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Thanks, Kathy.
I think your statement and explanation gets at the question of what 
is mathematics (and thus algebra) and what is its value, the answers 
to which, in turn, undergird discussions of whether and how math 
should be included in a required curriculum. You write, "there is a 
mathematical connection to  everything in the world", but I would say 
it like this, "mathematicians try to/can make connections to 
everything in the physical world with their tools". But, this really 
is not a particularly unique feature of math. Those who work with 
language would seem to do the same. Many  sociologists and 
anthropologists, not to mention philosophers, would make the same 
claim that Devin makes.

Your construction of Devin's point suggests to me that he considers 
mathematics to be separate from mathematicians and, perhaps, part of 
the physical world. It puts math on a unique footing among the 
disciplines. That special footing itself then  becomes a (often 
tacit) reason to include it in our curricula. But, the basis for its 
privileged status is not often thoughtfully considered it seems to 
me. I believe to answer questions about curricula we need to examine 
our philosophies of education, and to truly consider whether 
mathematics should be included in our educational goals we need, at 
least to some extent, consider philosophy of math. What is math? What 
is its value and effects? What is mathematical knowledge? These are 
existential, moral and epistemological questions.

I think it is a perfectly reasonable question to ask whether algebra 
should be part of a required curriculum in a particular institution 
at a particular time--and also to propose that it should not. At one 
time oratory had a privileged place in the curriculum, and at 
another, hygiene, at another, comportment. Now, oratory is not 
included at all, and I have heard many instructors say that they will 
not grade down students who do not speak in class because these 
students may be "shy". This suggests to me that these instructors 
consider  learning to speak among a group as an optional part of the 
curriculum. A students develops their competence to speak in a group 
if they are inclined to. Why should algebra be necessarily any 
different? Socrates would be appalled at the suggestion that learning 
to speak publicly is a matter of a student's inclination as much as 
those who now are outraged by the suggestion that algebra need not be 
included in the general education curriculum.  In general, I think we 
educators need to do MORE, not less critical examination of the 
standard curriculum, and any actions that chill such inquiry will 
have negative consequences for our work and--not to sound too 
apocalyptic-- may well lead to our irrelevance, if not obsolescence.

I'd be curious to hear what any curriculum theorists out there would 
have to say about this.
Nic

>
>From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
>[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kathryn VanWagoner
>Sent: Tuesday, January 09, 2007 8:14 AM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: Math for Liberal Arts Majors
>
>Sorry, Nic. That was a rather random statement.  When I read the first
>chapter of Keith Devlin's book (below) I was struck with the sense that
>there is a mathematical connection to everything in the world, keeping
>in mind that "mathematics" does not equal "algebra."  That's where that
>comment came from.  Again, I recommend at least Chapter One of Keith's
>book. 
>
>Which brings us back to Teresa's original question.  There are some
>very cool mathematical ideas that are great for liberal arts majors to
>study.  (Personally, I'd like to see everyone take that kind of class.)
>Yes, Teresa, we offer such a course.  However, it does have a
>pre-requisite of intermediate algebra.
>
>Kathy
>
>>>>  "Nic Voge" <[log in to unmask]> 1/8/2007 4:35 PM >>>
>Kathy,
>What do you mean by "In truth, it's all mathematical"?
>Thanks,
>Nic
>
>>By the way.  I love art, music, poetry, even sentence diagraming
>(it's
>>kind of mathematical). I even enjoy archeology and physical science
>in
>>smaller doses.  It is quite possible that my general education
>provided
>>the opportunity for me to develop those interests.
>>
>>In truth, it's all mathematical.  If you want to see how important
>math
>>really is, I recommend the PBS series Life by the Numbers and/or the
>>companion book for the series by Keith Devlin.  Just read the first
>>chapter.
>>
>>Cheers!
>>Kathy
>>
>>>>>   "Laura Symons" <[log in to unmask]> 1/8/2007 11:03 AM >>>
>>Kathryn's response was so cool! Now here's a rationale for taking any
>>course in the curriculum:
>>
>>In a world where change is the only constant, the one true survival
>>skill is the ability to adjust and adapt to the needs of the moment.
>>That skill requires flexibility of point of view and the ability to
>>apply different kinds of thinking in different situations.  College
>>courses provide a rich array of different ways of thinking.
>>Mathematicians approach the world very differently than
>anthropologists,
>>than historians, than artists, than writers and the list goes on
>through
>>the entire curriculum. Why take courses in subjects that are
>difficult?
>>To create new skills you probably would not go after on your own. To
>>learn more about yourself. To do something you don't like to do. To
>>learn to deal with fear, frustration, and may even anger in a
>relatively
>>low stakes setting.
>>
>>Happy New Year, all!
>>
>>Laura
>>
>>Laura Symons
>>
>>Coordinator of the Learning Center
>>Piedmont  Virginia Community College
>>501 College Drive
>>Charlottesville, VA 22902-7589
>>
>>434 961 5310
>>
>>*The people who believe that something can't be done should get out
>of
>>the way of the person doing it.*
>>
>>Chinese Proverb
>>
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
>>[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kathryn VanWagoner
>>Sent: Monday, January 08, 2007 12:11 PM
>>To: [log in to unmask]
>>Subject: Re: Math for Liberal Arts Majors
>>
>>I am a math teacher and I'm split on the curriculum issue.  But I
>have
>>to respond to those (not just Kathy) who say "I've never used
>algebra."
>>
>>My response is:  of course not, you don't know it.  If you know
>>algebra
>>you can use it.
>>
>>I spent a number of years as an at-home mom and used algebra many
>>times
>>(and not just when I was substitute teaching).  Some examples: I
>>helped
>>a neighbor figure out how much real whole milk to mix with powdered
>>non-fat milk to come up with 2% milk that her family would drink (a
>>mixture problem).  I used permutations when planning the seating
>>arrangements for a church dinner. I helped a business owner calculate
>>profits for inventory for which he was missing purchase records. I
>>frequently handle landscape related questions -- still.  Sure, lots
>of
>>people get along without algebra, but just because you don't use it,
>>doesn't mean it isn't useful.
>>
>>This common argument against algebra can be used for most general
>>education subjects.  I can honestly say I have never diagramed a
>>sentence in real life.  Nor have I had to analyze poetry.  I've never
>>found a great need for critiquing art or music.  I've gotten along
>>quite
>>well in life without a solid understanding of photosynthesis or the
>>parts of a cell or how a star is born or methods of archeological
>>digging.  In fact, looking back, I think the most useful general
>>education class I took was aerobics -- and skiing.
>>
>>We've developed a culture where being bad at math is socially
>>acceptable.  We should be trying to change that paradigm, not nurture
>>it.  I have a child who has writing anxiety that rivals any math
>>anxiety
>>that I've seen.  Should he be encouraged in his anxiety?  Or should
>he
>>be taught skills to overcome it?
>>
>>The "math problem" is very complex and will not be simply solved by a
>>change in curriculum.
>>
>>
>>
>>Kathryn Van Wagoner
>>Math Lab Manager
>>Utah Valley State College
>>801-863-8411
>>
>>ad-van-tage   n.  A factor conducive to success.
>>
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>
>--
>
>Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention,  through
>the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in
>the world, with the world, and with each other. --Paolo Freire
>
>Dominic (Nic) J. Voge
>Study Strategies Program Coordinator
>University of California, Berkeley
>Student Learning Center
>136 Cesar Chavez Student Center  #4260
>Berkeley, CA 94720-4260
>
>(510) 643-9278
>[log in to unmask]
>http://slc.berkeley.edu
>
>FALL 2006 OFFICE HOURS:
>ED 98/198 Office Hours: T 3-4;  W 4-5
>Drop-in Hours W 5-6; Th 1-3
>Individual Appointments W 10-11; TH 6-8; F 3-4
>
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-- 

Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention,  through 
the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in 
the world, with the world, and with each other. --Paolo Freire

Dominic (Nic) J. Voge
Study Strategies Program Coordinator
University of California, Berkeley
Student Learning Center
136 Cesar Chavez Student Center  #4260
Berkeley, CA 94720-4260

(510) 643-9278
[log in to unmask]
http://slc.berkeley.edu

FALL 2006 OFFICE HOURS:
ED 98/198 Office Hours: T 3-4;  W 4-5
Drop-in Hours W 5-6; Th 1-3
Individual Appointments W 10-11; TH 6-8; F 3-4

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your web browser to
http://www.lists.ufl.edu/archives/lrnasst-l.html

To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]