The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 29, 2013

Your View: Socially acceptable stupidity

JOPLIN, Mo. — As classes resume, I am forced again to observe the diminishing level of mastery in mathematics. In our culture, if someone confesses that they are horrible at mathematics, we simply laugh and agree or make justifications as to why this weakness is acceptable. Would we offer up the same response if someone acknowledged his or her illiteracy?

At Missouri Southern State University, there are approximately 6,000 students, with 600 to 800 of them beginning their mathematical course requirements in remedial mathematics.

These courses don’t count for college credit but are required if students fail to obtain a satisfactory score on their ACT or placement tests. So how well are our schools assessing proper retention of critical mathematical material if roughly 10 percent of college students at MSSU must take remedial mathematics?  

I am not blaming today’s mathematical stupidity solely on our education system. Education is the responsibility of the educator, the student and the parent. Without all three working hard together, a vicious spiral downward is inevitable. If parents send their children to school and expect to have no participation in their education, then they are failing their students just as much as a bad education system.  

A change is desperately needed. Simply passing students only hinders them in the long run as they are not grasping the material needed for the next level of mathematics. But a change in the classroom is not enough. Without dedicated parents who are willing to sit down and work with their children nightly in mathematics, modifying the classroom setting will only end in failure. However, this again will not be enough. A change in the perception of mathematics is what is truly needed; mathematics has been given a bad rap for far too long. To overcome these obstacles, our society must view it as something that everyone must have a certain level of knowledge in.  

So here’s my challenge. Let’s band together as a society and stop enabling our children to spiral further into mathematical stupidity, and let’s start encouraging and promoting better mathematical education and retention. With proper changes, remedial mathematics courses would be the exception, not the norm.

Heather Miller


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