This Post is somewhat of a follow-up to a prior one, Does Your Child Hate Math Because You Do?, which questioned whether our children develop their own skills and preferences, or are they unduly influenced by their Parents. After reading an article, which revealed that some school systems were considering creating a second path to graduation, by focusing on job skills rather than college prep, I considered writing why that tack should be more flexible. Ms. Huber’s Comments, and the recent Events at the Boston Marathon, provided some impetus for this piece.

The elimination of Algebra was specifically cited in that article; but, what subjects would be next: All Math? Science? History? Literature? Who, in their first year or two of high school, knows what their ultimate career path will be–and what skills, if any, will be necessary to enter it? Also, how will they know what skills will eventually be needed, especially as they advance in that career profession?

Recently, I read about a senior corporate executive having changed careers to become a Clergyman–and eventually a Bishop. Likewise, a successful professional football player leaving to enter Medical School. Or, how about Harrison Ford, shifting careers from carpentry to acting? Times change, and so do people’s goals and preferences.

Let’s get back to Algebra. Remember: A + B = C, or perhaps it was X / Y = Z? The specific letters, by themselves, don’t really mean anything. Rather they represent what could be ideas or facts. Algebra really presents a framework for considering various related facts, and separating those that you do know, to focus on solving for those that you do not. That’s solving the equation.

Suppose you were the FBI Agent-in-Charge, on Monday, after the Boston Marathon. Would you have known what to do, the courses of action to take or how to manage the deployment of resources? Now, I’m sure that, as he gathered key colleagues, they didn’t focus on As, Bs, Xs or Ys. Rather, they probably focused on what they did know: apparent location of the bombs; hundreds of shreds of evidence spread-out all over Boylston Street and, of course, surveillance cameras and bystanders camera-phones.

So, where you or I might have thrown our hands in the air, these professionals knew how to start putting the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle together. And, for each piece that fit–or evidence could be corroborated–a factor (or letter in the mythical equation) was solved.

Going back to high school studies, today even jobs that do not require college studies still benefit from some understanding of Computer Technology. Contractors certainly need a basic knowledge of Algebra and Trigonometry. House painters can enhance their careers with abilities in Art and Design. And, how about the clerk in the supermarket or McDonald’s who goes on to become a regional manager? Be ready!



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