Who Needs Advanced Math? Not Everybody is the headline of a New York Times interview with educator Andrew Hacker.

I am very sympathetic to his position. I just wish he cited the source for some of the statistics he cited, like this one:

Does anybody know the source of that number?

I received an answer to the above question via Twitter:

@Larryferlazzo It's from Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

— David Vaillancourt (@drvcourt) February 6, 2016

@Larryferlazzo Mentioned in Hacker's 2012 article: https://t.co/07jdZmtIOV

— David Vaillancourt (@drvcourt) February 6, 2016

And what do you think of his position overall?

So, I wrote a response that addressed the quote you posted directly. It was long and rambled a bit (if I’m being perfectly honest with myself). Then, at the end of my response, I went back and read the interview linked. I laughed because this person is someone who is looking at math as it has been classically taught. He’s not advocating an anti-math position at all – in fact, if he knew what the core ideas behind algebra and geometry were, he would be essentially advocating for those classes to be taught. The “quantitative reasoning skills” he wishes students were exposed to instead of geometry and algebra are exactly what those classes are meant to teach. Furthermore, Common Core (which this person takes a shot at), explicitly attempts to do just that. Functions and graphs (the main focus of algebra) are nothing more than quantitative relationships used to interpret data and inform reasoning skills. Trigonometry and proofs (the main focus of geometry) are the practice of applying reasoning skills. A thorough understanding of math does exactly what this person wants out of it. And, to be perfectly honest, I think what keeps many people from accomplishing this is the widespread math phobia that abounds in our society. Too many times, students come into a math class with the preconceived notion that they’re not “math people”. In my own class, I have students that are brilliant at physics, yet wilt anytime they perceive that math is part of the solution. Articles and interviews like this just stoke that phobia fire by adding a bit of legitimacy to those fears.

That being said, as I read further on in the article, I can’t help but agree about wanting the SAT and ACT to “quietly disappear”. In a world where people have an increasing connection to other people and a nearly infinite source of information in the internet, the ability to quickly solve problems by oneself is not much of a necessary skill.

It takes very little imagination to find a reason not to do something. I wonder what percentage of people need/ use a trained imagination in their careers. Hacker?

A productive imagination requires training and practice in as many modalities as possible. Can one even conceive of what doors remain closed when we say no to such fundamental fields as algebra and geometry? I think not. Coding is all well with and good, but it’s a false argument to paint this as an either/or proposition. It seems to me that pure logic is about as fundamental a building block as one could imagine, and algebra and Euclidean geometry are among the purest forms of expression of logic that have ever been devised.

Then there’s the whole question of the purpose of education. Personally, I’m in the camp that favours well-roundedness over career training. Haven’t stats been showing that most of us change careers many times in our lives?

What’s the point of putting all a kid’s eggs in one basket? Do the math.