Don't be too ambitious with math - April Avison

The local news reported last week that Georgia education officials are considering a new way of teaching math that would "combine concepts from courses in algebra, geometry and trigonometry."

If adopted, this method of teaching would require students to learn complicated mathematical concepts at a much younger age. Upon graduating from eighth grade, students will be expected to know most of geometry and algebra.

Yikes! I'm glad I'm not in school now. I'm 27 years old and I still don't know most of geometry and algebra. Math was the most difficult subject I ever encountered. I remember those horrible nights at the kitchen table with my dad on one side and my algebra book on the other, crying because I just couldn't understand it. Even today, when we go over the budget at a Rotary board meeting or I have to edit a story on property taxes, I have no clue what the numbers mean. The last time I wrote a property tax story was a couple of years ago, and I was embarrassed to have to ask Tax Commissioner Andy Pipkin to come sit down with me at my office, and go over each item as if I were a child. Math just doesn't come naturally to me, in the same way that spelling or grammar might not come naturally to someone else.

Apparently the proposed new curriculum for Georgia is common in Japan, where students' test scores are reportedly much higher. Although it may be an honest attempt to raise the intelligence level of Georgia scholars, it may also be somewhat ambitious, considering that a national assessment last year found that 41 percent of Georgia eighth-graders were below basic proficiency in math and fourth and eighth-graders both were below national averages.

While math is a useful subject, I can also attest that the nights of slaving over that algebra book at the kitchen table were not useful. I do use math – we all do – but I don't use any sort of complex calculations that involve numbers, letters, formulas, pi, square roots – the list goes on. Any mathematical calculation that involves me doing anything but adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing can be done with a calculator or the help of our friendly tax commissioner.

Some kids will breeze through Algebra I and sail right along through geometry, Algebra II and trigonometry. More power to 'em. I admire whatever it is they have in their brains that allows them to understand those crazy calculations. But I hope the state will have mercy on those of us who don't comprehend it quite as well, and not allow another opportunity for more failing grades due to an over-ambitious curriculum.

April Avison is the city editor of the Daily Herald. Her column appears on Mondays. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at aavison@henryherald.com.