School must be starting soon, because talk of the importance of Algebra is once again deemed a topic worthy of discussion.
A few days ago someone on Facebook posted a quote on their timeline that went something like “Another day over, and I didn’t use Algebra once.” It was meant to be funny and most people took it that way. Then someone commented and said – again I am paraphrasing – “Actually you use Algebra in life all the time. You probably just aren’t aware of it.”
I thought about that a lot. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that such a comment, meant to support the compulsory teaching of Algebra, actually proves that Algebra doesn’t need to be taught at all.
Think about it. If we are all doing Algebra every day without realizing it, doesn’t that prove that A. we were given no correlation between solving textbook equations in class and how Algebra might manifest in our lives and B. we don’t need to know how to solve equations in a textbook in order to successfully use Algebra in our lives?
Most people I talk to say they don’t remember anything from their Algebra class. I certainly don’t, except that Curt Aton encouraged me to go to the 9th grade prom even though I had no date, and promised to save me a dance even though he had a steady girlfriend. I went, he did, and that is my big memory of Algebra. (Curt and I are still friends to this day, by the way. He’s a real mensch.)
However, according to the above-mentioned FB thread, I use Algebra every day even though I would probably fail a 9th grade Algebra exam. I am not disputing that this is true, just pointing out that if it is, I didn’t really need that class in the first place, did I? Of course if a child wants to learn textbook style Algebra – at any age – then absolutely he or she should do it. Hopefully in a way that reveals the practical life applications.
We are so indoctrinated into the need for certain subjects that we don’t even realize when comments we make about the status of those subjects in our lives contradicts our so-called belief in the need for them. Even saying that today you didn’t use Algebra once, and having 90% of the people on your thread agree means you don’t think you needed to take that class. So why make your kid do it unless they really want to?