"The Math Myth" expands Hacker s scrutiny of many widely held assumptions, like the notions that mathematics broadens our minds, that mastery of azimuths and asymptotes will be needed for most jobs, that the entire Common Core syllabus should be required of every student. He worries that a frenzied emphasis on STEM is diverting attention from other pursuits and subverting the spirit of the country.
In fact, Hacker honors mathematics as a calling (he has been a professor of mathematics) and extols its glories and its goals. Yet he shows how mandating it for everyone prevents other talents from being developed and acts as an irrational barrier to graduation and careers. He proposes alternatives, including teaching facility with figures, quantitative reasoning, and understanding statistics.
"The Math Myth" is sure to spark a heated and needed national conversation not just about mathematics but about the kind of people and society we want to be.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-01-18
- Reviewer: Staff
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.)