More and more questions are being asked about how to get a child to pass the high school algebra requirement. Algebra was impossible for me and it never made any sense.
Education has fads and my path through higher education was saved by the finite math fad in the mid-sixties. Finite math, which consists of statistics, matrices and probabilities, was the required course instead of algebra. With a lot of tutoring, I was able to do finite math and get a decent grade of a B.
I am really concerned that the algebra requirement is screening many bright kids out of colleges and technical schools. Algebra is not needed for careers in auto mechanics, drafting or industrial design. From many interviews with parents, teachers and individuals with ASD, there appears to be three patterns of difficulty with math. Students are
- terrible at algebra, but good at geometry
- really bad in all math beyond basic elementary school arithmetic
- good at algebra and poor at geometry
I have observed students who failed algebra in high school, but were able to do geometry and trigonometry. If the school will allow it, I recommend immediately putting a student who has failed algebra into a geometry class. If school officials tell you algebra is the prerequisite for geometry, tell them the Greeks invented geometry first! You may even need to buy geometry and trigonometry books on your own to prove that your child can do other types of math.
If your child is having difficulty getting into a college or technical school, try going in the back door. Showing your student’s portfolio to the right professor just might cause barriers, like having to know algebra, to fall. If your child is gifted in art, show an art professor your child’s work. If your child can build things, proudly show a professor in mechanical engineering a robot your child has built. Don’t let your child become limited by their difficulty in math!
Recently I visited FERMI Lab outside Chicago in Batavia, Illinois. The people who draw all the technical drawings for their highly complex equipment had two years community college degrees in drafting. Silicon Valley has no algebra requirement. If you can write good code, you will get hired. They do not care about algebra.
Below are some great online resources that offer free materials for learning/teaching mathematics and computer science.
- Udacity.com (charges a small fee)
Remember, you are your child’s best advocate; focus on what they can do and not on what they can’t!
Temple Grandin, PhD, is an internationally respected specialist in designing livestock handling systems. She is the most noted highly functioning person with autism in the world today. For more information, visit her at www.templegrandin.com.