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# It Doesn't Take Algebra to Write an Editorial

October 27, 2003

In "Rising to the Equation" (editorial, Oct. 22) you wrote: "Want to figure out whether you can afford the mortgage on your dream house? That's algebra. Figure out the mix of chemicals for the swimming pool? Estimate your taxes?" None of those tasks requires algebra. Mortgage tables can easily be found on the Internet, a pool chemical mix involves little more than elementary proportions and arithmetic, and tax estimation does not require anything more than simple projection. If the ability to handle those "everyday situations" constitutes algebra, then it will be easy for schools to have almost all students pass a special class.

Perhaps a subsequent editorial could explain how "house painters" and "fence builders" use algebra. I certainly did not employ any advanced math when painting my house, and my calculations for a new fence are not anything I could not have done in the fifth grade. This makes me wonder -- did your editorial writer ever take algebra?

David Johnson

Chula Vista

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As an algebra teacher in an inner-city high school of Los Angeles, I daily face large numbers of youngsters who cannot do the most basic operations of fractions, decimals or percents; most cannot use a ruler, calculate a simple discount or figure out the area of a room. The question is not whether these students are capable of learning algebra. Rather, it is whether it is appropriate for these students, at this time in their math careers, to study algebra when they cannot do everyday consumer math. Which would you like me to teach our young people first: how to figure out a discount or how to factor polynomials? (1) Horse. (2) Cart.

Howard S. Lau

Hollywood High School

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Algebra teaches us to think. (Did I forget to add the word "logically"?)

Lloyd G. Martinsen

Canyon Lake