where each number unit is repressented by a picture, just like the kind I learned about IN THE THIRD GRADE!!!

Seriously, we need to make sure that in high school, we segragate the crowd that commits trigonomic functions to memory from the 'What's a trapizoid?' crowd.

When I went to school in Canada... (1)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188855)

... 300 Math (grade twelve) was REQUIRED for University entrance. And based on the CURRENT entrance requirements of my alma mater, this is still the case. So, as far as I know, Canada is still good.

Re:When I went to school in Canada... (1)

Lockejaw (955650) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188991)

Unfortunately, both "300 Math" and "grade twelve" are meaningless descriptions to people who went to schools which did not use those terms to describe their curricula.

Re:When I went to school in Canada... (1)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189147)

As far as I know those terms (and the new one 40[S,G]) are the only ones used in Canada. But, since you didn't do anything remotely helpful to a discussion (e.g. mention a different term), I can't really comment further.

Re:When I went to school in Canada... (1)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189201)

Oh boy come on. Grade 12 is what they have in high school in Ontario right before grade 13 which is the last year of high school in that province except that they discontinued that a couple of years ago leading to a double sized group of college freshmen that year. Except in Quebec they have CEGEP which is after grade 10 for two years its like prep college for university or tech college for the auto shop types. 300 math is a fan flick remake of that movie from last year about, um, about 2 hours too long.


Re:When I went to school in Canada... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20189127)

Depending on your discipline, some (probably most) Canadian universities allow you to substitute your high school French mark for Math (BA in Communications & Culture YES, BSc in Engineering NO). When I went into engineering 10 years ago this was common practice for the Arts guys; looks to still be the same: ements/provinces/alberta_nwt_nunavut.html []

See Communications & Culture under required subjects for: "Applied Mathematics 30 or Pure Mathematics 30 or Mathematics 31, or a 30-level language other than English."

I am fine with this (2, Insightful)

thesupermikey (220055) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188867)

There is little reason for most students to take upper level math. As a historian and a writer, i never EVER use anything more than arithmetic or geometry. Not being able to do calculus has never ones been a problem in my education or work.

In fact, when i was applying for grad schools a year ago, i asked the head of the department that i am in now if my VERY low GRE math score would be a problem. The answer was very clearly "no"

at any rate...American schools need to give kids the option of doing a calculus track in math or a statistics track in math.

Re:I am fine with this (1)

The Queen (56621) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188947)

A writer, you say? Lovely writing skills; too bad we're talking about math or I'd be obliged to smite you.

I agree with your idea of splitting math for high schoolers, though - I've always felt I was done a disservice by being forced to take geometry and algebra instead of something along the lines of "Balancing Checkbooks 101" or "How to Budget your Minimum Wage Paycheck and still afford University Tuition" - where are the USEFUL math classes for kids?

Re:I am fine with this (1)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189115)

They already have that. It's called Academic Math or Applied Math:

Academic courses develop students' knowledge and skills through the study of theory and abstract problems. These courses focus on the essential concepts of a subject and explore related concepts as well. They incorporate practical applications as appropriate.

Applied courses focus on the essential concepts of a subject, and develop students' knowledge and skills through practical applications and concrete examples. Familiar situations are used to illustrate ideas, and students are given more opportunities to experience hands-on applications of the concepts and theories they study.

-- Ontario High School Curriculum []

Re:I am fine with this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188981)

There is little reason for most students to take upper level math. As a historian and a writer, i never EVER use anything more than arithmetic or geometry. Not being able to do calculus has never ones been a problem in my education or work.

Good thing a hard subject like math could never introduce you to interesting ideas you might want to write about right?

You may not have any interest in high level math and that's fine with me but are you seriously suggesting that you don't mind that schools are discouraging students simply to make their test scores look better? Would you be fine with a school preventing students from taking writing courses where they might not do well?

How do you know? (5, Insightful)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189145)

If you never learned calculus or any higher maths, how do you know that you would have never used them? Math is used for all kinds of research in history: population extrapolations, statistical correlations, dynamic modeling, hypothesis testing, etc.
You're like a blind person who has found ways to cope with what you're missing, but that doesn't mean that you wouldn't benefit from sight.

I'm not fine with it (1)

tknd (979052) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189317)

Math is the basics to any technical, engineering, scientific, and business areas. While it won't help you with your everyday life, it can help you understand what all of those "mad" scientists are talking about and possibly help you call their bluffs. If you need some real world application, think finance and gambling. Most people simply take things "on faith" in these areas and get burned really bad by it. Had you had the basic math background to understand what's really going on, it will make you less prone to getting ripped off and help you with your finances.

I'm against any school attempting to restrict or reduce the requirements on students, partially because I felt that going through stricter requirements helped me out in the end. It took a while, and it wasn't necessarily "fun," but in the end it eventually comes together and you'll learn a lot. If the curriculum keeps getting watered down, the students will become lazier and end up less aware. They'll start questioning why they even need to learn anything in the first place. If the curriculum is so small, they may not even find anything that stimulates them.

Schools need to focus on expanding their curriculum or teaching students more. That is what education is about, not test averages, drop-out rates, or acceptance rates. It's about learning something. Until schools and the general population gets that, all of these stupid changes will only fail.

Re:I am fine with this (1)

doxology (636469) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189371)

Don't historians need to use statistics or something? And not-so-introductory statistics requires calculus.

Re:I am fine with this (1)

readin (838620) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189383)

There is little reason for most students to take upper level math. As a historian and a writer, i never EVER use anything more than arithmetic or geometry. Not being able to do calculus has never ones been a problem in my education or work.

So, as a history, something like the Malthusian Trap [] because it takes a little understanding beyond arithmetic and geometry to appreciate its cause?

I don't actually perform calculations beyond simple math and geometry in my everyday life. But when I read the news, think about current events, vote, and certainly when I try to understand history, my math training beyond arithmetic and geometry allow me to understand what is going on. For example, I don't need to perform many statistical calculations myself, but I do like to know what is meant when a survey describes its margin of error.

If our historians only understand simple arithmetic and geometry, that would explain why so many goofy ideas are coming out of history departments these days.

Not really a new thing (2, Informative)

rsavela (597141) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188875)

At my high school 10 years ago, I was not allowed to take Calculus senior year. An A or B+ average was required in trigonometry to take the calculus course. Other than pushing up the schools average on the AP exams, I didn't understand why I was not allowed to take the course. Trig is a small part of differential and integral calculus. Memorizing double and half angle formulas turned out to be a waste of time anyway (my professors later in life insisted that we be able to derive them ourselves, rather than memorize...) Besides, I had passed trig anyway. Why take trig again for a better grade? I calculus needed it for the university I ended up going to. I ended up paying out of my own pocket to take the course at a local university after school. Kind of a waste for me to be sitting in a study hall, while the class was already being taught at my high school. In the end, it worked out for the best. A university mathematics professor is a far better qualified to teach calculus than a high school teacher. I knew plenty of teaching majors that went on to teach high school math. Compared to engineering majors, they understood very little about mathematics.

Similar behavior in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188877)

I certainly saw a similar attitude as a student in the US although I suspect the motivation was slightly different. Rather than trying to maximize state mandated test scores I saw a belief that all students need high level courses to get into college but they shouldn't dare take one where they might risk the worst of all possible marks, the 'C'.

State mandated testing destroyed the local school's ability to define their own curriculum and teacher's freedom to offer unique courses. I think grade inflation has done even more damage as both college admission and scholarship policies favor excellent grades on trivial coursework over students who receive average scores in difficult material.

YES - and the US government is dropping out too (1)

cadience (770683) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188881) / []

So why did the federal government quietly decide last year to drop out of an international study that would compare U.S. high-school students who take advanced science and math courses with their international counterparts?

The study, called TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) Advanced 2008, measures how high-school seniors are doing in algebra, geometry, calculus and physics with students taking similar subjects around the globe. In the past, the American results have been shockingly poor. In the last survey, taken in 1995, students from only two countries--Cyprus and South Africa--scored lower than U.S. school kids.

Give Legislators a class on Weighted Averages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188905)

This (in the US at least) is the legislators' fault. They don't understand math well enough to grade schools' performance.

At my university the GPA used a weighted average. Each credit-hour counted. My 4 credit Calculus courses weighed more than the 3 credit Philosophy 101.

That is how legislators should grade public schools (for No Child Left Behind, etc). One high school has 6 or so Calculus students with C+ averages. Another has all 10 of their students taking basic arithmetic with B averages. At the very least the Calculus high school should get some extra weight for the greater overall math skills.

shenanigans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20188935)


I taught 8th grade science (4, Informative)

EMB Numbers (934125) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188939)

I taught 8th grade science, and we were always encouraging students to take as much math as possible.

Unfortunately, students make short sighted decisions in 8th grade that determine whether they are on the calculus track or not. You must start on the path that leads to calculus in 8th grade or it is unlikely you can catch up by 12th grade.

We held an annual pep-rally for 7th graders encouraging them to enroll in math and science courses in 8th grade. If they don't, they are closing doors for future opportunity. Without calculus in high school, it is difficult to be accepted directly into technical/science degree programs in universities. At a minimum, some remedial college math is likely to be required. If you think you might want to be an engineer, scientist, doctor, mathematician, actuarial, astronaut, architect, etc. you should take the most advanced math offered by your school.

In fact, with few exceptions, if you want a high paying job that doesn't require graduate school, you are well served to take advanced math in high school.

Weight scores. (3, Insightful)

Etherwalk (681268) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188949)

That's ridiculous--the moment there's even a shadow of that problem, you weight upper-level classes with a 1.1 or so. The idea is not to punish someone for taking a harder class, after all. (High school math was probably trivial for all of us, but it isn't for everyone.) My high school weighted honors classes at 1.05 when they averaged them into your GPA, and AP classes at 1.10; a similar technique would work here.

Honors is Special Ed (1)

funkybiggorilla (890135) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188963)

Honors and AP, Advanced Placement classes are administered under the aspics of Special Education and as such our local schools have an incentive to have more students in Special Ed as it brings in more $$$ from the State.

They don't seem to 'worry' too much about standings here, they teach to the standardized test, then give it. You have to be brain dead to do poorly.

Let them. (1)

madhatter256 (443326) | more than 7 years ago | (#20188995)

Let them deprive their children and let them show their children that they have no hope in them. This will be great and will keep Japan, China, USA, India, and other countries at a higher level than Australia all because they want a higher score.

Maybe... (4, Insightful)

RichPowers (998637) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189013)

Maybe not intentionally. But the way math courses are setup discourages many otherwise capable students from being successful in the subject. My middle school district did a poor job of coordinating math courses with the high school district. As such, I was behind by the time I reached high school and struggled the whole way.

Couple this with the ridiculous "integrated math" fad that plagued countless districts (at least in California). We barely covered trig functions, factoring, and other critical topics. (Anyone else have a thought about integrated math?) High school physical science courses did a poor job of incorporating math.

In college, I changed to a geology major that required calculus courses. Having struggled with math in high school, I had to start from intermediate algebra and work my way up. At least college math curriculums were organized in a logical and relevant fashion. It helped when the professor said, "Yeah, pay attention to this because you might have to derive the formula for centripetal acceleration in a physics course." Connections are important, especially when dealing with abstract math concepts.

My friends had similar experiences and, not wanting to blow a year taking bonehead math like me, decided not to explore their interests in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and other math-intensive subjects. It's a shame, really.

There needs to better curriculum coordination at the middle- and high-school levels so kids understand the importance of math and have a foundation that preps them for college. I understand how easy it is for a student's math foundation to get ruined. Such foundations, at least in my case, take years to build. Oh yeah, and (excessive) testing doesn't help -- but that's a whole other rant! If you want to encourage kids to take math, do a good job of setting up the courses in the first place...and tell them how important it is!

Why is this a bad thing? (1, Insightful)

rantingkitten (938138) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189019)

It's easy for us to knee-jerk and say this is bad, but why? Most people don't need mathematics beyond basic arithmetic and fractions. Outside of a classroom, the concepts taught in algebra and above are rarely, if ever, encountered by the day to day people. And precisely because they hardly, if ever, use it, they forget all of it anyway.

I'm not being facetious at all when I assert this. A normal student in public schools in America will take at least two to three years of algebra, sometimes more, plus a year of trig or geometry. The ones who are interested in such things will take more advanced stuff yet, but those aren't the ones we have to more or less force into math classes anyway.

So we're looking at three to four years of mandatory math classes. For someone not strong in math, isn't that enough?

I am not saying that exposing the students to the classes is a bad idea. But by high school age, it is usually fairly apparent whether or not the student has an aptitude for math or not. If he doesn't, there is no point in making endure a forced march through a bunch of crap he'll never internalize, fully understand, or find any use for. Indeed, the article states precisely that

"If a school wants to maximise their performance, they may feel that 'if we encourage weaker students not to take maths, our results will look better'," he said.

And why should a student weak in math be encouraged to pursue it? Let him focus whatever talents he has in other areas. I, for example, am hopeless when it comes to math, but was always strong in English and decent at visual arts. I'd have been ecstatic had an administrator said to me, "Your scores are consistently low in math but high in these areas. Would you like to shift your credit focus to reflect the subjects in which you excel?" Hell yeah.

This "one size fits all" approach to education -- the idea that we must churn out "well-rounded" students no matter what an individual student's strengths and weaknesses may be -- is patently idiotic.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (4, Insightful)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189305)

Great. While we're at it, let's also drop the "core" classes in English, diversity, and art history that engineers have to take.

How are they grading this? (1)

CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189041)

Is a C in an advanced math class equivalent to an A in a lower math class?

Fudge the numbers, not the students.

Math in Canada (5, Interesting)

umStefa (583709) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189055)

As a former mathematics teacher in Canada (Winnipeg, Manitoba if it matters) I can say that there is a worse scenario, it is not uncommon for school principals to put pressure on math teachers to give all students good grades. The logic being that since math courses are mandatory for graduation, failing a student will socially stigmatize them.

As a specific example, I personally had 3 students who did not attempt a single assignment and all of them had attendance rates below 50%. I was told by the principle that if I wanted to be hired on next year I would need to give these students an extra assignment for 'Bonus' marks so that they would pass. I refused and hence am a former math teacher.

Math? (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189081)

  1. I'm guessing one way of discouraging students from taking Math is to not offer it. Schools in Australia have never taught math - they have, however, taught maths for time immemorial...
  2. I suspect the primary reason people feel discouraged from taking Maths as an entry into Uni is that the Uni courses requiring Maths are now so expensive that the expense itself prevents people from entering the Uni course they want - hence, they don't bother with the pre-requisite. Want to take Medicine? Good luck if you don't have 200K lying around somewhere. Ironic that there is so much muttering about the shortage of doctors in this country.

They Should Do That For Other Programs (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189083)

They should do that with pretty much any program that guarantees that your entire career will be spent at or below minimum wage for the vast majority of graduates. "You want an art degree? Do you REALLY want to be bagging groceries for a living when you're in your mid 40s? Why not try our MBA program instead. You can still do all the drugs, but you'll have a six-digit earning potential the day you graduate..."

I did this to myself as a student (1)

d0hboy (679122) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189107)

Personally, I chose not to take advanced math (ie. pre-calculus) in the twelfth grade leading up to my University application (Canada here). This wasn't the school advising me one way or another. Based on my average performance in Grade 10 and 11 math courses, I was given the option of taking the advanced math. Figuring I would either get a B+ in regular Grade 12 math or a C+ in advanced math, I enrolled in the former.

That said, I still couldn't make the grade pre-requisite for 1st year university calculus and ended up having to take the Math 100-level course, basically re-treading the Grade 12 course and then some. This time around, it was MUCH harder, and it took me a few semesters to recover that Grade Point Average. I don't know if the Advanced Math course would have prepared me any better because I obviously didn't have the grounding to begin with.

I can't say there's a 'moral of the story' other than to study hard in High school so you don't have to pay in your University years -- there's more than enough stress to deal with by that time.

Calculus (1)

suitti (447395) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189135)

The article just says "upper level", but doesn't hint at what the courses are.

I took Calculus in high school. I'm sure i got A's in it. Everyone did. All six of us. The course was offered, and we self selected. We were the ones who were going to get it. But the article was about not encouraging weaker students. As far as i know, everyone who didn't take it self selected out of it. But really, with such a small class, if there was a weak student, they'd get lots of help. So, i don't see how it would bring down the school grade point average. It's the MEAP test that schools care about, as far as i can tell, not their GPA.

Taking Calculus in high school did nothing for my SATs. The SAT exam didn't cover any calculus. What it did is give me two semesters of engineering math head start. I knew that's what i was going to do.

Curve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20189139)

Insane curves seem to be the new strategy. I've taken math classes that answering 3 out of the 8 questions correctly got you an A- on the exam.

Bonus for Harder Classes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20189175)

If I remember correctly from the days when I was in high-school, here in Quebec (Canada), you get rated higher for taking harder classes (and from what I know, it's the same in the US). Because each student's rating is what they look at in the end, having students take easier classes won't be helpful to the school. And, say you take the more advanced math class, you still have to do the normal math test at the end of the year, which is really easy for anyone who took the advanced class. Because you can fail the harder math test but still get your diploma by doing fine in the normal test; and because almost everyone who took the advanced class passes the normal test with higher grades, schools have more to lose if their students take the easy way out.

How? (1)

Kelz (611260) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189217)

How are they doing it? Giving first-year students all NC-Complete problems the first day with no explanation?

My school (1)

rpillala (583965) | more than 7 years ago | (#20189375)

My school district emphasizes getting students into "advanced placement" classes as defined by The College Board. I resent this because we're basically funneling money into some company's pocket but no one else seems to see it that way. The consensus among the AP teachers is that this push dilutes what's supposed to be a rigorous program. More kids in AP classes makes the school look good to parents and newspapers and whoever else outside of teaching is paying attention. The truth is that a number of students take AP classes for the wrong reasons.

Our ratings (I teach math) are based on the state's NCLB test, which is a test of "Algebra and Data Analysis." Algebra I has long been a requirement to graduate high school in Maryland. In fact, Maryland recently increased the number of math courses required for graduation to 4, up from 3. To this end my school district has created a class called Algebra III, which is the first half of our Precalculus class, but spread out over an entire year. We're hoping to get the "D" students from Algebra II to take Algebra III instead of Precalc. I was at the meeting where the course was proposed and the rationale was that these students get frustrated by the pace of precalc and thus learn nothing. That's been my experience teaching precalc also. The class goes too fast, they learn nothing and get frustrated, I also get frustrated. It's not that they're not trying it's just the class moves too fast.

So it seems like we're doing the opposite of discouraging students from pursuing mathematics. Most of the classes we have are not what you'd call upper level though. This may be different even in other parts of Maryland.

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