Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rose Renekamp: Give math a chance

What was your least favorite subject in school? Almost four in 10 adults responding to a recent AP-AOL News poll identified math as their least favorite subject. That's unfortunate. But what's worse is that we may be passing our aversion to math on down to our children. Fewer than half of 2005 high school graduates who took the ACT college admissions test are ready for first year college algebra classes.

That decline is evident with ACT test-takers. Over the past 10 years, among students who responded to a question about their plans for a college major, fewer students each year expressed interest in engineering and related technical fields.

And this students results are typical because of it.

Clutching the shredded tatters of my pride and dignity, I trudged to the office hours of my math instructor every week, seeking an explanation for the increasingly mysterious problems in the textbook. My instructor welcomed my presence as she would welcome the Angel of Death. Irritated? She was terrified. Explain…the problems? Articulate…the steps? Relate…the concepts? I would ask questions, and she would respond by completing yet another sample problem as fast as she possibly could, blushing nervously. I felt like I was on a Star Trek episode. "Captain, I think I understand…the creature communicates through multivariable calculus problems!"

We are growing fewer and fewer engineers and scientists and doctors here at home and it will be taking a big toll on us in the near future.

I know that there are weeder courses and such but with more and more students needing to take remedial classes in college more and more will just take an easier route.

Sure engineering is hard work, but we should not make it almost impossible to get started.


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