Sunday, July 29, 2012

Teaching Algebra

The New York Times published an opinion piece today entitled “Is Algebra Necessary.” I quickly dashed out a comment. To my dismay, they had closed the comment section by 8:00 am, so it did not get published in the paper. I’m printing the comment I wrote here. This topic calls for more discussion that can be conveyed by what I say here and I will try to get to that in a future blog. That said, I truly recommend this article. It is connected to the homework problem, but it is also absolutely true that math has become a huge hurdle to success.

“Bravo for this highly important article. As former doctoral student in mathematics, I could not have conceptualized this problem until I switched fields to become a clinical psychologist, and got involved in working with children who are persistently homework noncompliant and adults who are struggling to return to the workforce. In that capacity, I have seen young people whose futures have been compromised under the demands that they spend hours at home trying to master something they cannot understand, both in high school and community college. These are people who are motivated and capable of assuming productive societal roles. They lose access to things they do well, athletics in high school and meaningful college educated jobs later on, and this further fuels the epidemic of high school dropout, drug use, and our high rate of incarceration. When I was young, I gloated over my proficiency in math. As I near retirement age, I am saddened to see so many young people harmed.”

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

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