NOTE: PLEASE say if you DON`T want your name and/or email address published when sending VDARE email.
Re: "No Real Solution"—Arnold Schwarzenegger`s Algebra For Dummies By Steve Sailer
Hugh McInnish [email him] writes from Huntsville, AL
Sailer`s column on California `s new requirement, advocated by Gov. Schwarzenegger, to have all 7th-graders take Algebra I was especially interesting to me because it vibrated at one of my resonant frequencies.
During the academic year 1963-64 I taught math at a small South Alabama town (salary $4,000; I retired after a career spanning nine grueling months). One of my classes was Algebra I for 9th-graders. The class was small, about a dozen students, and in most respects was homogeneous: All the students were white and from two-parent, caring families, the kind of families who didn`t hesitate to drop in for a chat with the teacher.
But the homogeneity ended when math ability was considered. The ability of the students ranged from bright to average to fairly dull.
I remember with great fondness one particular student. He was an energetic, engaged student with an appealing personality. But he was not a gifted algebra student. I recall especially his difficulty in understanding the rule for multiplying variables with exponents.
The reader will doubtless remember that Xa x Xb = Xa+b. But the abstraction was just too slippery for Jerry. He missed it every time. Finally he said in desperation, "I`m going to write this on the inside cover of my book, and I`m gonna remember it when I`m dead!"
Well, on the next test I gave them something like "X4 x X5 = ?" and you know what happened. Jerry missed it. All he had to do was add 4 and 5, get 9, and write X9 for the answer.
Jerry did not deserve to be scolded. He just was not a gifted math student. And of course that`s just Sailer`s point—and mine. Not every student is capable of doing Algebra I in the 9th grade, and certainly not in the 7th. Our classrooms are populated with a certain number of Jerrys, and not the Governor of California, nor the President Of The United States can change that demographic fact.