Yes, there are other ways to avoid a math problem

I read with interest a letter to AW&ST titled “Avoiding a math problem” by George Epstein, Lost Angeles, California. The letter is copied as follows:

Norman Augustine tells of his experience when he “was deemed unqualified to teach eighth-grade math” in his state. Perhaps my experience will add to the need for a change in mindset on the part of high-school administrators.

Several years ago, I was at a meeting with the president of the Los Angeles teachers’ union. He was bemoaning the fact that a large percentage of high-school seniors were unable to pass the Algebra I requirement for graduation.

The solution, he said, was to provide more funding. That led me to say: “There are ways to solve this problem without additional money. We have a great asset in this area, hundreds of thousands of retired aerospace engineers who are adept at algebra. I am sure many would be glad to volunteer to work with the kids to help them master algebra.”

His reply: A shrug of the shoulders and a repeat of “Give us more money; just give us more money.” Despite his dismissal, I thought it was a viable idea; so I met with two other Aerospace Corp. retirees. Both were enthusiastic about being able to use their skills to help our kids master algebra. A deputy Los Angles education commissioner also likes the idea; he had his deputy contact me to set up a meeting to discuss the plan. She called me a few weeks later and told me: “Forget it! The assistant superintendent for secondary education must approve the idea before a meeting can be set up. He will not approve it, “she told me.

When there are so few teachers skilled at math (algebra), I would expect good leadership to jump at the idea of having skilled engineers volunteer to work with these kids. I understand that the school system solved the problem by eliminating passage of the Algebra I test as a requirement for graduation.

In this quote, two possible ways are listed: One: cut of the requirement; and two: get volunteers involved. Unfortunately, number one was taken.

Those who pay minimum attention to NASA should have learned about Augustine from the final report submitted to the U.S. President Barack Obama. Norman Augustine’s words are: “Having always wanted to be a teacher, I took early retirement from the aerospace industry to pursue a career in education. I was deemed unqualified to teach eighth grade math in any school in my state. Happily, I was welcomed to the faculty at Princeton University, where the student newspaper ranked my course as one of 10 that every Princetonian should take before graduating.” Apparently, what he said about “unqualified to teach eighth-grade math” was referred to a teaching credential system in the United States. Because he didn’t take classes for the credential, the state didn’t issue him a credential and therefore disqualify him to teach in the state.

While I agree that relevant credentials or certificates are necessary to guarantee the quality of teaching in schools, I do think the system itself needs improvement. Norman Augustine‘s case is a good example. He was the Former Lockheed Martin chairman. Recently, President Ohbama assigned him to lead a team to evaluate NASA’s exploration policy. It is ridiculous to say that he can not teach in high school. Can there be some alternatives?

Take my case as an example: I don’t have a teaching credential in mathematics because I never took those required classes in the United States, but I did finish all the necessary courses: math, statistics, education, psychology, etc. I was a full time professor at a very good university in the U.S. and I had more than ten years classroom teaching experiences in the U.S. But still, I can not teach in public schools in California because I don’t have the required teaching credential and I am not eligible to get one. I think this should change. When changes happen, a math problem can be solved.


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One Response to “Yes, there are other ways to avoid a math problem”

  1. COMPUTERS - Interactive learning students classroom response system - Says:

    […] Yes, there are other ways to avoid a math problem « Paviavio […]

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