Friday, May 8, 2009

Why colleges should require algebra for graduation?

Mathematics is a subject not designed for everyone to appreciate. Too many people complain about its difficulty and absurdity. In fact, a number of people hold that they quit college because of a failing grade in Algebra. Others claim that they never used any mathematical skills other than addition and subtraction. Thus, the question of whether Algebra should be a pre-requisite in graduation.

Algebra is far from being a difficult subject. It is only the first step in learning higher and more complicated courses such as Differential Calculus, Analytical Calculus, Differential Equation, etc. But these higher courses are obviously taken only by those who found mathematics interesting, which, the exposure in basic mathematics courses such as General mathematics and Algebra or sometimes Trigonometry allowed them to realize.

There are many reasons why some people hate Mathematics and one of these is the bad experience or poor foundation in primary or secondary education in the subject. It is very essential that the mathematics teachers in primary years as well as in secondary years are able to encourage interest in the students. The teacher must be able to make learning fun. This will prepare them to handle Algebra in college. Another reason why college students dread the thought of taking College Algebra is because most, if not all, of the college or university instructors and professors do not care much into teaching strategies that will enable the students to learn. The unspoken principle in colleges or universities is, “who cares if you fail as long as the syllabus is done.” The students are left digging in their heels just to pass the course.

But still, why Algebra is a requirement in college? Algebra has a lot of practical applications in daily life that most people are not aware of. For example, cooking uses recipes and if you want to double the batch, you must double all the ingredients. This is an application of the algebraic equation principle, do unto one side what you do unto the other side. Stopping in a gasoline station for a quick refill requires algebra too. How much a full gasoline tank will cost you given a price per liter; or how much liters would your money allow you to fill – a quick estimation. Even youngsters who are planning to host a weekend party unsurprisingly use algebra in predicting how much people will come to the party. Take a look at this experience of Robert S. from yahoo answers.

“I'm 25 and so is the dude I share an apartment with. We had a large party a few months ago, and we needed to estimate how many people would show up. We knew that not everyone we invited would come, and some people we invited would bring guests. So, we estimated it like this:

1) Half of the people we invite won't come.
2) Half of the people who do come will bring one guest.

So, how many people will come?

Well, let N be the number of people we invite. By assumption (1), we estimate N/2 regular invitees will come, and the number of guests will be (N/2)/2 (half of the number of regular invitees, by assumption (2)).

So, we have:
N/2 + (N/2)/2 = 3N/4 = .75N

As it turned out, the assumptions were pretty accurate, and we did in have roughly .75N people at our party, where N was just over 100.”

Furthermore, not everyone is certain what will happen later in their life and career and they might just stumble in a profession that requires basic algebraic skills. For example, a commodity broker, buyer, seller and reseller witnessed that he uses algebra on a daily basis even using formulas to calculate basic percentage averages for certain types of commodities on any given day. He says that he was not a great algebra student back in his days but that if it were not for algebra, he would not live a lifestyle that he lives today.
There are still so much of practical applications of algebra worth mentioning starting from fencing your home lot, to shopping or making a living. But above all, algebra is a big help in planning and calculating how much you need and ought to do to get a good future.

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