Algebra concepts irrelevant to many, worth reevaluating

Math – a four-letter-word that scares a lot of people.

In fact, failing algebra is one of the main reasons why one out of five students don’t graduate high school, according to political scientist Andrew Hacker, author of “The Math Myth and Other STEM Delusions,” who spoke with The New York Times.

Hacker said that statistics also show that only 5 percent of careers actually use algebraic skills. Therefore do middle and high schools really need to force students to take algebra?

To the dismay of several of my previous math teachers, I agree with Hacker that students can survive without algebra.

The topics covered in algebra are: signed numbers, evaluation of expressions, solutions of equations, adding like terms, number word problems, natural number exponents, factoring, percent word problems, value word problems, addition of rational expressions, simplification of radical, linear equations, simultaneous equations and uniform motion problems.

Personally, I did not struggle with algebra in high school, but some of the terms above don’t really ring a bell. And looking at it now, they don’t even seem relevant.

Since algebra is a prerequisite for geometry and other higher level mathematics courses, it’s no wonder that failing algebra tends to correlate with dropout rates.

My grandfather chose to serve in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II instead of finishing high school. He didn’t take algebra, but yet he and other soldiers of the 46th Engineering Construction Battalion were able to figure out the math to build landing strips for fighter planes in the Philippines.

Those who are opposed to disbanding algebra say that it is a fundamental math for other Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

“Every study I’ve ever seen of workers in whole bunches of fields shows that you have to understand formulas, you have to understand relationships,” said Philip Uri Treisman, a professor of mathematics and public affairs at the University of Texas to the New York Times. “Algebra is the tool for consolidating your knowledge of arithmetic.”

Instead of algebra, I think a better solution would be including important algebraic concepts in regular eighth grade mathematics, but also subtly integrating them into other classes. This would ultimately make algebra a little less scary and more practical.