
Re: Why teach geometry
Posted:
Apr 12, 1995 8:00 PM


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 highschool 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 suchandsuch an amount of algebra/geometry/... ?"
These aren't very inspiriting questions. They are more concerned with the efficient and practical working of suchandsuch 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

