Of course, the cartoon is funnier if you remember, even dimly, your lessons about imaginary numbers and irrational numbers.
Some primary school teachers in the Washington, D.C. area apparently had so much trouble remembering much simpler concepts (like whether 43 is greater than 23) that their school districts have hired math tutors to tutor the teachers.
So writes Michael Alison Chandler in Thursday's Washington Post. Specifically, Chandler writes:
Arlington County and Alexandria have at least one part-time math specialist in every elementary school, and Fairfax County has more than 70 in elementary or middle schools. Montgomery County has "math content coaches" in about 50 elementary schools; Prince George's County has 20 coaches; and traditional D.C. public schools have 50. Many math specialists in the area work in high-poverty schools and are funded by the federal government. Other positions are paid for locally and subject to budget pressures.Long Suffering Spouse heard a story along these lines this morning over the radio here in Chicago. I don't know if the report she heard was inspired by Chandler's article or involved schools in the Chicago area. I couldn't find a story online concerning this topic other than Chandler's.
But the issue Chandler writes about is certainly not confined to the Washington, D.C. area: College students training to be teachers have very few math requirements.
Look: If our kids' grammar school teachers don't know basic algebra (and in some cases, apparently, don't grasp even the most basic math concepts) is it any wonder that our grammar school graduates can't place out of high school Algebra I?
I know I sound like the hysterical yuppie parent who frets his kid won't get into Harvard because he didn't secure a "place" in the "right" pre-school.
But this is for real: To get as far as Calculus in high school, kids must either place out of Algebra I as freshmen or be allowed to double up later on, as I was allowed to double up with Geometry and Algebra II as a high school sophomore, more than 35 years ago. It is the vanishingly small number of kids who take high school Calculus from which our dwindling pool of American-born engineers is drawn.
This is the future of our country at stake. We must demand more rigorous math standards in our schools.