Politically Scientific Math

, Malcolm A. Kline, 1 Comment

A professor found an easier way to study math. Unfortunately, he’s a political scientist.

math photo“I propose an alternative to mathematics, what I call numerical literacy, or for lack of a better phrase, adult arithmetic,” Andrew Hacker, a professor emeritus of political science at Queens College said in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education. “It’s the kind of thing you need to make sense of everything from corporate reports to the federal budget, or to decide whether it’s better to buy or lease a car.”

“Despite the fact that nearly every young American is made to take algebra and geometry, we rank very low in international rankings of numerical literacy.”  Speaking of numbers, Hacker is somewhat inconsistent on his. An earlier quote from the same interview seems to belie the “nearly every” assertion.

“Right now, four million American teenagers are in a class studying algebra,” he said. “I’m simply asking a question: why?”

Well, in order to answer that question, he might want to compare the “numerical literacy” of earlier generations of high school graduates who were “made to take algebra and geometry” with latter ones who were not.

But if he does succeed in freeing millions from having to do so, he can do a follow-up study on what their math grades really mean.