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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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