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Topic: Do we need a full year of Geometry?
Replies: 29   Last Post: Nov 21, 1997 11:13 AM

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John Conway

Posts: 2,238
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: Why teach geometry
Posted: Apr 12, 1995 8:00 PM
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On Wed, 12 Apr 1995, Bob Hayden wrote:

> I find it very curious that college professors (I am one) are so
> distressed by proposals to do away with high school geometry since
> virtually every college in the US (maybe not MIT -- I hope!) has a
> course that covers (essentially) high school algebra, yet hardly any
> have a course whose purpose is to cover high school geometry. The
> algebra course is often required of everyone who does not test out or
> take a higher level course, but not the geometry. And the math.
> placement test usually covers just algebra, not geometry. And what
> college courses list high school geometry as a prerequisite? Is
> geometry only important as long as someone else will teach it?
> Please do not misunderstand this message. I am not taking a position
> for or against geometry. I am just raising the issue of CONSISTENCY.

College professors are people, too (at least some of them are), and
can have opinions which might not always coincide with the policies of
the institutions they belong to!

This one loves geometry, and also thinks it's one of the best
ways to introduce mathematics to those who might not yet know that
they love it too; high school students in particular, whatever else
they are studying, and whether or not they will later go on to a
college education. It also happens to be the least frightening
mathematical topic to many people.

I think it would be disastrous if it were to be dropped or
further downgraded in the high schools. (By the way, I was shocked
to learn by reading a message this morning that geometry is only
taught inside one year in American high schools. (I SHOULD have
known this already, I suppose; but didn't. It astounds me, but I
suppose does help to understand a little bit more just why mathematics
is in such a poor state in this country.) How can this possibly
have come about? Is there any other subject in the high-school
curriculum that's taken up for such a short time and then just dropped?
(I hope not.) It's a RIDICULOUS way to arrange things.

The people who arrange remedial courses, or fix the rules for
accepting students, are usually not the same folk at all. They're
more likely to ask things like "how many of our introductory
courses need such-and-such an amount of algebra/geometry/... ?"

These aren't very inspiriting questions. They are more concerned
with the efficient and practical working of such-and-such a college,
rather than with (say) the way we can try to ensure that a larger
proportion of the population enjoys and appreciates and understands
some mathematics.

There's no inconsistency if I think differently to the
way my employer acts.

John Conway

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