State colleges grapple with a math problem

Think of early education in math as vaccination against hitting wall later

Reading “State colleges trying to solve math problem” (Page A1, Dec. 28) made me think about medical professionals frantically treating a flu epidemic and failing to think about what needs to be done to get people vaccinated before the next outbreak. Math is a language, much like English or Spanish, and is more easily acquired in early ages than later ones. It would be so refreshing to read about calls for improved elementary education for developing lifelong learners rather than just promoting college education.

There are proven ways to give children in grades kindergarten through three a good number sense. These methods, sadly, are not routinely employed in classrooms. Likewise, curriculum for success in mastering algebra in grades four through eight is out there but rarely used in math instruction. Students who successfully complete courses in algebra are more likely to graduate from high school than those who fail in algebra.

Math vaccination exists. Isn’t it time to focus on how to get it to our students, even as remedial treatment continues?

Elizabeth Bjorkman


Students should not begin higher-ed experience in a hole


Notably absent from the article on remedial math issues at colleges is any mention of where the problem starts. Why are high schools graduating students who can’t do basic math? Maybe the standard needs to be raised at that level, so less remedial education would be needed.

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Of additional concern is that one of the proposed college-level solutions — “pathways” that tailor the math requirement to specific degrees — sounds suspiciously like lowering the degree requirements. While this would result in more degrees being awarded sooner, over the long term, it may devalue the degrees themselves, making them more akin to a certificate program. This could make those degrees worth less, and hurt efforts at recruiting students.

College students should not begin their higher-ed experience in a hole. The place to fix that is before they get there, not after.

Art Cabral

West Bridgewater