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Students failing algebra rarely recover
San Francisco Chronicle / SFGate.com ^ | Published 10:22 p.m., Friday, November 30, 2012 | Jill Tucker

Posted on 12/01/2012 2:31:36 PM PST by thecodont

California students who fail algebra and repeat the course are pretty much doomed to fail again, a vicious cycle that wastes limited resources and precious learning time, according to a report released Friday.

Just over a third of students in the 24 school districts studied had to repeat Algebra I either in ninth or 10th grade, yet even after a second year of study, relatively few were proficient in the subject.

Of those who took the class in eighth grade and repeated it as freshmen, just 1 in 5 scored at a proficient level on standardized tests. And of those who repeated as sophomores, 9 percent were proficient.

"These results provide powerful evidence that school systems are struggling to successfully teach, or reteach, mathematics to students who are not already performing well in math by the time they reach middle school," said Neal Finkelstein, the lead researcher on the study, which was commissioned by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd. ...

All told, half of all students in the study repeated algebra, geometry or Algebra II.

Yet many students retake the same course taught the same way, sometimes by the same teacher, according to the authors.

[...]

Researchers found that the majority of students who were proficient in Algebra I at the end of eighth grade followed an accelerated math track of geometry in ninth grade and Algebra II in 10th grade.

And those students made up the vast majority - 75 percent - of all those in their class who would ever become proficient in algebra by high school graduation.

Not a single student who earned below a grade of D in seventh-grade math went on to take calculus in high school, according to researchers.

(Excerpt) Read more at sfgate.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; US: California
KEYWORDS: algebra; education; math
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To: dfwgator
I thought Algebra was invented by the Egyptians before they became Islamic.

And that was even before they invented Cairo practice.

101 posted on 12/01/2012 6:23:20 PM PST by chajin
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To: thecodont
Poor math skills are why North Americans can't understand the "fiscal cliff"....the long-term effect of exponential functions as applied to uncurtailed growth of entitlements. The "cliff" is straight applied math, not politics; it is inevitable, and inescapable.

We went over the cliff years ago. All we are doing now is trying to scout out a place to land that doesn't bankrupt us all.

102 posted on 12/01/2012 6:25:29 PM PST by Scooter100 ("Now that the fog has lifted, I still can't find my pipe". --- S. Holmes)
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To: TruthBeforeAll

I really didn’t understand Math very well past the basic level, at which I excelled. The hippie teachers of the early 70’s served as automatons, who only checked for the correct answers. I could look at the Algebra I problems and instantly plug in the correct values for the problems without really understanding the concepts. I did all the worksheets, and the
“teachers” NEVER asked to see the work I did to “solve” the problems.
Kahn Academy is the BEST resource I have ever seen for those who want to learn math on there own. I learned more Algebra in three hours on the site than I learned in my entire high school career.
There were some good Math teachers in high school. The Calculus teacher I had senior year really tried to help me, but my Math skills were pitiful at that point, and I just couldn’t get it.


103 posted on 12/01/2012 6:37:27 PM PST by macrahanish #1
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To: thecodont

They’re getting closer, but...

They’re still attacking the wrong problem. The problem IS NOT Algebra - the problem is arithetic. If the kids were learning arithmentic, rather than punching a calculator, Algebra would come MUCH, MUCH, easier. Likewise it is not even possible to learn Algebra without some arithmentic skills - it’s just a blur of letters.


104 posted on 12/01/2012 6:52:29 PM PST by BobL (You can live each day only once. You can waste a few, but don't waste too many.)
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To: SpaceBar
But there is another variety [of algebra] which focuses on abstract structure that is independent of the pedestrian notion of numerical value. The latter is what is taught at the college level for math majors, and is one of the most beautiful disciplines of pure analysis that exists.

What would such a course (or courses) typically be called? Thanks.

105 posted on 12/01/2012 7:31:46 PM PST by thecodont
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To: SpaceBar
But there is another variety [of algebra] which focuses on abstract structure that is independent of the pedestrian notion of numerical value. The latter is what is taught at the college level for math majors, and is one of the most beautiful disciplines of pure analysis that exists.

What would such a course (or courses) typically be called? Thanks.

106 posted on 12/01/2012 7:33:24 PM PST by thecodont
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To: SpaceBar
But there is another variety [of algebra] which focuses on abstract structure that is independent of the pedestrian notion of numerical value. The latter is what is taught at the college level for math majors, and is one of the most beautiful disciplines of pure analysis that exists.

What would such a course (or courses) typically be called? Thanks.

107 posted on 12/01/2012 7:35:36 PM PST by thecodont
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To: Standing Wolf

Well said and an excellent post on the subject. Your experiences mirror mine in many ways. Ninth-grade algebra was a struggle and convinced me, incorrectly, that math wasn’t my thing so I stopped there as nothing further was required, at that time, for HS graduation.

My college major only required a minimal 4-hour math course. When I was commissioned from Army ROTC into the Field Artillery, I found out the folly of my choices because trigonometry was going to be part of missile flight firing calculations. It’s amazing how motivation can remove misplaced “fear of math” and I found out I actually understood it, likely in the same way you did with geometry and trig.

My next epiphany was when I went into construction and got another exposure to practical geometry/trig when figuring stairs and curved balcony openings for railings. Then I went to grad school where statistics were my next hurdle that I actually understood because the applications seemed very graphic.


108 posted on 12/01/2012 7:48:43 PM PST by T-Bird45 (It feels like the seventies, and it shouldn't.)
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To: SpaceBar

Ack. Sorry for the triple post.


109 posted on 12/01/2012 7:48:58 PM PST by thecodont
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To: SpaceBar

They’re not teaching the latter form in any high school - as you point out, the abstract stuff is for math majors.

The high school variant, as you also point out, can be learned by rote.

And therein lies the issue: The modern teaching methods movement decries “drill and kill,” but want to know something? There are some things where “drills” work just fine. I don’t have to even think about how to multiply numbers up to 15, because we memorized them. If I had to think about how to do multiplication, I would have never made it through all the math involved in electrical engineering.

Here’s the teaching method that would solve most all of today’s problems in education:

http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/103440/drug-free-treatment


110 posted on 12/01/2012 7:53:53 PM PST by NVDave
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To: thecodont

It’s called abstract algebra. Note carefully the word abstract and in particular its dictionary meaning. Then think about Picasso and how he represented his subject matter on canvas. You should have an “aha” moment.


111 posted on 12/01/2012 7:55:37 PM PST by SpaceBar
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To: thecodont

Do they want to learn?
Teaching beginning programming - to wit applied algebra to a great degree - I see many who are just unmotivated.


112 posted on 12/01/2012 8:02:42 PM PST by ctdonath2 ($1 meals: http://abuckaplate.blogspot.com)
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To: cva66snipe; JmyBryan
Algebra is largely unimportant in most peoples lives.

I tell my math-teacher sister that they need to drop the word "algebra" and call the class "what if?". Almost all of algebra can be taught by asking "what if" and discovering a method to determine the answer.

What if your car gets 9 mpg and you have 2 gallons of gas? Once they see how that one works, then generalize the question. What if your car gets 9 mpg ... how would you determine how much gas it needs to get somewhere?

What if you are at the south-west corner of a section of land (1 mile square) and you need to get to a point that is in the center of the section ... how far will you need to travel to get there by the shortest path?

What if Obama is re-elected and the national debt takes off in an exponential rate. How much will your generation owe in 12 years?

Start off asking "what if" and discover a method. Hopefully, discover two or three and learn that there are usually multiple ways to get to the correct answer ... and, most importantly, how to determine which one is the better method in this problem.

Of course, all this might explain why I'm teaching computers and not math.

113 posted on 12/01/2012 8:12:01 PM PST by Stegall Tx (Living off your tax dollars can be kinda fun, but not terribly profitable.)
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To: thecodont

At the community college where I work, they have found that if a student passes their remedial math classes, they have a very high likelihood to complete their degree. But if they fail any one portion of their remedial math pathway, they almost always drop out before completing their degree.


114 posted on 12/01/2012 8:13:55 PM PST by Stegall Tx (Living off your tax dollars can be kinda fun, but not terribly profitable.)
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To: Stegall Tx

Here’s one:

What if you have enough money to buy $30 worth of groceries per week for one month? If you follow the servings guidelines for good nutrition, i.e., fruits, dairy, meat, vegetables and cereals, what would you buy and eat?


115 posted on 12/01/2012 8:15:01 PM PST by combat_boots (The Lion of Judah cometh. Hallelujah. Gloria Patri, Filio et Spiritui Sancto!)
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To: JmyBryan
Algebra is largely unimportant in most peoples lives.

Last week the NYT Xword had an algebra theme, with clues ( all across ) "Part one of problem", "Part two of problem", and "Answer to problem". Answers to clues were:

XPLUSYISSIXTEEN

XMINUSYISFOUR

XISTENANDYISSIX

116 posted on 12/01/2012 8:16:26 PM PST by dr_lew
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To: NVDave

One of the funniest scenes from south park.


117 posted on 12/01/2012 8:25:04 PM PST by SpaceBar
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To: Mad Dawgg
I have always struggled with Algebra. No teacher can decipher why. They've tried many approaches with me over the years but for some reason I cannot "see it" in my head. However Geometry is as easy as writing my name.

Well, have you tried Book II of Euclid's Elements? This is nothing but familiar introductory algebra, but expressed in geometric form. Of course to Euclid, there was no other way.

If a straight line be bisected and a straight line be added to it in a straight line, the rectangle contained by the whole with the added straight line and the added straight line together with the square on the half is equal to the square on the straight line made up of the half and the added straight line.

118 posted on 12/01/2012 8:28:04 PM PST by dr_lew
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To: RegulatorCountry

“My lightbulb moment occurred via coursework in statistics and probability, a very amusing field in some ways”

my first challenging course was college stats. Our first test was on the third day. It covered the first three chapters of the book. All about descriptive statistics, averages, mean, median, mode, standard deviation etc. I was sick as a dog when I took the test and I barely remember taking it. I got a 40. The teacher stood up in class and said that anyone who got less than an 80 on the test was too stupid and should go drop the class.

I thought to myself who are you to tell me I am stupid. I dug in so hard I never got anything less than 100 on any assignment or test in that class. To this day that was one of my most enjoyable classes. I finally realized that the teacher didn’t really think we were stupid he was challenging us.

We had lots of practical case assignments and cool projects. Found out later the other classes didn’t take their first tes until 3 weeks in to the course and they didn’t finish half of the book. We had 2 books and finished them both. That was the class that taught me school is what you make of it and you can learn anything you just have to have the drive.

My stats teacher also had a saying. Contrary to popular opinion statistics don’t lie. Statisticians lie. We had one entire section of the course on manipulation and pulling apart public statistics cases and proving manipulation by the researcher. Fun class.


119 posted on 12/01/2012 8:30:12 PM PST by Syntyr (Happiness is two at low eight!)
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To: thecodont
Yeah, guess what? If you have an 85 IQ (and many coming over the border are in that range or lower, sorry that is factual) you can't take a higher level math.

Now mix that 85 IQ with jacked up home lives and you've got a kid that will be lucky to pass Business Math 1.

120 posted on 12/01/2012 8:32:31 PM PST by riri (Plannedopolis-look it up. It's how the elites plan for US to live.)
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To: SpaceBar
... The latter is what is taught at the college level for math majors, and is one of the most beautiful disciplines of pure analysis that exists.

I feel a song coming on.

121 posted on 12/01/2012 8:34:32 PM PST by dr_lew
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To: thecodont
California students who fail algebra and repeat the course are pretty much doomed to fail again,

That would be because the reason they failed is because they were not well grounded in basic math skills.

Unless that was corrected then you are wasting your time to put them through it again.

One of my friends children was having problems with dividing fractions. I told him to "invert, cancel and multiply". He had no idea what that was so I showed him. He was shocked at how simple it was and how the answer was right every time.

The nest week he told me the teacher had told him that he could not do that, when I asked why he said that she didn't know how to do it either and so he was not to do it.

IMHO if you can't divide fractions you can't do algebra.

122 posted on 12/01/2012 8:35:26 PM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (Fate plays chess and you don't find out until too late that he's been using two queens all along)
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To: dr_lew

I’m Game... I’ll give it a shot.


123 posted on 12/01/2012 8:48:10 PM PST by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
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To: Mad Dawgg

How about the excerpt I posted? According to your account, you should be able to picture it readily. It is after all very simple, but I have to think of the algebraic form in order to follow it initially, as do most people who go nosing into Book II, I suppose.


124 posted on 12/01/2012 9:05:05 PM PST by dr_lew
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To: Paladin2

Math can be used to model climate change.

Look, I’m not criticizing higher mathmatics or algebra. It’s fine for those who are interested in it and/or use it in their careers.

But I still fail to see why we try to shove everyone into the same box in education.


125 posted on 12/01/2012 9:07:12 PM PST by wildbill (You're just jealous because the Voices talk oMnly to me.Reid)
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To: SpaceBar
Here's a picture of me reaching to open my copy of an ABSTRACT ALGEBRA text I purchased years ago, and keep close at hand at all times:

... WHEW! That was close !!!

126 posted on 12/01/2012 9:11:27 PM PST by dr_lew
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To: NVDave
They’re not teaching the latter form in any high school...

I hear what you're saying and point taken. Reading all the various responses above by people who have had difficulty with it, reinforces a notion I've had for years that the one key ingredient that is rarely communicated is that math, seen from just the right angle, with correct lighting, is fun. But it's hard to convey that sometimes when the objective seems to be topheavy with "getting the right answer", when the real goal is insight.
127 posted on 12/01/2012 9:14:21 PM PST by SpaceBar
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To: Cen-Tejas

Fair enough. Congrats on your successes!


128 posted on 12/01/2012 9:32:18 PM PST by TruthBeforeAll (Liberals love to do what is "best" for you, even if it kills you.)
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To: SpaceBar
... the one key ingredient that is rarely communicated is that math, seen from just the right angle, with correct lighting, is fun.

I wouldn't want to quibble with that, but what is usually said is that so and so or such and such MAKES math, or science, fun. This drives me crazy. The current fad is to load up the exposition with slang and cute talk. Cf. the JPL MSL page. They have a blog page for Curiosity, where Curiosity herself blogs in the first person. They also explain its construction using human metaphor, without deviation: Its legs, its eyes, its brain ...

And if I may go ahead and quibble, is fun really the point? Puzzles and such are fun, I guess, so you can have mathematical fun, but this is just by the way. You yourself spoke of the beauty. I never really feel that way about it though, to be honest. It's certainly gratifying. It's an "itch" really. Newton was asked how he was able to arrive at his celebrated results and he replied, "By thinking on them constantly."

129 posted on 12/01/2012 9:36:59 PM PST by dr_lew
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To: SpaceBar

I agree heartily.

There’s one additional angle here: Too many public school teachers are “scared” of math.

My wife went to a teaching program about eight years ago for two years - since she already had her BS, she needed only the teaching method and state-mandated classes to get her cert.

Well, she dropped the whole idea of teaching. She was horrified by how blatantly *stupid* most teaching candidates are. They’re terrified of math. When my wife tried to help these women learn math, she got not shortage of attitude blown back on her.

She came away from the whole experience thinking (with justification) that public school teachers are a) incompetent and b) are proud of it.


130 posted on 12/01/2012 10:20:55 PM PST by NVDave
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To: wildbill

Because employers should be able to assume that a high school graduate has a minimal level of competence in basic skills that are required by employers. It used to be that employers could give skills tests to prospective employees.

Then the lawsuits started when it turned out that most minority graduates couldn’t pass the skills tests.

This is how we got so far down the road of “everyone should go to college” crap. The fact that some bozo has a BA has become a substitute for a competence test.


131 posted on 12/01/2012 10:24:35 PM PST by NVDave
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To: thecodont

We just escaped from San Mateo CO California and their schools. My eldest son’s third grade teacher taught multiplication by showing the class a video and then having them break into groups to “work out the best answer”. This after the distract spent millions to install “whiteboards” and video projectors in every classroom for the newly adopted enVision math program.


132 posted on 12/01/2012 11:43:50 PM PST by brothers4thID (Death had to take him sleeping, else he would have put up a fight.)
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To: JmyBryan

Sorry, friend, but I’m going to have to disagree with you. Basic algebra is necessary to correctly set up formulas in an Excel spreadsheet for a business owner tracking employee performance. As an author, (granted I’m a scifi author) I had to use algebra to check the facts in my book. Algebra is even necessary for archaeologists, as my mother found out when she had to have her high school freshman daughter set up her electrolysis equipment.


133 posted on 12/02/2012 12:00:30 AM PST by brothers4thID (Death had to take him sleeping, else he would have put up a fight.)
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To: dr_lew; SpaceBar

Thanks for the picture for your book

http://www.amazon.com/Abstract-Algebra-Dover-Books-Mathematics/dp/0486688887/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1354438268&sr=8-16&keywords=abstract+algebra

Dover has good math texts at a low price.

This one by Dummit and Foote has many good reviews

http://www.amazon.com/Abstract-Algebra-Edition-David-Dummit/dp/0471433349/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354438075&sr=8-1&keywords=abstract+algebra

but is pretty expensive (about $80).


134 posted on 12/02/2012 12:56:34 AM PST by thecodont
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To: thecodont

Those who fail Algebra, always have a bright future as earth scientists studying Global Warming and Evolution.


135 posted on 12/02/2012 1:23:50 AM PST by Cvengr (Adversity in life and death is inevitable. Thru faith in Christ, stress is optional.)
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To: Raycpa
Everyone learns math differently. If the method of teaching failed to teach, trying the same thing again is not really going to work if the student was motivated.

Yep - I could never remember the multiplication tables so i opted to do a combination of multiplications/additions - 9X7 became 3X7 (21) and 21X3 = 63

136 posted on 12/02/2012 5:07:06 AM PST by trebb (Allies no longer trust us. Enemies no longer fear us.)
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To: Stegall Tx

Interesting—and not surprising.


137 posted on 12/02/2012 5:16:53 AM PST by 9YearLurker
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To: Stegall Tx

Unfortunately, your approach is too close to how basic math is now being taught: here’s a problem, break into groups and come up with ways you could solve the problem (preferably using estimation).

That all, except for the group bit, would be fine if the students had already been taught how to solve such problems, but they’re supposed to be coming up with approaches on their own. Needlessly confusing and time wasting for average and below-average students especially. They first need to be taught the tools and when and how to use them. That is elementary algebra.


138 posted on 12/02/2012 5:22:39 AM PST by 9YearLurker
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To: thecodont

I enjoyed and did well in Algebra but failed geometry (I wasn’t motivated to memorize all those theorems). Algebra was fun and can be applied in everyday life. I’ve never had any need for geometry or trig for that matter....


139 posted on 12/02/2012 5:25:40 AM PST by Hot Tabasco (Jab her with a harpoon.....)
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To: thecodont

Been there, done that, back in early seventies.
Grade 8, first semester. I managed an B, mostly because class was a bunch of dummies and we had not got far into the book.

There were 4 separate classes at that time so “They” decide to put all A,B students in one class away from the dummies.

I got a third quarter D, sat there ignoring everything in the fourth for a F and failed algebra.

My best buddy stayed with the dummies and got a C but passed Algebra.
So we go to high school and they would not give me credit for the first half where I got a B and I had to retake algebra where my buddy was done with math.

So no credits and I retake Algebra getting an A for the first semester and what do “they” do.

Yep they put all us A students in one class. I cried and whined but wound up barely passing.

Long story short I retook it in college and did real well but needed some after class help from a great student/teacher


140 posted on 12/02/2012 6:08:32 AM PST by winodog (Thank you Jesus for the calm in my life)
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To: thecodont

I was a B student in Algebra, but everything in Geometry & Trigonometry just clicked for me. I found it fascinating from the get go.


141 posted on 12/02/2012 6:14:10 AM PST by Ted Grant
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To: NVDave

Most jobs for employers only need the basic skills of basic math such as addition, multiplication, division and decimals.

In fact, there are very few entry level jobs for graduating high school students that require algebra. Name one if you can. I guarantee it will be the exception, not the rule.


142 posted on 12/02/2012 6:41:39 AM PST by wildbill (You're just jealous because the Voices talk oMnly to me.Reid)
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To: winodog

I should add that I went on to work construction ,start a company and do takeoffs, estimates, etc and knowing algebra helped me immensely.
I could run things through my head on the job sight and give answers immediatly that other workers had no clue where to begin.

It seems as if algebra helped me frame everything else to where I could look at problems differently and solve it in more ways then one, if that makes sense.


143 posted on 12/02/2012 6:49:35 AM PST by winodog (Thank you Jesus for the calm in my life)
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To: winodog
It's fine that you love algebra and were able to adapt your skills to your job—or perhaps adapt your job to your skills.

Others have different brain patterns and skills. For example, I was a successful insurance salesman and entrepeneur. Now I am a writer, author, and writing teacher with skills in those areas.

I don't use algebra, but I can spot a bad choice of words a mile away. Example: It's a “job site” not a “job sight”

In my world, any report or bid you might present that made such a mistake would downgrade your competence because of illiteracy.

. We all have different talents. I simply wouldn't be any good in a technical job that requires left brain skills.

144 posted on 12/02/2012 7:28:20 AM PST by wildbill (You're just jealous because the Voices talk oMnly to me.Reid)
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To: winodog

Your buddy was done with math after an eighth grade, slowed down, algebra class?

He sounds like a poster child for the American educational system!


145 posted on 12/02/2012 7:42:00 AM PST by 9YearLurker
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To: winodog

Your buddy was done with math after an eighth grade, slowed down, algebra class?

He sounds like a poster child for the American educational system!


146 posted on 12/02/2012 7:42:00 AM PST by 9YearLurker
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To: wildbill

In my world anal obsessive people are to be avoided


147 posted on 12/02/2012 9:14:53 AM PST by winodog (Thank you Jesus for the calm in my life)
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To: 9YearLurker

He had to take one other math course to get enough credits but it was not algebra or higher.

Some of us managed to get by in life without the greatest education in the world or a college degree.


148 posted on 12/02/2012 9:18:27 AM PST by winodog (Thank you Jesus for the calm in my life)
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To: thecodont

!


149 posted on 12/02/2012 9:27:29 AM PST by skinkinthegrass (Anger a Conservative by telling a lie; Anger a Liberal by telling the truth....RWR 8-)
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To: thecodont

I had an awful time with Algebra. I finally got it once I saw the practical use for it. Things like electrical formulas (Ohm’s Law) and some basic financial calculations. Once I saw the purpose for it I didn’t find it that horrible. I’m not any math genius by any stretch but I at least ended up with a B avg and went on to calculus.


150 posted on 12/02/2012 9:30:00 AM PST by YankeeReb
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