Thursday, July 5, 2007

Not ready for college level math

July 5, 2007

High school math failing to make the college grade
Valley professors say skipped basics are forcing remedial work.

By Genevieve Marshall of The Morning Call

Students are heading to college less prepared for math than they were a decade or two ago, forcing colleges and universities to rewrite textbooks and add more review work and remedial courses.

Math professors in the Lehigh Valley laid the blame on integrated math programs that don't emphasize basic skills, high-stakes testing and the push to give students higher-level math courses at increasingly younger ages.

''Many bright students are hurried through algebra and trigonometry courses on their way toward statistics and calculus,'' said Marie Wilde, chairwoman of the mathematical and information sciences program at Cedar Crest College in Allentown.

''They arrive at college without the critical skills they should have spent much more time developing, rather than jumping prematurely into what has traditionally been considered college-level work.''

Experts say the problem can be found at all levels of higher education -- from students going to community college for associate degrees to those studying to be engineers.

Northampton Community College, finding that students were struggling with pre-algebra courses, added a low-level basic mathematics course and arithmetic course to its offerings for the fall 2007 semester.

"We had to,'' said Mardi McGuire-Closson, dean of students. ''Students who struggle in math are more likely to drop out. Math pushes their panic button.''

Oftentimes, students face the repercussions of a weak foundation in math when they sign up for a college math course.

I sound like a broken record, I know. The location changes but the story remains the same, doesn't it? This could be a student in PA or one in CT, or anywhere else in this great nation. Whether it's your town or mine, children need a strong foundation in mathematics or like a house built with a deck of cards, their ability to excel in mathematics will be subject to even the mildest breeze.

It's so clear to me that the "emperor is naked" that it's difficult to understand how someone else might be admiring his "new clothes". But they do.

How long will it take before we are reasonable enough to admit that as exciting as reform math may sound, as flashy as the books may look, as noble as the inspiration may have been, it's not working. Can we please do something better now?

You can read the whole article in The Morning Call here.

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