This article entitled “High school math failing to make the college grade” doesn’t tell any college math professor who’s taught freshman-level math recently anything we didn’t already know. Namely:
Students are heading to college less prepared for math than they were a decade or two ago, forcing colleges and universities to rewrite textbooks and add more review work and remedial courses.
Math professors in the Lehigh Valley laid the blame on integrated math programs that don’t emphasize basic skills, high-stakes testing and the push to give students higher-level math courses at increasingly younger ages.
“Many bright students are hurried through algebra and trigonometry courses on their way toward statistics and calculus,” said Marie Wilde, chairwoman of the mathematical and information sciences program at Cedar Crest College in Allentown.
”They arrive at college without the critical skills they should have spent much more time developing, rather than jumping prematurely into what has traditionally been considered college-level work.”
Phi Beta Cons, who get the hat tip for this article, call it a consequence of dumbing down the math curriculum in high school. I think it’s more accurate to call it a dumbing up, since the problem is apparently originating from hurrying students through basic courses so that they can take calculus and statistics — which used to be considered advanced to the point of being inaccessible to all but the most skilled students — earlier in their high school years.
Is it really the fault of integrated curricula, high-stakes testing, and “dumbing up”? Or is this phenomenon — which I do not doubt is real — more deeply rooted in cultural causes, particularly in the popular culture and in the family?