Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advanced math: Offer, don't require

Sent to the Denver Post, Dec. 19, 2013

Sandra Stotsky thinks that the "Common Core fails to prepare students for STEM" (Dec. 17), and that all students should be required to go way beyond Algebra II to be ready for the brave new world of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Even if the STEM crisis were real, this is not a good idea. Of course, advanced math classes should be offered, but there is no reason to require them of everybody: Michael Handel of Northeastern University has concluded that only about 10% of the work force uses math beyond algebra II. 

Also, it is not clear that the crisis is real. It is not clear that there is a compelling need for more STEM workers. Some studies conclude that there are too many qualified candidates. Rutgers University professor Hal Salzman has reported that there are approximately three qualified graduates annually for each science or technology opening, and recent studies have also shown the United States is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb.

I love math. I took math courses through advanced calculus and differential equations, I use complex statistics in my work and I like reading about Fermat's Last Theorem. But I think that requiring Algebra II is already more than enough.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

original article: Original article:

Some sources:
Math in work force: Handel, M. 2010. What do people do at work? OECD, forthcoming. Available at‎
Three graduates for each opening:
Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN:
Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.
Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12)
See also: Teitelbaum, M. 2007. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, November 6, 2007
More Ph.D's than the market can absorb: Weissman, Jordan. The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013.

1 comment:

  1. As a math teacher, I agree completely.


    Until universities - "good" universities - stop requiring advanced mathematics for admission (for all practical purposes, a student is not getting admitted to many schools unless they've taken at least pre-calculus), all this will do is perpetuate a divide.