//Professor Disproved as Myth by Algebra

Professor Disproved as Myth by Algebra

I love math!

It was brought to my attention over the summer, by my Calculus professor – one of those rare individuals who truly love math, that some educator stated that college algebra was too difficult and should therefore be dropped from the curriculum. I was absolutely certain that no such thing could have happened, it must be a goof by some late night fake news program or else the work of a deranged mind. Was I ever wrong!

People everywhere are using algebra and geometry every day! I used basic algebra to determine how long the curved sections of the track are. By measuring one straightaway (84.5 m), and assuming a total length of 400 meters (1 quarter mile, or 2 furlongs), we determined it to be about 114 m, so  the radius of the curved portion had to be 36.5 m (if it was in fact a semi-circle).

Hacker and Dreifus (the myth)

“Political scientist Andrew Hacker of Queens College in New York insists the difficulty of learning algebra is responsible for a higher dropout rate when students find they can’t grasp the discipline. The course should be excluded, Hacker says, because the math is just too hard for students today.

“One out of 5 young Americans does not graduate from high school. This is one of the worst records in the developed world. Why? The chief academic reason is they failed ninth-grade algebra,” Hacker says in his new book, The Math Myth and Other STEM Delusions.

The Queens College professor emeritus says only about five percent of jobs have any use for algebra and other advanced maths, so teaching higher math is both a waste of time and causes actual damage to graduation rates.”

This was taken word for word out of an article by Breitbart (whatever that is, here’s the link: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/03/28/ny-professor-says-algebra-is-too-hard-schools-should-drop-it/.

Just to be certain I Googled some more and found a NY Times op-ed piece written by the same Hacker (that’s his real name – absurdly appropriate!) in 2012 titled “Is Algebra Necessary?”, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/is-algebra-necessary.html.

After reading, and rereading, his ideas I am mortified that people like him are involved in any way in education.

“Mathematics is used as a hoop, a badge, a totem to impress outsiders and elevate a profession’s status”,


What is Algebra?

According to Wolfram’s Math world, http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Algebra.html

The word “algebra” is a distortion of the Arabic title of a treatise by al-Khwārizmī about algebraic methods. In modern usage, algebra has several meanings.

One use of the word “algebra” is the abstract study of number systems and operations within them, including such advanced topics as groups, rings, invariant theory, and cohomology. This is the meaning mathematicians associate with the word “algebra.” When there is the possibility of confusion, this field of mathematics is often referred to as abstract algebra.

The word “algebra” can also refer to the “school algebra” generally taught in American middle and high schools. This includes the solution of polynomial equations in one or more variables and basic properties of functions and graphs. Mathematicians call this subject “elementary algebra,” “high school algebra,” “junior high school algebra,” or simply “school algebra,” reserving the word “algebra” for the more advanced aspects of the subject.

Finally, the word is used in a third way, not as a subject area but as a particular type of algebraic structure. Formally, an algebra is a vector space Vover a field F with a multiplication. The multiplication must be distributive and, for every f in F and x,y in V must satisfy


An algebra is sometimes implicitly assumed to be associative or to possess a multiplicative identity.

Examples of algebras include the algebra of real numbers, vectors and matrices, tensors, complex numbers, and quaternions. (Note that linear algebra, which is the study of linear sets of equations and their transformation properties, is not an algebra in the formal sense of the word.) Other more exotic algebras that have been investigated and found to be of interest are usually named after one or more of their investigators. This practice unfortunately leads to entirely unenlightening names which are commonly used by algebraists without further explanation or elaboration.

Is Algebra Useless?

His contention is that the emphasis on critical thinking and logic is not useful to the vast majority of undergraduate students and only highly specialized technical experts need to know anything about calculus or logic. Further, he asserts that most students who drop out of college do so because algebra is too difficult for them and the only reason nations like Finland, Singapore and Korea do so well is because they try so hard! His arguments lack cohesion and logical reasoning; he argues that understanding algebraic formulas is tedious and unnecessary while at the same time stating the need for a greater emphasis on quantitative reasoning.

Algebra haters!
Hacker and Dreifus are useless!

“Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — and What We Can Do About It.” by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus. I think Hacker and Dreifus are myth, or at least a figment of their own imaginations.

Algebra prison
Algebra prison!

How does this affect me?

More and more I am convinced that I am making the right decision in seeking a career path in education. I am practicing while in school; I have started tutoring fellow members at A New Way and have even begun putting together a project using Google Classroom to instruct members in using Google Docs and Drive.

I will agree that many people do struggle with basic math but, that is because they do not grasp the fundamental concepts resulting for disconnected, haphazard education. The understanding of logical arguments is taught very clearly using mathematical models and is the basis for sound reasoning in any pursuit, mathematical or otherwise. God help us when a generation of policymakers are deciding the futures of millions of people who cannot balance a budget, read climate statistics or evaluate statistical data – oh! Wait! That is already happening!

Is this how algebra is made?
Feed them to the Algebra factory!

In one excellent review in Wired, https://www.wired.com/2010/08/higher-education-how-colleges-are-wasting-our-money-and-failing-our-kids-and-what-we-can-do-about-it/, Kirschenbaum states:

“One recurring theme that caught my attention was the lack of clarity on what exactly Hacker and Dreifus believe to be the value of college education. They appear to feel that a well-rounded liberal arts education is best for all students and there are many references to western classics and a yearning for interdisciplinary ‘consilience’ courses.”

This is also the conclusion that I came to – while trashing vocational training, practical studies like engineering, algebra, athletics, research , they offer nothing in the way of solutions.

A sober thought

Finally, I found an article in The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/06/the-math-myth/485852/, that defends math from a reporter who admits she doesn’t even like math. The point is, correlation does not mean causation – just because most students that drop out did poorly in math does not mean that doing poorly in math caused them to drop out. Did anyone investigate their reading comprehension and problem solving skills just to make sure that math was the only area in which they are making poor decisions?

integral_(-(W(-(log(3))/5))/(log(3)))^(-(W_(-1)(-(log(3))/5))/(log(3))) (-3^x + 5 x) dx = -(5 (W(-(log(3))/5) – W_(-1)(-(log(3))/5)) (W(-(log(3))/5) + W_(-1)(-(log(3))/5) + 2))/(2 log^2(3))~~2.9402

Some more useless Algebra!


By the way: This equation is how you would calculate the interest on your credit card – stupid, useless math making life so much more complicated than it needs to be.!

Works Cited

Hacker, Andrew, and Claudia Dreifus. Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and failing Our Kids – and What We Can Do about It. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011. Print.

Huston, Warner Todd. “NY Professor Says Algebra Is Too Hard, Schools Should Drop It.” Breitbart. Breitbart News Network, 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 12 Aug. 2017.

“Is Algebra Necessary?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 July 2012. Web. 12 Aug. 2017.

Kirshenbaum, Sheril. “Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids-and What We Can Do About It.” Wired. Conde Nast, 04 June 2017. Web. 12 Aug. 2017.

Renze, John and Weisstein, Eric W. “Algebra.” From MathWorld–A Wolfram Web Resource.  http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Algebra.html

Whitney, A.K. “Debunking the Myths Behind ‘The Math Myth’.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 13 June 2016. Web. 12 Aug. 2017.