>>I'm just not sure why medium to advanced level word problems (I'm >>assuming these are in Algebra I and beyond) are THAT important to anyone >>past the age of, say, 14, unless, of course, a person is good at it, likes >>it or plans to take more math. Does the normal, non-mathematical person >>need to know this?
On 7 Dec,1995 Judy Roitman responded:
>I won't defend the traditional way of teaching word problems or algebraic >manipulation, but some fairly sophisticated algebraic understanding (which >includes being able to translate real situations into mathematical >language, and being able to understand someone else's mathematical models) >are essential today for jobs that didn't used to need them -- to give a >very specific example, line workers at Boeing. I'm talking about the folks >who screw or bolt or whatever the wings on the body of the plane, not >engineers or management.
>Boeing, like many major corporations, runs a major internal educational >program, a large chunk of which can be best summarized as "algebra and >geometry". Their workers need this because of the way plants are managed >(TQM and all that -- workers have to be able to absorb and respond to >statistical information), and because of computer systems (spreadsheets, >3-D stuff, robotics) that they need to operate or understand, etc.
>I have asked the woman who runs the Boeing program in Wichita to try to >summarize for me what they do in mathematics, especially at the high school >level, and she said she'd try. If she gets something to me, I'll let >everyone here know and will be happy to share it with you.
>So, Marc, bottom line is -- all kids need to know algebra and geometry, and >at a pretty sophisticated level, too.
I'd love to hear more about how these line workers use algebraic concepts in their jobs. Please be as specific as you can...I'd like to show my colleagues and students. I still think that there is a substantial population of manual labourers, small business owners, artists, teachers (of non-math disciplines), auto mechanics, plumbers, journalists, truck drivers, seamstresses, restaurant employees, etc. that do not need, as you say, "a pretty sophisticated level" of algebra and geometry. Yes, I think everyone needs topics that include: solving simple linear equations, operations with integers, percent problems, ratio/proportions, prob/stats, knowledge of geometric figures and their properties, area, perimeter, volume, surface area. Do all students NEED 2-column, deductive proofs of congruent triangles? Complex equations or inequalities involving rational expressions? Group or ring theory? Complex numbers? Systems of equations? I would need to see many people with low to average intelligence (70-100 IQ) who are working these Boeing jobs and work with "spreadsheets, 3-D stuff, robotics" before I'm convinced EVERY student in America needs this level of sophisticated Algebra and Geometry. Expanding this argument, do all students need Shakespeare? The periodic table? Main exports of Indonesia? 3 years of a foreign language?