Math and Education

Right on the Left Coast sent me to an interesting article on how poorly math is taught in the US from Kitchen Table Math.

I wanted to comment there, but am not registered, so I thought I would just write here.

About the fact that education majors arepoorly educated in math and score worse than, for example, art majors… I was an education major, secondary ed, with majors in history and English.

I had two years in high school of math and science: algebra, geometry, earth science, and biology. To get into college I had to take tests to determine whether I needed more math. The tests said no. I enjoyed biology in college and took biology, zoology, upper division Genetics, and upper division Medical Microbiology. I didn’t love math and never took it again.

I have a master’s in literature and a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition with a minor in linguistics. But the last math I took was tenth grade geometry.

I can do multiplication and division problems, remembered sufficient algebra to teach it to my son, and can certainly calculate tips in my head. But I would not say I am great with math.

But I never needed to be great with math when I was teaching junior high and high school. Except when calculating grades. And I did use a calculator then.

So, yes, education students aren’t necessarily good at math. One would hope the math education students are, but I don’t know.

I was good at math all along. In seventh grade I was not recommended for Algebra, despite the fact that I had excellent grades, because my teacher didn’t like me. I spent eighth grade math doing math the first five minutes of class and then doing art projects for the rest of the time. Apparently the teacher was used to having lots of students who weren’t challenged by the math she was teaching, because a huge bunch of us were “assigned” art projects when our math was done.

I didn’t hate math, even after that.

I did wonderfully well in Algebra I, carrying an A and getting an A on the statewide finals.

In Geometry I did not grasp the concepts, never grasped the concepts, still don’t grasp the concepts, but got out by the grace of my teacher and a mulitple choice statewide final, with a C.

After Geometry I was sure I was bad at math and never took math again. Too bad there’s not somebody saying, “Just because you don’t get this concept now doesn’t mean you won’t get it later.” “Not all math is like Geometry.” Or some such.

Five years later I was figuring money conversions in my head on the fly for three girls/women traveling across Europe. I was good at it. I was fast. I was accurate. I decided I wasn’t so bad at math after all.

But I’ve still never taken any more.