Should All Students Be Required to Learn Algebra?

Many educators and education policy makers are questioning the value of algebra. Think about how often you hear people comment that they never use algebra and think taking algebra in high school was unnecessary and did nothing more than add stress to their young lives.

Removing algebra as a requirement for graduation from high school would be a decision that requires careful analysis.

One Website offers a definition of Algebra attributed to Syracuse University. It states that Algebra is:

“a branch of mathematics that uses mathematical statements to describe relationships between things that vary overtime.”

The article goes on to say:

“Essentially algebra seeks to show practical relationships in the world. While the situations and the numbers you input might change, the formulas stay the same. Therefore, they allow you to solve real-world problems.”

It is my belief that adults utilize algebraic concepts and principles more often than they think. I would argue that many students should be spared advanced algebra but that basic algebraic concepts should be part of every student’s academic foundation.

Mathematics has been described as a form of applied logic. We see, in science, that most aspects of the natural world can be represented and explained by mathematics. Algebra helps us think analytically, problem solve, and think creatively in search of solutions to challenges, both new and old,

Algebra helps us analyze and understand the relationships between variables. Almost anyone who works in a business environment, even on a production or assembly line, will be faced with problem-solving challenges that require systematic analysis. The higher one advances in any organization the more likely they will be called upon to do some level of statistical analysis that is nothing more than a specialized application of algebraic and other mathematical principles. Opportunities for advancement may well be influenced by a candidate’s understanding of and ability to utilize such concepts and principles.

Perhaps we should rethink math curricula and instructional methodology to focus on practical utilization of theses math principles. To say algebra is not valuable is no different than saying history, social sciences, the arts, and even some sciences are not important.

It would be one thing if we were educating people to be “good little soldiers” who march to orders and follow their leaders unquestioningly. Society, today, provides countless examples of American citizens who are easily swayed by strong and charismatic leaders and seem incapable of stepping back to analyze the logic and validity of the dogma to which they are subjected.

Would it not be better for all if our neighbors gave thoughtful consideration to the important issues of our time? To do so, one must have an academic foundation of sufficient breadth and scope to question the opinions and assertions of others.

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