There is no lack of state superintendents and others in the education profession who think the key to success for high school graduates is a working knowledge of geometry. Well, someone should give the educational establishment a wake-up call. I’m looking at a high school textbook called “Consumer Mathematics”. This text covers the typie of survival math all of us can use and will use sometime in our lives. Among the topics covered:
* Handling checking accounts, saving accounts, and credit cards.*What’s involved in leasing or purchasing a new or used car.* Types of insurance and how to determine what might be best for you.
* Home buying and housing costs like electricity, natural gas, and real estate taxes.
* Learning about stocks, bonds, investing, retirement.
Imagine if our educatinal system was organized to enable young people to manage their money and to learn the language of everyday economics. What a concept!
Instead, it is organized as though it owes something to an algebra and geometry lobby. The fact a large majority of students in my state of Arizona would have been denied a diploma this year had the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) been fully in effect, denied because most would fail the AIMS math portion, doesn’t seem to make an impression at the state level.
We still have too many students who can’t multiply and divide in high school, never mind algebra and geometry. Or who can’t make correct change without the help of a computerized cash register. Setting up standards mandated by No Child Left Behind and saying “meet them” appears more of a legal cover than a means to reach that end. Something needs to happen a lot earlier, and with a greater degree of helpfulness, if these kids are to do more than add and subtract. They need more than another test.
Don’t get me wrong. The more of us that master higher mathematics and become engineers and chemists, info-techs and architects, the better. But educators behave as though the only jobs out there are mathematically based. I could show you a bunch of jobs in journalism, public relations, sales, marketing, hospitality, entertainment, barber shops and beauty salons that place other skills above higher math. This attempt to funnel every student down a single corridor is based on a faulty premise expressed with religious zeal. If unchallenged and unchecked it is a prescription for frustration and anxiety among our students.
If the goal is to instill skills needed to last a lifetime, then we should devote a block of time to consumer math, with a separate track for algebra and geometry. This would be a balanced approach that would serve the needs of young adults on an everyday basis, and provide a way into higher math for those with that inclination. Time to end a “wag the dog” system that forces the curriculum to match the test, and in fact forces lives to match the test.
Let’s give more weight to consumer math.