Home > Uncategorized > Algebra is Your Friend… AND It Might be the Most Subversive Subject Taught in Schools Today

Algebra is Your Friend… AND It Might be the Most Subversive Subject Taught in Schools Today

Several years ago (far more than I like to think), my older daughter was bemoaning the fact that she had to take algebra, which seemed pointless to her. My response to her lament was to point out several examples of how “algebra was her friend”, some of which were included in the Futurism post from three years ago written by Jolene Creighton. And while the mathematical aspect of algebra is important, as Ms. Creighton notes in her post, the cognitive elements of algebra are even more important. She writes:

You won’t use algebra for your job, so why should we teach kids how to do it? At least, that is the argument so many people seem to be concerned with. Why should we raise people to be intelligent, productive members of society—why raise them to be problem solvers and critical thinkers who are able to respond to a multitude of issues—when, really, all we need them to be is consumers and participants in our capitalist society?

If we want people to only be capable of the bare minimum, if we don’t want to encourage them—be they blue collar factory workers or white collar stock brokers—to explore the universe around them, to put down the smartphone and try using their brain…well, then I guess we shouldn’t bother teaching them algebra. Hell, if that’s our goal, we shouldn’t really bother teaching them anything.

I’ve always believed that algebra was the gateway to metacognition. It helps students think about thinking and to reduce their thoughts into symbols that they can manipulate… and in so doing come to the realization that they are not their thoughts. In that context, algebra might be the most subversive subject offered in our schools today!

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