I recently read an article in the New York Times Opinion by Andrew Hacker titled ‘Is Algebra Necessary?’. Now I think he makes some sweeping generalizations about Maths, including blaming Algebra for all the nation’s woes regarding students failing school and University, but once you move past the generalizations, blame and hyperbole the article is essentially about Math education,about how the US (and other countries) teaches Math. It is not about ‘dumbing down’ the mathematics, but making the mathematics more accessible to students.
He also questions the need for Alegbra, which actually, I think we do need. There is an argument that algebra is a foundation stone for our ability to think critically and logically. However, the bigger issue is that we need to consider what we teach, and why. That discourse is important, do students really need to learn calculus? Is it fair that Universities use math as a filter, even if their courses bear no relation to mathematics ?
Towards the end of his article he says,
“I hope that mathematics departments can also create courses in the history and philosophy of their discipline, as well as its applications in early cultures. Why not mathematics in art and music — even poetry — along with its role in assorted sciences? The aim would be to treat mathematics as a liberal art, making it as accessible and welcoming as sculpture or ballet.”
Sounds just like what we are already achieving with the MYP, interdisciplinary work and use of the Area of Interactions.