Monday, February 27, 2006

Math Monday: Is More High School Math The Answer?

Only the states of Arkansas and Texas require four years of high school mathematics. Tennessee is considering becoming the third. The proposal is causing some interesting reactions among students and educators in one town:
Clarksville's middle school students say they're ready for more math in high school, acknowledging the skills they need for everyday life.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission and state Board of Education are considering requiring high school students to earn four credits of math before high school graduation. Tennessee currently mandates three credits of mathematics for graduation, but many students complete four credits as part of the pre-university path of study.

Two states — Arkansas and Texas — require four years of mathematics, according to an Achieve Inc. report based on February 2005 information. Achieve Inc. was created by the nation's governors and business leaders to help states prepare young people for post-secondary education, work and citizenship by raising academic standards and achievement in America's schools, according to the report.

Several students in the Rossview Middle School Math Club said an additional math requirement in high school is "sweet" and would help them equate math with other courses they hope to take in high school.

"More math would give us an advantage in the future with jobs," said David Clark, a Rossview Middle School eighth-grader.

Rossview eighth-grader Jonathan Nicholson hopes to become a police officer.

He said math helps students prepare for higher education and with many real-life problems. A four-credit math requirement would help balance his math courses with others, such as the criminal justice course he hopes to take in high school.

Rossview Middle seventh-grader Sharhonda Childress isn't looking forward to another math requirement, but she says she'd have to take four years of math because she wants to be a lawyer.

"Mathematics is fun," she said.

Jonathan thinks those who are taking three years of math in high school likely will later regret the choice.

"They'd see it's important for real life. They'll figure it out the hard way, when they need it later," Jonathan said.

All students will benefit from a fourth year of mathematics — whether they're planning to attend college right away or enter the work force, said Harriett McQueen, Austin Peay State University dean of enrollment management and academic support, in an e-mail to The Leaf-Chronicle.

"Indeed it would help. Students who are strong in mathematics will take the four years. The students who do not do so lose whatever mathematics skills they have developed, and thus are unprepared to do university level mathematics," she wrote. "Students who meet university admissions requirements, but who have a deficiency in mathematics, would enhance their chances for university success by addressing the deficiency with a fourth year of mathematics in high school."

APSU professor of mathematics Mary Witherspoon worries a fourth year of math will pose difficulty for school systems seeking to fill additional teaching positions.

"I think a better first step is to address the issues of pre-high school mathematics preparation and the critical shortage of high school mathematics teachers. Then, try to ramp up the offerings for all students," she said in a prepared statement.
It's nice to see that some kids are so progressive and forward-thinking when it comes to needing math. Now if we could just convince some of the parents...
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