Basic algebra not so basic in New York

The New York Daily News article used the words shocking and disturbing to describe the math problem on display by college freshman who graduated from New York City high schools. Are they kidding? Are you telling me they did not see this coming?

I take that back. You know, this is not a problem that has just materialized. The lower standards of high school graduates has been on display for the last four years in SAT scores, but more importantly, we know students are not performing as well as they have in the past. I can provide you examples of interns and temporary staff working in Fortune 100 companies with little or no comprehension of math or reading, but boy could their thumbs work a Blackberry keyboard.

And from the… 90 percent of City University of New York freshman can’t get through basic algebra.

More city kids are graduating from high school, but that doesn’t mean they can do college math.

Basic algebra involving fractions and decimals stumped a group of City University of New York freshmen – suggesting city schools aren’t preparing them, a CUNY report shows. …

During their first math class at one of CUNY’s four-year colleges, 90% of 200 students tested couldn’t solve a simple algebra problem, the report by the CUNY Council of Math Chairs found. Only a third could convert a fraction into a decimal.

And get this.

CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein countered that he and [New York City Schools Chancellor Joel] Klein joined forces several years ago to “tackle the problem head on…. At the senior colleges, we’ve seen massive improvement,” he said.

Several years ago? And 90 percent of 200 students tested could not solve a simple algebra problem?

How much money went to waste there?

We’ve discussed student scores before, and directly tied performance to median home income, and back in August Catherine Rampell took a look at College Board statistics on SAT scores and confirmed what we already new. Check it out.

4 replies
  1. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    I see freshmen every day, and I am routinely appalled at the degree of unpreparedness that they display.  Words like "perforate" are unknown even to my better students.  Handwriting?  Forget it.   A lost art.  I need the equivalent of a Rosetta stone to decipher what some students consider "printing"!  Simple math?  The little pictures of hamburgers and shakes on the keys of fast food cash registers tell you all you need to know about that.  Did you know that they allow the use of calculators on the SATs?  Many colleges have remedial colleges within a college to get newly admitted freshmen up to the standards necessary for many introductory college courses.  This is a disgrace, and a sure indicator that the government schools and the teacher's unions are failing our children.


    Do what most of our politicians and teachers do: send your kids to private school if you can.  Take a personal and daily interest in their schoolwork.  Scream for vouchers and teacher accountability.


    I look forward to being my local school system's worst nightmare!  😉

  2. Linda Mae
    Linda Mae says:

    Dimsdale:  Check out Singapore math standards or curriculum and you will fall in love with the common sense approach to teaching kids – and making them memorize their basic facts – which then allows them to learn concepts.  It's a great program.  Also check the No Child Left Behind 2 year math study results.  They are right on the mark.  I now work with adults and they have the same problems because in 1986 the Teachers of Math swung to emphasizing concept over concrete.  Great for everyone but 30 % of all students who are concrete learners.

  3. CT-Amy
    CT-Amy says:

    Last week my daughter brought home a D on a math assignment. Upon closer examination, I realized that she had the problem correctly done and the answer was also correct. (My husband and I hold 3 different engineering degrees. We had a high school Algebra/Calculus teacher check her, and a Yale college professor. They all agreed that the work merited an A.) Since my child had told us repeatedly that the teacher ‘hates her’, I made an appointment to see her.

    When I asked the teacher for clarification, it became painfully clear that the teacher is not qualified, as she could not understand my child's work. The D was because she ‘didn’t like’ the write up. In addition, the next day, she had a 'math vocabulary' quiz. I immediately noticed several of the words were incorrectly defined in the study sheet (also confirmed by the HS math teacher and Yale prof.) At this point, I have no confidence in her 7th grade teacher. All my children are now doing Singapore Math at home along with their regular math at school.

    I am not surprised that US children are not doing well in math. I think that teachers are taught to teach. Unfortunately, they are not always knowledgeable of the subjects that they teach. I suspect that my child’s math teacher took far more college courses in teaching than in math. To make it worse, for years, I have questioned the math curriculum that my children’s teachers are required to teach. Requiring teachers to use some of these curriculums will cripple even the greatest and most knowledgeable of teachers.

    PS A math teacher recommended that I watch an eye opening video on YouTube discussing a popular math curriculum, Everyday Math, being used in many schools. It’s called Everyday Math, an Inconvenient Truth. Check it out.

  4. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    I am soooooo getting Singapore Math.  Thanks, ladies!


    CT-Amy: I would OWN that teacher, put her on notice, and scrutinize each and every exam and assignment!

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