Editorial: State’s high school algebra decision was as easy as pi

September 3, 2008

By Staff

The State Board of Education put two and two together recently and came up with a pretty obvious choice - more algebra is needed for our teenagers and future generations.Starting with the graduating class of 2013, high school students will now be required to pass algebra II, along with two other years of math, to graduate. The board’s decision to include algebra in the curriculum comes after the Legislature deemed it necessary in 2007 to add a third year of math to bring student learning to a higher standard. They left it up to the board to decide what the third year would be.

The move is full of foresight. Texas is the only state in the country with a similar requirement, but 14 others have plans to incorporate an algebra II requirement soon.

Some school districts in the state - like Bellevue, Federal Way and Kent - already require algebra II as part of their curriculum. The Renton School District does not require algebra II, but does offers it. In January, the Issaquah School District added a third year of math to graduation requirements beginning with the class of 2012.

It’s no big secret that the U.S. is quickly falling behind other countries when it comes to math. An international exam - the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment - conducted in December, showed the U.S. ranked 24th out of 30 countries in the subject area. The finish was almost identical to a similar test done three years prior.

Many worry about students’ ability to complete a third year of math, especially since about one-fourth of this year’s seniors failed to pass math in the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning, a test which covers algebra I and geometry. Those failures, however, may be more evidence that more math education is required.

While it may not be the most glamorous subject, math is every bit as vital as the other subjects already packing the curriculum. The world will continue to need engineers and physicists for the next century and beyond - and that career path begins with a broader understanding of mathematics.

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