The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions

Andrew Hacker. New Press, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62097-068-3
Expanding on a furor-raising 2012 New York Times op-ed that questioned Common Core math requirements, Hacker (Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Women and Men), who teaches political science and mathematics at Queens College, takes an in-depth look at the issue and "the mandarins" behind those standards. Currently, national Common Core standards require students to study geometry, trigonometry, and two years of algebra in order to graduate high school—though calculus may be added to the list. Hacker believes these requirements actually stymie student advancement, locking out students hoping to be veterinary technicians, actuaries, software engineers, commercial artists, and cosmetologists because they fail to understand quadratic equations and other concepts that aren't needed to do the job. He also illuminates industry forces at work, including the proliferation of tutoring and test coaching businesses as well as the practice of "deskilling." Hacker calls for a sensible focus on adult arithmetic—the basic algebra and statistics skills needed to understand interest rates or calculate mileage for expense reports—and reserving advanced math for the fields where it's actually used. Hacker's accessible arguments offer plenty to think about and should serve as a clarion call to students, parents, and educators who decry the one-size-fits-all approach to schooling. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/18/2016
Release date: 06/01/2015
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