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I tutor all sorts of math students, from middle school and high school students to people preparing for the GRE and GMAT. The most common question I hear, by far: "Why does any of this matter? Will I ever use it again?"

Until 8th grade or so (pre-algebra), students learn math that (I think) everyone should know. After that, it can be hard to give a good answer. Why does someone who is not interested in studying math after high school need to know the quadratic formula? Why does someone studying for the GMAT need to know anything at all about geometry? Math curricula simply cover the wrong things (and as a result math tests test the wrong things).

Take a look at these two sample 10th grade math tests (the level taken by the guy in the article): http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/2011/release/g10math.pdf http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/resources/o...

There is TONS of focus on geometry and coordinate geometry. There is NO focus on math concepts that are much more important (in my view), like basic finance, basic statistics, basic probability. These are things people need to know in order to be informed citizens, understand policy, process things in the news, rent/buy a home, take on college loans, etc.

None of this means that tests are bad of course. I think tests are, generally, a good way to understand what people know (in math).

Finally, the guy says: "The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly."

If he really knew the answers to NONE of them, I have a hard time taking him seriously. I love how he gives himself credit for managing to guess 10 correctly. These tests are mostly multiple choice!




Doesn't the quadratic equation pop up all the time if you try to solve equations? Which you might do now and then, if you could remember how to solve equations, which is probably also a negative for most people :-(

But definitely for personal finance I think quadratic stuff might pop up now and then. Exponential stuff definitely pops up...


These questions are so easy. Half of them are so basic that you do not even need to think before you do some kind of multiplication or addition. An adult cannot do ANY of these??? I call bullshit on at least part of the article.


"I love how he gives himself credit for managing to guess 10 correctly. These tests are mostly multiple choice!"

Well he obviously is really bad in maths, so he might not have realized he was due to have some random hits :-)




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