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Thread: College Algebra

  1. #1
    In it to win it 99Problems's Avatar
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    College Algebra

    Please, don't come in here bragging about how badass in math you are and how other people that can't get it are lazy and/or stupid, if you got an A+ good for you, stfu. I would like to discuss whether the current mix of college algebra is appropriate for today.

    It appears that about 1/2 of college students fail it the first time they take it. Is it about math or is it a weeder course or is it both? It's a gateway to so many degrees, that seems like too broad of an application to me. I would have loved if they had dwelled more on useful things rather than cover so much stuff.

    I have known intelligent people who were terrible with any advanced math, I doubt most of creativity is dependent on math ability. So why is college algebra a gate which most must pass through?

    For full disclosure I have to admit that I notice a sizeable increase in mental function since taking it, I think that is mostly because I fought so hard to pass it. Man it was brutal. Taking a course that combined trig too was stupid.

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    Amen P-O's Avatar
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    never took college algebra, but to me, algebra is the most boring unbearable aspect of math that there is. It's a necessary evil.
    I don't know what you actually had to learn or what your gripe is, but when I think of algebra, I think of multiplying and dividing by variables or factorizing expressions in clever ways (devised by geniuses of the past) to change the form of an equation.
    What did you have to learn that you think wasn't necessary?

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    what does college mean, again? that's something between high school and university? if so, why is your focus specifically on that level?

    I've just become a qualified high school level maths teacher and I've found plenty to not like. there are several issues in my opinion. people are lazier nowadays; curriculums are crammed with junk which means "memorise and forget"; a lot of teachers don't care about teaching well or are unable to because of the environment.

    I think maths can be one of the best ways to teach abstract thinking skills however I don't think many people actually know how maths does that and what it means and the amount of junk and rote learning and lack of inspiration from the teacher to explore that side of things means that I don't think most people get much benefit and the efficiency at which they get it is terrible.

    I think that when maths is required despite it not being obviously necessary, then it's a tradition thing. I think a lot of maths taught in later high school is, at surface level, very useless to the majority of people. the thinking skills developed are very useful. a lot of our education systems are very poor and in need of improvement (together with our culture in general). so learning maths doesn't seem that great to many people. however I think it's probably still the best way to develop certain thinking skills, though it's difficult to notice the acquisition of these.

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    a fool on a journey pensive_pilgrim's Avatar
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    It depends on the degree. I don't see any real reason to make an English major take any math, apart from the same reasons they make engineers take classes in history and biology, and those reasons are very debatable. I wouldn't see any value in a business degree that didn't require algebra at the very least, along with anything related to healthcare or education or any kind of natural science. Really, though, the vast majority of people should be coming out of high school with a good grasp of algebra.

    When you say "intelligent people who were terrible with any advanced math" I think of two different kinds of people. There's the person who intuitively grasps the concepts involved in that advanced math but is terrible at computation and makes errors frequently. That person should have some slack cut(and I think they generally do) because in practice you don't need to do all your computation yourself, and it's more important to be able to use the mathematical tools to build an accurate model and then check your answers with what you know than it is to get everything right the first time doing it in your head. However, the other thing I think of is the person who has interesting ideas and is enthusiastic and can do some things very well but just doesn't understand what's going on with the math. Sorry, but that person should be weeded out. Otherwise a degree is meaningless, it just says "he showed up and paid for tuition and tried hard".

    Quote Originally Posted by scarydoor View Post
    what does college mean, again? that's something between high school and university? if so, why is your focus specifically on that level?
    In the US college and university are generally synonyms.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil P View Post
    But does a nurse need to know college algebra, well I don't think so there.
    Yeah, I would like for a person who's administering drugs to be able to, for example, calculate a safe dosage for my body weight based on a ratio given for different masses. It might not be something he'll need to compute in his head every day, but if he's not even capable of that there's a much higher chance that he could seriously fuck it up and not even realize what he's doing.

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    Member Phil P's Avatar
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    The reason they have Algebra is because it is the gateway to all other higher math. And it's needed, along with statistics for testing research. Why the statistics is not required I don't know. The next four classes on the list, precalc through calc three, have SOOOOOOOO much algebra in them it's not funny. Especially when I get marked off for algebra mistakes all the time on my tests in those classes. But does a nurse need to know college algebra, well I don't think so there.

    About high school math, here's the way I see it, geometry and trig are not useful to the majority of people. Algebra is somewhat because of how much is necessary in any higher level math. And you do it in your head sometimes without knowing it. Statistics would be the most used in daily life by the majority of people, yet that class isn't required at all.
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    In it to win it 99Problems's Avatar
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    In 9th grade I got an A in algebra, completely understood it, completely got that it was a solid basis for figuring out stuff. So, I thought college algebra would be an extension of that. But what it was for the main part was stuff they couldn't even show examples of what it might be used for. For example, mixing letters and numbers in all sorts of complex ways that were just a matter or memorizing whatever system they used. I didn't learn much, I memorized a lot which I promptly forgot, I got pretty good at using a calculator.

  7. #7
    In it to win it 99Problems's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scarydoor View Post
    what does college mean, again? that's something between high school and university? if so, why is your focus specifically on that level?

    I've just become a qualified high school level maths teacher and I've found plenty to not like. there are several issues in my opinion. people are lazier nowadays; curriculums are crammed with junk which means "memorise and forget"; a lot of teachers don't care about teaching well or are unable to because of the environment.

    I think maths can be one of the best ways to teach abstract thinking skills however I don't think many people actually know how maths does that and what it means and the amount of junk and rote learning and lack of inspiration from the teacher to explore that side of things means that I don't think most people get much benefit and the efficiency at which they get it is terrible.

    I think that when maths is required despite it not being obviously necessary, then it's a tradition thing. I think a lot of maths taught in later high school is, at surface level, very useless to the majority of people. the thinking skills developed are very useful. a lot of our education systems are very poor and in need of improvement (together with our culture in general). so learning maths doesn't seem that great to many people. however I think it's probably still the best way to develop certain thinking skills, though it's difficult to notice the acquisition of these.
    Advanced math may well be a great way to learn abstract thinking, I dont know. In the course in much of it there was no effort to teach why I was learning it, just do it and move along.

    I assume you are serious in asking what college means, it is university.

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    In it to win it 99Problems's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pathogenetic_peripatetic View Post
    It depends on the degree. I don't see any real reason to make an English major take any math, apart from the same reasons they make engineers take classes in history and biology, and those reasons are very debatable. I wouldn't see any value in a business degree that didn't require algebra at the very least, along with anything related to healthcare or education or any kind of natural science. Really, though, the vast majority of people should be coming out of high school with a good grasp of algebra.

    When you say "intelligent people who were terrible with any advanced math" I think of two different kinds of people. There's the person who intuitively grasps the concepts involved in that advanced math but is terrible at computation and makes errors frequently. That person should have some slack cut(and I think they generally do) because in practice you don't need to do all your computation yourself, and it's more important to be able to use the mathematical tools to build an accurate model and then check your answers with what you know than it is to get everything right the first time doing it in your head. However, the other thing I think of is the person who has interesting ideas and is enthusiastic and can do some things very well but just doesn't understand what's going on with the math. Sorry, but that person should be weeded out. Otherwise a degree is meaningless, it just says "he showed up and paid for tuition and tried hard".


    In the US college and university are generally synonyms.
    Basically you are saying that because math makes getting a degree difficult it is good? If you have taken college algebra in the US then you know half of it has little practical use.

  9. #9
    Member Phil P's Avatar
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    You'll understand why they teach everything they do to you if you go into calc. EVERY little aspect of algebra comes right back up and then you calc on it. Same with trig.

    You got a point about the nurse placid.
    "I'm so cool" - Carl Sagan

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil P View Post
    You'll understand why they teach everything they do to you if you go into calc. EVERY little aspect of algebra comes right back up and then you calc on it. Same with trig.
    It was a combination class so it was trig also. I have done a little calc on my own, I didn't see where the stranger parts of algebra would be of any use.

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