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U.S. Government Should Stop Financing Arithmetic Avoidance

Authors
Disciplines
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics

Abstract

þÿ U.S. Government Should Stop Financing Arithmetic Avoidance By Jerome Dancis1 www.math.umd.edu\~jnd I handed the young cashier five quarters; she wanted to enter the amount into the cash register, but could not calculate their total worth. Twenty years ago, we expected cashiers to know that five quarters is $1.25. This simple type of arithmetic problem is barely taught today. College math professors are distressed by the declining level of understanding of arithmetic and algebra by masses of college students. For example:2 Table 1. Decline in percent of freshmen entering colleges in Maryland3 who know arithmetic and real high school Algebra I Year 1998 2005 2006 Whites 67% 60% 58% African-Americans 44% 33% 36% Asian-Americans 79% 74% 76% Hispanics 56% 42% 43% Related Data from MD. From 1998 to 2005, the number of white graduates increased by 11% (from 14,473 to 16,127), but the number who knew arithmetic and high school Algebra I decreased (from 9703 to 9619). Similarly, from 1998 to 2005, the number of African-American graduates who knew arithmetic and high school Algebra I went down in spite of increased college enrollments of females by 21% and males by 31%. NONPARTISAN EDUCATION REVIEW / ESSAYS, Vol.7, No.8, 2011 2 Nonpartisan Education Review / Essays, Vol. 7, No. 8 At the high end: “[From 1985–2005] Fall term enrollments in Calculus II dropped from 115,000 to 104,000 [at U.S. colleges].” Second year, Calculus II is required for a college degree in4 engineering. That understanding of arithmetic and arithmetic-based algebra (symbolic algebra) has dropped considerably among college freshmen is a natural consequence of the avoidance and minimization of arithmetic and symbolic algebra by textbooks and many state math assessments during the past 20 years. Where did this start?5 It started with Education professors against arithmetic calculations. Only about one out of three education professors surveyed said that its “absolutely essenti

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