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Education Math United States Science

90% of 200 CUNY Students Can't Do Basic Algebra Problems 20

vvaduva writes "Basic algebra involving fractions and decimals stumped a group of City University of New York freshmen — suggesting city schools aren't preparing them, a CUNY report shows. During their first math class at one of CUNY's four-year colleges, 90% of 200 students tested couldn't solve a simple algebra problem, the report by the CUNY Council of Math Chairs found. Only a third could convert a fraction into a decimal."
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90% of 200 CUNY Students Can't Do Basic Algebra Problems

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  • by yuggler ( 521092 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:47PM (#30079640)
    I've tried to find the original report, but it doesn't seem to be online. Too bad, what can be called a "simple algebra problem" might not be the same thing for a freshman as a professor. We have similar problems in Sweden. The solution is somewhat different though, we lower expectations instead. Many swedish universities have lowered their admission standards. We have a national standard for high school courses, with math courses going from A to E-level. (The F course, mostly covering discrete mathematics, was removed about 15 years ago.) Many universities no longer require the E-level course for their master programs in science, which means that new students in for example engineering, physics and computer science haven't heard of complex numbers, matrixes or differentials. Is this the beginning to the end of math? Probably not, but it means that new students have to spend their first months learning stuff that was common knowledge just 15-20 years ago. Computers and calculators are not the culprits, but I don't know who else to blame.
  • Nothing New (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheTyrannyOfForcedRe ( 1186313 ) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:14PM (#30081012)

    My public high school was teaching fractions and decimals in the 11th and 12th grade. The majority of kids never saw algebra in high school.

    Those in the "college track" saw only rudimentary algebra before graduation.

    The "advanced track" had algebra in the 8th and 9th grades. Geometry was offered in the 10th grade, and in the 11th grade there was trig. Seniors were offered "pre-caclulus" which I would describe as trig deja vu.

    When I was in university, all of the public colleges and universities in the area offered introductory math courses in "pre-algebra" which I would describe as fractions and decimals. The overwhelming majority of all freshmen ended up taking them. Only the kids majoring in math, science, or engineering had with calculus or other advanced math their freshman year.

    I used to help friends from high school with their college "pre-algebra" coursework. One of these girls was also taking a college science course that seemed to be at the elementary school level. Topics included magnetism, the water cycle, glaciers, and other extremely basic natural science stuff. The cousework consisted of memorizing vocabulary words and basic definitions.

  • Open Admissions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by story645 ( 1278106 ) <> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @09:29PM (#30082304) Journal

    I go to one of the CUNY's, even had one of the paper authors as a professor. Our admissions requirements are downright sad, and the kids who can't even muster those can usually get in as transfers from community schools or by getting into one of the many remedial programs. A lot of these kids end up either flunking out or ending up as liberal arts majors. (Writing skills are just as pathetic, but it's more complicated because of the large ESL population, which the administration doesn't really want to admit we have.)
    Though I'm totally curious about the sampling bias here, 'cause a first math class at CUNY could be elementary math, pre-calc or anything in the calc sequence, so lots of freshman don't have the same first math course. The amount of kids who can't do fractions in an elementary math course is much higher then the amount of freshman who can't do fractions in calc II. It's also the daily news, which is about as tabloid as you get. I'm also curious how other schools stack up, and especially how majors/course of study effects the distribution.

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