Solving math’s problem

Amy White

Staff Writer

Picture this: Long ago, a bunch of old guys are sitting around a wooden table, drinking coffee and stroking their scraggly beards. They are furiously writing math problems and constantly dipping their quill pens into inkwells. For fun, one of these mad mathematicians tells the group he has a wondrous idea: “We should devise new ways to add two plus two.  Just think of all the confusion we will cause in the future. And it will make us sound more intelligent when we discuss these ways with outsiders.”

Flash forward to today. We have the new math. Any student or anyone helping a student get through these difficult classes understands what I mean. It doesn’t matter whether the student is becoming a journalist, accountant or rocket scientist. They all have to take the math courses required by the state of Texas.

If all a person wants to do is obtain a college degree in basket weaving, why is math necessary? There are jobs in this world that do require the knowledge of how many ways one can add two plus two. However, there are careers in corporate America where -3(-4y+1)-(2y- 3)-8y+2=2y+2 will never show up. So why force everyone to take algebra?

Mathematics advocates, such as Huffington Post writer David H. Bailey and Scientific American blogger Evelyn Lamb, argue that college graduates with math or algebra courses included in their studies fare better in corporate America due to the problem-solving skills they learn.  Therefore, these students make better employees. School administrators work with businesses to determine degree plans and do the best they can to pick the college courses designed to prepare students for the real world.

People who can take direction, think logically and follow the rules in logical order make predictable and reliable workers.  This is what algebra does for the human mind. Math helps the brain to think a certain way, to follow a train of thought to a conclusion.

In Austin, Texas, there is an amendment to House Bill #3 before the House and Senate to change graduation requirements for high school students.  The new proposal would allow students to drop math classes and replace them with science and technology classes. Supporters argue the legislation offers additional pathways for students.

Opponents contend it waters down graduation standards.  Hopefully, the math department at Brookhaven College is watching this turn of events carefully, because the new bill will have a trickle effect and influence which math requirements would be needed to graduate from Brookhaven or any other college or university in Texas.

Brookhaven offers College Mathematics I (Math 1332), a life math class for those students who need the basics to graduate. According to the course description, this class is designed for liberal arts students and encompasses logic, mathematical systems, the mathematics of finance, an introduction to computers, statistics and matrices.

Rocket scientists, mathematicians, accountants and computer programmers: The list is long for careers that need workers to understand math. The world needs people like that. Where would we be without Microsoft Excel or Word?  Would we be writing by hand and using abacuses?  Our world is a better place because of those willing to study advanced math, and I am sure math was involved when penicillin was discovered or the polio vaccine developed. However, as math has changed the world, the way colleges teach it needs to be changed as well.