"I'm Not An English Person" Is Not an Excuse Either
“I’m Not a Writer” Isn’t an Excuse Either I will more than happily be the first to admit that math is not my greatest subject, as will most average public school students. Every day the schools force them into a classroom to be bombarded with equations and functions until the next bell rings, and they stampede from their seats onto the next part of their day. Many already forgetting what they had just worked on.
Today, students are revolting more and more against math. And in Kelly Dickerson’s article “‘I’m Not a Math Person’ Is No Longer A Valid Excuse,” she claims that its simply because students “don’t try” or that they believe math is painful, but there are more angles to this situation than most people see. It’s a pretty absurd thought- but have you ever considered asking a student what they thought about math? Because I think if you want the truth about what teens think, you should try asking one. Dickerson, Managing Editor for the Berry College Campus Carrier in Georgia, mentioned in her essay that students use “I’m bad at math,” as an excuse to stop taking higher math classes, whereas students continue to take their English classes even some of them hate reading and writing. That’s not exactly true.
It’s not that students simply continue through English whether or not they enjoy reading or writing. Most schools require four years of English/Language Arts in order to graduate, whereas graduation requirements for math can be as low as two years or even just completing Geometry. Just as we’re saying that youth obesity rates are soaring, have you noticed students generally only need one year of physical education to graduate? So is it that the schools have simply given up on the students? Whose responsibility is it to see that students are continuing with higher level math classes? The school’s must simply put out a good report stating that students are passing their classes and graduating- is minimalizing math classes a way to ensure a lower failing rates of students? After all, if we don’t push them, they won’t fail, but is that enough to help them succeed? Dickerson also brings up an excellent point with the idea of a disability, claiming it couldn’t be the cause of math-related learning problems for the “general population.” However, how do you define the “general population?” By who looks smart and who doesn’t? According to the British Dyslexia and Dyscalculia Association, 50%-60% of people who suffer from Dyscalculia go undiagnosed. Those who suffer from Dyscalculia often have problems grasping major concepts of math, add, multiply, and divide incorrectly, and do not have a sense of direction or sense of speed.
I feel we can safely assume these undiagnosed students are part of the said “statistic,” and people simply assume they “are just bad at math.” At this point, the blame can be pointed at two spots. Sure, you can blame the student for simply “not trying hard enough,” after all, 10% of students with Dyscalculia do perform at a higher math level than average students, however- if I’m doing my math right- that does leave 90% of these students performing at below average scores. On top of that half of these students struggling with this disorder go undiagnosed and are not getting the help they need. And what’s more, they are becoming more frustrated with themselves even though it’s not their fault. The BDDA says, “Dyscalculia is a special need and requires diagnosis and appropriate counseling as well as support away from whole class teaching.
However, compared with dyslexia, very little research has focused on dyscalculia and how to overcome it. Consequently, there is relatively little ready made support available.” If we want to start improving math in the eyes of the students, maybe we should start with getting help where its most needed: in the students who are struggling when they don’t need to be. And you can boil this whole argument down to the true fact of the matter: most math students believe what they learn in school is not applicable to real life. And I have to admit that I’m one of those students.
My dad is a Computer Engineering and Software major; he routes building controls and installs data bases in computers. In short: he makes the computers work. It goes without saying that this job requires extensive knowledge of math and science, but so much of it is now possible to do on a computer or with programs that solve it for you that it’s sometimes considered a burden to work a problem out by hand. During our Matrices unit in math I was working in the kitchen and my dad looked over my shoulder at my book. Sure, he recognized the matrices and he used them in his work all the time- but he never had to solve them. He had Quickbooks accounting and countless programs on his computer that solved any matrix problem for him.
So why was I sitting there doing them by hand? What was the point of me showing my work and doing it the long way when I knew I would grow up and have an accounting program at my fingertips to solve the problem for me. You can’t argue that school is a preparation for real life if we’re not learning things that will be useful when we’re adults. I don’t know how to use Quickbooks, and that can solve matrices- why not teach me how to use Quickbooks so that way I can tuck that under my belt as well as have a quicker, more efficient way to solve my math problems? Or maybe teaching students math that will help them with taxes- or even better: teach us what taxes are! The biggest problem with getting students interested in learning math is that they feel it won’t be necessary in real life. And unless you’re choosing a career in a science or math, most of it won’t be. Even Julie Kantor of the Huffington Post agrees: “The Common Denominator=Relevancy..
.It’s so basic. When you make it real, applicable to real life, you touch the hearts and minds of America’s youth and young workforce. Make it hands on, and show young people the correlation to real life and they will learn way more and advance academically.” I can’t be the spokesperson for America.
I can’t say that I have the solution to solving this “crisis” we are seeing with less and less students finishing high school and continuing on to higher education- let alone do anything about the fact that they all hate math. And I can’t say the solution we find will be simple. But I can say without a doubt that it isn’t any single party’s responsibility anymore. If we want to keep students in the math classrooms then every one must start pitching in to create enriching environments that promote math as an important part of education and as a lifestyle.