Patt Morrison for July 31, 2012

Professor: Don’t waste your time on math!

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JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images

Mathematics professor and writer Gerald Tenenbaum posing with his last book, 'L'affinité des traces' on May 3, 2012.

One of the great galvanizing experiences of American youth is griping about algebra. Even if you displayed an aptitude for it, the majority of us who learned it never saw a practical use for it, and never pursued it in any remotely professional manner. Algebra has grown from a mere mathematical discipline into a larger symbol for academic rigor for academic rigor’s sake. There are millions of successful American professionals who do not use algebra to maintain their success, perform their jobs, run their lives, or anything else of consequence. Yet no one proposes that the teaching of algebra should go away.

Until now. Professor Andrew Hacker writes in a recent edition of the New York Times that algebra and math erect an unnecessary impediment to educational success to many students. Professor Hacker says because of this, algebra specifically, and mathematics more generally, need not be universally taught in schools.

Guests:

Andrew Hacker, op-ed writer, New York Times

Dima Shlyakhtenko, professor and chair of UCLA’s mathematics department


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