High Schools should not require high-level math courses
Debate Rounds (3)
High-level math classes are defined as classes that are Geometry, Algebra II, and beyond. Algebra I and below are not high-level math classes for the purposes of this debate.
Since it is the first round, I will refrain from exhibiting my arguments. My challenge to you, is that you show that the concepts taught in Geometry, Algebra II, or beyond are not useful and applicable to the life of anyone functioning properly within the United States.
Point #2: Different people have different talents. Schools, instead of requiring high-level math classes, should have students determine their own affinity for math. With a math class that is specifically geared for this purpose, each student can decide for him/herself whether they want to continue learning math. It is wasteful of both the student's and the teacher's time to require students without the right mindset to learn the math. For college preparation, It is much more useful to build talents rather then trying to force a subject the student does not understand.
Point #3: Many students hate math, and it drains those students' energy. Math is one of the more difficult subjects for students. Especially for the students who cannot understand the concepts, this wasted energy used up by students who are only trying to graduate could have been spent doing something they are more passionate about. Other classes could assign more homework without these math classes being required, since the best math students don't need to spend that much energy at all to do the work. More energy means more learning available in other classes, and more overall learning for those students who do not want or need high-level math.
Point #4: Only students that are going into technical fields need these courses. High school is, by your primary definition, is to prepare students for college. Two ways it achieves that goal is to either A. Prepare students to choose a field (alternatively, a major in college) or B. Teach general knowledge that might be useful to all students. Do high-level math classes help in either of these ways? I think not. Students learn a sufficient amount of math in middle school to decide whether or not to choose a math related major, and high-level math classes are certainly not information that applies to all careers or everyday life. College is the perfect place for math classes to go, since math is only applicable to certain fields. Even students that might need these classes, but don't take them out of laziness in high school, can easily learn them in college. Those that don't go to college don't need to know these math concepts either.
For those that hate math and do not need it for a career, required high-level math classes in high school make no sense. High-level math classes should be optional in high school in order to graduate.
One thing that is crucial to this discussion is the outline of concepts that are involved in Algebra I and what I would point out that it lacks. The course includes the following: Real Numbers, Intro to Algebra, writing and solving equations, using proportions, solving inequalities, graphs, and functions, graphing equations, solving system (equality and inequality), exponents and polynomials, factoring polynomials, quadratic equations, exponential functions, radical equations, & rational equations.
My first argument is that the mathematical concepts in Algebra I are much more complicated and difficult than the simplest concept, and more practical concepts in Geometry. Geometries simplest concepts involve angles, and lines and planes. This is more applicable to the lives of individuals, and we use these things in normal everyday life. For example, one practice I have seen familiar in social behavior is the use of the time on a clock to tell someone to look at a particular direction. A typical conversation involving that would be like, "hey, check out that girl to my 3 o'clock" and this would correspond to a -90 degree. This is knowledge used in everyday trivial life that even mandates basic knowledge of concepts beyond Algebra I.
If we look on a more professional level, it is a even greater necessity to know concepts beyond Algebra I. From finding the most economical way to arrange boxes in a storage, to finding out how much fencing you might need to build a fence around your farm, the applications of mathematics are inevitable in every station of life (notice how I did not use STEM centered jobs as my point is that even the most basic tasks benefit from an understanding of mathematical concepts). Both these situations mandate an understanding of geometrical principles, which is a 'higher math' than algebra I, but even a fool would pick to study that before solving quadratic equations any day. My opposition mentioned that it is a waste of time due to its lack of practicality, or that it is too difficult for students, but he has obviously not considered it with much detail because the course he has proposed has more complex maths than simpler concepts in more advanced courses which bear more general utility too. Therefore, we should mandate education beyond just Algebra I.
My second point is that it better fulfills the purpose of high schools. The primary purpose as I have said before is to better prepare them for college, and if they do not pursue to do so, then to prepare them for functions of common occupations, and functioning in society. If the affirmative wants to dismiss this claim, they must prove why even the most complex lessons in Algebra I to qualify his claims, while the easiest of the 'high-level math' does not. My claim is that higher math classes better prepare students for college, even though they may not major in math related subjects. As I mentioned before, I will use an English major's requirements to support this.
My first evidence is that even a mediocre university such as Arizona State University (ASU) requires all it's freshman applicants to take a mathematics placement test. This is not something for only math, or even math related majors, but for every single individual entering the university. This shows that the affirmative has falsely claimed that people not pursuing maths do not need to study math beyond Algebra, but this naivete is contrary to the reality present in the US.
My second evidence is that even an English major going to ASU has to complete general math courses, which you did not deny, but that these courses involve the application of mathematics to real life situations, which is not thoroughly taught in Algebra I. Algebra I mostly deals with finding variables and solving them, but it does not pay attention to their practical as much, until Algebra II. Of course the equivalent of Algebra II in university is more difficult than in high school, so taking that class would not be redundant, but provide the basic understanding which is key to complete the class with ease. If we are truly concerned about math being too difficult for students, we need to better prepare them for their future in which math is inevitable.
These are adequate reasons, I believe, to firmly say that high-level math classes are applicable to most people's lives, and a universal necessity for people to function properly in the national community of the US.
I will provide the counter arguments to the proposition's arguments in round 3, if what I have already said does not convince you that what he is saying is not reason enough to not require high-level math classes. For a summary, my main two arguments is that helps the school fulfill its purpose, and that Algebra I contains more complex math than the simplest in the higher-level math classes and so the students are not facing an insurmountable challenge
Argument #1: I concede that the hardest mathematical concepts in Algebra I are more complicated and difficult than the simplest concepts in Geometry. However, the geometrical concepts that are needed for everyday life are covered in more than enough detail in 8th grade math in the US . Angles, pythagorean theorem, volume of multiple 3D shapes, and more are covered in the curriculum. The expression "at x o'clock" can be understood without even knowing the geometry in 8th grade. All anyone needs is to know how to read clocks.
All of these things, having to do with perimeter and area are adequately covered in middle school. I agree that algebra I concepts are probably less useful than geometry concepts, but I do not need to show the ideal order for math to be learned, or whether Algebra I should be taught. The only thing I need to show to win the debate is the concepts taught in my definition of high-level math classes should not be required. I am not arguing whether algebra I concepts should be required as opposed to geometry. This argument so far is inadequate to show that geometry has enough general utility to warrant being a required class. Again, there is a cost to having required classes that do not teach useful things to all students. Geometry is difficult for students without high spacial awareness (e.g. students that are right brain dominant ), and it takes up time, both time spent in the class period and doing homework.
Argument #2: Many of my original points relate to this very thing, that high-level math classes are career dependent, and that only students that will have majors that need these concepts need the class. Only about 23% of students in college in 1996 were taking a STEM major . This is outdated information, but it is still relevant. I also am of the opinion that the most complex lessons in Algebra I are also unnecessary for the average student, but that is not something that needs to be debated about. As I have said in my refutation of Argument #1, I only need to show my resolution. Con argues that I need to prove something about the most complex lessons in Algebra I, but I do not.
The requirements for universities are something that can be adjusted to assuming this is a change that occurs in most states across the US. In the context of high schools not requiring higher math classes, non-STEM majors will most likely not require applicants to know concepts that are not mandatory in high school. I refute Con's claim that Algebra II deals more with practical usages than Algebra I. None of my opponent's references support this idea and I cannot find anything that supports this idea as well. As for your next argument, math will not be difficult for those with the talent, and those students can take math optionally as an elective. It is, however, difficult for those without the talent, and I contend that they do not need it for their job or everyday life. I admit my mistake in not clarifying this in the first or second rounds, but I am assuming that majors unrelated to math should also lower math standards. That is not to say that these majors should not require any math classes in order to graduate with a degree in those majors, but they should focus on more general math knowledge that relates to life or parts of the major. College will have a better idea of what students need than high school due to the fact that students in college are pursuing a specific field of knowledge.
I want to re-iterate one point from my opening argument. The two ways high school achieves the goal to prepare students for college is to A. Prepare students to choose a line of work and B. Teach general knowledge that will be useful to most students. I argue that higher level math classes do not fulfill either of these criteria. A, because students have already been exposed to math more than enough in middle school. B, because of the many reasons I have already given. If you can prove that at least one of these things is fulfilled to a large degree, by high-level math classes, then I will admit my defeat.
I will finalize with this. My opponent thinks that I am arguing that all the math concepts that are not high-level by my definition should be required, and anything more advanced not required. I contend that the high-level math concepts should not be required learning in high school to graduate, but not that lower concepts should be required. Forgive me if I am being redundant in stating this repeatedly, but it is something that needs to be understood.
My opponent has made the point that the most basic principles of geometry, such as angles, Pythagorean theorem, volume, and etc. are included in the educational system he mandates. And I agree, these concepts are given to students before high school, but my contention is that it is not to the extent that is covered in Geometry and where one can apply to their lives. The key addition that Geometry makes to a student, is that it shows then how to apply the knowledge they have acquired and other theorems and postulates to prove statements. This is not only a mathematical task, but also one that involves the cognitive aspect of one's brain. Most of math before Geometry is dealing with equations and functions which involve the left side of the brain. The involvement of Geometry gives the students of the other aspect of abstract thought processing . This shows that Geometry goes beyond the basic things taught in middle school that pro mentioned.
Now the reason that this more advanced Geometry is more applicable to an individual's life is because it because it deals with more realistic instances. When younger students are taught angles, and volume, and shapes, they are shown what would be ideal. They do not see the quadrilaterals, or ovals, or other irregular polygons to calculate their ares, dimensions or whatever, but those beautifully cut rectangles, circles, and other regular polygons. This is the knowledge that they have and retain, but the fact is that in reality, most things are not regular shapes, and it is crucial for them to get used to that. Geometry presents a ton of such practice of such situations, where the students are required to explore the most extreme cases and prove whether they still match the definition and perform calculations finding the area of irregular shapes.
Now, the Pro side has incessantly claimed that this is the task of only people who are focused on STEM based majors, but I will provide an example of how even a farmer, one who doesn't even need to go to school, benefits from this knowledge. A common practice in farming is not growing plants in a certain area so that the soil is not overworked . This, of course, is not done to all the land at the same time, but alternating parts so that the farmers may still have a steady income. To start off, in most cases around the world, especially poorer countries, farms are not regularly shaped so not having geometry would already inadequate to knowing how much land you have to grow. On top of that, to find the amount of land that is actually gonna be used is completely out of the question for students who only know math from middle school, and is difficult even with the knowledge gained from Geometry. My point from this is that someone even as simple as a farmer can benefit by math beyond Algebra I.
Since a job, as simple as a farmer still benefits from geometry, I will claim that jobs more complex or esteemed higher than a farmer also benefits from math concepts beyond Algebra. My next example will be to show that most Americans can benefit from higher mathematics. According to a research conducted by CNN, the percentage of people who said they would like to start their own business who are 18 - 30 years old was close to 75%, that's three quarters of everyone they asked in that age group . It is therefore not extreme to conclude that most American's desire to start a business right after they graduate or soon after. Now, the tasks of the owner of a business are not able to be adequately performed by on studying up till Algebra I. The are faced with much more functions which do not usually match the linear or quadratic ones learned in Algebra I. Instead they need to have proficiency in Algebra II, so that they may be able to find the most optimum amount to produce, sell, and price and all other things which are not enough with the knowledge from Algebra I.
Since one of Pro's main arguments were that most students do not need math beyond Algebra I, the counter example of this statistic and the basic function of business owners proves this wrong. Consider how I have not even included STEM based jobs in any of my examples. This is because high-level math classes are applicable to most people's lives, and not only the small quantity of STEM students for who it is crucial. The lessons learned are not a waste of time, but practical things that you can use for the rest of your life. The Proposition has not given any example of anyone who doesn't need such, and the only one they have alluded to were students not going into STEM, which I previously proved wrong with my example of requirements imposed even upon English majors at ASU. The claim that Pro makes saying the universities will change the requirement is not expressed anywhere and is a mere figment of his imagination. My example still stands to disprove his argument that most other majors do not need high-level math. Just think about it, if someone who writes books (english major), who grows plants (farmer), and a typical high school graduate (aspiring entrepreneur) can benefit from the study from high-level mathmatics, than is it really any majority in any sense that wont?
The argument that it is hard for students is redundant because yes, the success for students is important, but the students do not have the experience of the teacher, administrators and other faculties to know what will contribute to their success. I have refuted that only technical fields or specific jobs benefit form these courses as practically all careers can benefit from the concepts of high-level maths.
The Proposition has expressed that if I can show that high-level math courses either prepare most students for a line of work, or general knowledge that will be useful to most students, then he will admit defeat. In light of the examples I have provided in this round and previous, I do not think it is absurd to claim that I have done so. Therefore I would urge the voters to vote in favor of Con to conclude that high-level maths should remain required.
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