I'm not sure what is meant by "advanced math," but I am a trained scientist and working software professional so I probably had some. I almost never use geometry, trigonometry, or calculus in my daily life. I think what the general public really needs is a basic understanding of statistics and probability, in order to interpret the numbers that appear in the popular press, and to make health and financial decisions.

That's my main point -- I'm sure others will echo these:

Why are legislators making decisions about education? Did they consult teachers, students or parents?

Does anyone seriously think we will create more scientists and engineers by cramming math down everyone's throat?

A far better approach is to teach math in an engaging way. I enjoyed math much more in the context of physics, chemistry, and cooking. Teaching math out of context probably engages the 1 percent of students who are budding theoretical mathematicians.

**Chris Stewart***Seattle*

As the parent of three children who are graduated from high school, I say absolutely no. Four years of math should not be required in high school. My oldest child, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from his college and has a masters from U of Chicago, elected not to take math (calculus level) his senior year. He chose to take extra PE classes because he loved to play sports and the opportunities for high school students who are not good enough to make the team are just not there. My middle child actually took a second year of calculus in high school (two separate AP tests), so he doesn't count. My last child chose not to take math (calculus level) her senior year as well -- she enjoyed school so much more that last year without that dreaded math class and her overall grades were significantly higher. She is attending college in Europe.

My uncle taught math for years at the high school level. He said the most difficult classes were the seniors who hadn't understood the math for their entire school career and weren't very open to the possibility of understanding it this final year either.

I think any money spent on math education should be spent at the elementary level. My children were fortunate to have a few teachers at that level who had the interest and skills to effectively teach math in elementary. But I have to believe that most elementary teachers do not go into that field because of any great skill or love for math! I would like to see math specialists in each building that can work with teachers on ways to assist children in developing their mathematical abilities and interests at that level. The dividends will then show up in their later years.

**Mary E. Kooistra***Kirkland*

Algebra and geometry should be required for all high school students. Any further math classes should depend on the interests of the student.

I took 4 years of advanced math in high school plus two years of calculus. This was when I was still planning on a career in architecture. My training as an accountant certainly did not require much more than plain old arithmetic. Algebra and geometry have proved very beneficial for arithmetic short cuts and general scientific interest.

Applied math, to include balancing a checkbook and other personal economic calculations, should be required of everyone.

**Frances Alcorn***Seattle*

Yes, I think all high school students should be required to take four years of advanced math.

Horsey's arguments against this are very lame. He has probably spent his whole life in this part of the country and has no idea how low the educational standards are and how little is demanded of students here.

He says his daughter couldn't take advanced math courses in a limited school day as she would have missed out on other courses. There is no reason why able high school students can't take four years of math, four years of English lit, four years of science, four years of history, four years of one or even two foreign languages, plus music and art. My daughters were able to do this easily with time for theatre and sports, too. I can only assume that with such a limited curriculum his daughter did not aspire to an Ivy League university.

Having seen questions from the 10th-grade WASL reading and writing tests, I can see what some of the problems are. Those tests are very easy (sixth-grade level in my opinion), so students that fail them have not been properly prepared in elementary school. Combine this with teachers who are not educated themselves, in a country that does not prize intellectual attainment, and you end up ranked at the bottom of the rest of the world in education.

Edmonds

I am an art teacher. My creative side of the brain did not like "higher math" when I was a high school student. It was not required that we have as much math as children are expected to have today. My parents raised four children -- all became professional artists and musicians. Today, as an art teacher in Federal Way, I see fine-art electives being discarded so that students can prepare for the WASL and get the three Rs for graduation. The middle school where I am teaching has let go of foreign languages, home living and shop. It is my understanding that the PTA "saved" art. Parents rave that their children have this enrichment. I don't think all students need four years of math; I *do* think all students need access to more electives so that they become well-rounded adults.

**Jo Ann Hawkins***Federal Way*

Nobel Laureate physicist and mathematician Richard Feynman once said, "Mathematics is the language that Nature speaks." So math should actually be taught as a language, just like Spanish. Clearly, four years of math practice will make students more fluent and this is desirable for any language.

However, for most people, including David Horsey, math is just a tool. Without a starting idea to address, math can say nothing. Thus, what the WA educational system should really focus on is the early development of the latent creative ability that every child already possesses.

The historic technical pre-eminence of the U.S.A. rests upon the creativity of its populace and not upon math skills, no matter how well studied. With the competitive emergence of China and India as a large source of math-skilled people, the only way our system can survive is to release the creative powers of a greater fraction of our students. Four years of math for all high school students won't do it.

**Graham Allan***Professor of Chemical Engineering*

Professor of Fiber & Polymer Science

First things first: There is no such thing as four years of "advanced" high school math. At some schools, the fourth year may well qualify as advanced: It did at my high school, where the course was called Elementary Functions.

My son will not be able to take four years of high school math in high school, for the simple reason that next year, as an eighth-grader, he will take the 11th-grade math class. Advanced? Nah.

It is not too much mathematics that keeps students from taking other important classes. It is television, video games and related issues. This year, my son (seventh grade) is taking advanced or honors science, social studies, and English, in addition to ninth-grade math. He also takes Spanish, plays trumpet in the wind ensemble and in a jazz band, plays for a Shorelake soccer team (August to December) and is an active member of the Seattle Mindstorm and Robotics Techies club. I myself finished high school with four years each of math, science, history and English; three years of French, two of Latin, the required no-credit four years each of PE and Bible study (Christian boarding school). I spent three-plus years on the stage crew, a year as chemistry and physics lab assistant, put in my time on the school's gymnastics, volleyball, track and field and cross country teams. Television is just not part of the picture.

An understanding of mathematical reasoning is crucial to developing the clear thinking and analytic skills one needs in daily life. Setting a specific math class requirement does not guarantee that kids will learn to think, but it certainly improves the odds. And I would readily agree to alternatives to the usual college-prep science and engineering-oriented math. Courses in business math and economics, or even logic, philosophy or debate could serve a similar function to help develop the capacity to think clearly and logically. These goals go far beyond the simple: Will it help me (make money) when I go job searching?

**Richard Kau***Lake Forest Park *

First, just how advanced is "advanced math?" Certainly, every student should take enough algebra to be able to solve two simultaneous equations in two unknowns. They should also have some idea of geometry, enough to calculate the area of a plot of land of known dimensions or the volume of a container.

Beyond that, math should be an elective. It should be offered, but not required, and I say this as a successful electrical engineer.

**Norm Strong***Seattle*

My response? A resounding but qualified yes. In part, it depends on the definition of "advanced" math. It also depends on implementation. I'm opposed to forcing everyone to complete the same four-year curriculum, but I enthusiastically support requiring everyone to take four years of something mathematically related.

I agree with the statements in the article that math is not more important than all other academic disciplines, but it is far more important than many of them. And it's not equally important to all students and all people in all jobs, but it is far more important than most people realize.

Most people do not understand or appreciate the beauty, the power or the magic that is mathematics. Many people who teach it do not or cannot articulate what it is or why people need it. Math isn't arithmetic, or algebra, or trigonometry -- it is a way of looking at and describing the world. It is counting, measurement, perspective, shapes, reasoning, language and more. Try to get through a day where at least one of those isn't necessary.

Studying math promotes the study of all other subjects. I would argue that to truly understand any other subject -- and I did say *any *-- a meaningful understanding of math is, at least, helpful. In many cases it is essential. Taught properly, not only would a four-year emphasis on math not crowd out all other subjects, it would, in fact, enhance them.

Studying music, for example, does not afford the more universally applicable benefits that studying math does. Music is not the gateway skill to the sciences, but math is. You can study math without music but not music without math.

And just because you aren't using it directly doesn't mean you aren't using it. Similarly, just because you aren't doing it directly doesn't mean it isn't necessary. For example, you may think you can avoid math by paying someone else to do your taxes, but it would behoove you to understand them since you're the one facing stiff fines and penalties or going to jail if your tax preparer screws up.

Furthermore, we aren't encouraged to spend hours on a treadmill because we need practice walking or to lift weights at the gym because we are going out into the world to pick up barbells. We are encouraged to go to the gym and endure the treadmill and weightlifting because it keeps us fit -- both physically and mentally. (I wonder sometimes how that's possible since I find exercise to be mind numbingly boring and yet, they tell me it's good for my brain as well.) It's the same kind of thing with math.

I don't think legislatures should mandate what is taught in those proposed four years of required math courses -- I don't trust them to understand and love what math is any more than I trust anyone else to. But properly taught and properly integrated, four years of high school math would make all students better thinkers and maybe even brighter, happier, more wonderful people.

My math background helped me immeasurably in law school.

**T.R. Rubino-Schaefer***Bellevue*

The math and science emphasis in our K-12 programs must be dramatically improved to match the needs of the technological world we live in -- or the United States will soon become an economic backwater.

"Before it's Too Late," the 2000 report of the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching" says that: "The current preparation that students in the United States receive in mathematics and science is, in a word, unacceptable," noting that, "The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) tested the students of 41 nations. Children in the United States were among the leaders in the fourth-grade assessment, but by high school they were almost last."

Bob Herbold, the former Microsoft executive, is just one of many business leaders who are concerned about our math and science education failures. He notes that the United States is loosing out to foreign nations in scientific innovation -- innovation that spawns the next-generation technologies that fuel our economy. Today, Asia graduates almost 25,000 science and engineering Ph.Ds each year, compared with fewer than 5,000 in this country -- when, as recently as 1987 the graduation rates were roughly equal. This disparity relates directly to the K-12 math and science education deficiencies.

Thus, four years of high school math is a reasonable requirement.

**Bob Benze***Silverdale*

Should high school students be required to take four years of math?

Nah. American students lack the fortitude to learn math and science. We can outsource science and technology, as other country's students seem to be able to learn math.

Of course we should also put some sort of limit on voting for the scientifically illiterate. They can't make intelligent decisions on things like global warming, cafĂ© standards for cars, evolution issues (abortion, stem cell research etc.). That shouldn't be too high a price for living an easy, sun-shiny life.

**Bob Brown***Seattle*

Having taught both music and math for 31 years, I believe that there are students for whom math is a huge challenge; some of those students have neither the natural nor learned skills to utilize higher-level math. In fact, many of them would find that taking four years of math would simply be remedial and repetitious or they would drop out of school. There are many people who simply do not process higher-level math well and will have little need for that skill later in life. For those students who want to go on to college, the opportunity to take four years of math is already present. As long as colleges continue to require advanced math for college entrance, the need for high schools requiring more math is moot.

I encourage the state and school districts to look at requiring a broader-based education rather than a more focused one. The best learners are students who have a large range of knowledge -- and those often become the more curious students, too. I realize that in many cases the comparative scores between nations have the United States ranking low because we work to keep all students in school and test them all, where other countries often move lower-scoring students to alternative education. It is noteworthy that Finland, which consistently ranks at or near the top in all the comparative testing data, also turns out more musicians per capita than any other nation in the world. Should we not be looking at an education that is complete and comprehensive for all children, rather than an education driven by WASL testing and limited topics? Might not our students become better learners in all subjects?

**Bruce Caldwell***Edmonds*

You would do well to read "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman. In it, he shows, in his opinion, how ill prepared our current generation of K-12 students are to compete for the top jobs in the world economy of the next 10 to 50 years. The educational keys necessary for them to compete are math, science and engineering.

Friedman categorizes successful competitors for the top jobs of the future as special, specialized or extremely flexible with the specialized and extremely flexible facing the need for lifetime learning to constantly improve their skills. Special jobs would be like entertainers and sports figures. Not too many jobs like that. Specialized would be jobs such as yours that can't be easily outsourced. The remainder of good jobs would require people to be very flexible in terms of what they do, where they do it and for whom.

I don't think it is good public law to require four years of math in high school, but it is good public policy to encourage all of our K-12 students to take as many math, science and engineering courses as possible. All parents would be wise to encourage their children to take these courses.

The real race our country faces in the future is not a race to the bottom with competitors in other nations but a race to the top with those countries, such as India and China, who now are educating and creating more mathematicians, scientists and engineers than we are.

**Jerry Ferren***Lacey*

In this age of electronics there is no need for 4 years of advanced math, But, basic math should be learned in grade school (so they do not have to count on their fingers).

**Rosanne Nelson***Seattle*

For one who claims to need nothing more that a seventh-grade math education, you're pretty good at working the numbers.

You have submitted your question as a zero sum game. The educational process is not a closed end affair.

The tired old notion that the study of math precludes the study of fine arts, foreign language and more just doesn't add up. I challenge you to take a close look at the schedule of any typical public high school student. The scholastic day is riddled with unsupervised "study halls" and unproductive breaks.

The study of math and music and other arts needn't be mutually exclusive. Let's tidy-up the wasted academic scheduling process, endless in-service conference days and start teaching our kids all they need to enter the world or college. That certainly includes four years of math education.

**Michael Brooks***North Bend*

As a sometime teacher of math and holder of a master's degree in math education, the mere thought of requiring all high school students to take calculus and statistics gives me the fan-tods. The Europeans have it right - many even most people don't have their brain cells wired in any way conducive to learning advanced math. It is a difficult and esoteric subject requiring what is called plenty of sitzfleisch. The average active kid can't see the use of it. People like our president who like to measure performance find it attractive because math performance is so easy to measure. One answer only is almost always right. I liked math because I was sick a lot as a kid and it was something I could do in bed. It also gave me a one-up on the jocks and joy-boys. Most healthy, red-blooded kids can't stand it, and have to be dragged kicking and screaming into some appreciation for the subject. Have pity on the poor math teachers.

**Randall Pratt***Bellingham*

I agree with you that math is not more important than other academic subjects. The problem is that most high school students aren't really studying any academic subjects and the textbooks they use are so watered down that even then they are just not learning what we used to learn.

I'm 62 years old, so it been a few years since I've been in school, but I could do better not only in math, but also in history, physics, chemistry, social studies and philosophy than most high school students. Most high school graduates these days have trouble just doing basic math. I can add and multiply faster than most young people and I was not that outstanding in high school. I just studied under the old system where math and science were important subjects to learn. Sadder still is that most high school graduates can not read a newspaper or write a thoughtful paragraph and their knowledge of history is zero!

Since the teachers themselves lack a good education, how do you expect them to be able to teach any serious academic subjects to their students? I would like to see the teachers tested. I think the results would astound you.

Now to your basic question, yes four years of math does make sense and if done right should not crowd out the other serious academic subjects. Between 1958-62, I took four years of math, four years of English, two years of history (should have had four), two years of both physics and chemistry, a year of Latin (do they even teach that anymore?) two years of German, a year of civics, a year of social studies, a half year of driver's ed, a half year of art history, four years of band (the drums) and some other courses I don't remember. That was a well-rounded high school education that used first-class textbooks and teachers who themselves had a good education.

Like you, I have never had to use all of what I have learned. But I'm very glad I had the opportunity to learn what I did, including the Latin and art history. And when my education has come in handy, I have been doubly glad I did study the subjects in high school listed above. It was not wasted effort by any definition!

Now let me ask you five questions:

Who was John Adams?

What did John Adams do for America?

Why is it important that all Americans know what John Adams did for America?

What percentage of Americans could answer the above three questions?

Why are Americans not being taught not only about John Adams but about all of our Founding Fathers and what each of them contributed to the building our country?

** David Devin***West Bremerton High School*

1958-1962

Oh, I see, you're arguing that high school is all about developing job skills. Wish this had come up back when I was in school, I could have skipped a ton of classes. How many of us use philosophy in our jobs?

And history? Now there's a topic that one could argue has zero job relevance apart from maintaining a few history teachers. And music?

You gotta be kidding. How many of us are going to support ourselves by singing or playing music?

Maybe, school is not completely about job skills? History is essential to all parts of government, and all of us ignore history at our peril?

Perhaps this is why we take history, art, literature and philosophy in school -- to enable us to think for ourselves and be involved citizens, making informed decisions at the ballot box, understanding the implications of policies.

Science and math? Which is riskier, developing nuclear power (no greenhouse gases) or depending on imported oil and our abundant natural supply of coal?

How important is it that we are spending billions of dollars in Iraq while cutting taxes for the very wealthiest? Is there really any problem the numbers don't seem to add up? And all that money that we owe China? Will those interest payments we'll need to make have any kind of draining effect on our economy?

What effect will global warming have on our country -- like the Midwest, source of a huge amount of our crops?

That adjustable-rate mortgage that seemed like such a good deal -- could there be a problem if interest rates go up? What kinds of national policies might make interest rates go up, anyway?

Is the impending en mass retirement of the boomer generation going to have any impact, one way or the other, on the national economy?

Can we predict the future by extending straight lines off into future decades, or are things going to be more complicated -- say, nonlinear, with interactions?

Scientists and engineers tackle such problems head on but that doesn't mean the rest of us can sit back and ignore them. It is in all of our interests to understand these issues in order to make informed voting decisions.

The most important problems high school students (from around the world) of today will need to solve 20 or 30 years from now haven't even cropped up yet, and I have a sneaking feeling that seventh-grade math might not be up to the task when the time comes.

Try solving these problems using philosophy. Or art. Or music.

Oh, yeah, some guy already tried that, for another "burning question" that involved ancient Rome. His fiddle wasn't very useful.

**Peter Shaw***Seattle*

I do not believe four years of math for all students is warranted or needed. I do believe that all students should receive a strong foundation in reading and math basics. We need to be sure all students can read and understand a simple contract, understand how to budget their money and understand how our financial system works.

**Gloria P. Short***Seattle*

Your perspective on four years of math is a good one, and one I agree with.

Four years of math is probably a very good idea for students interested in and heading toward careers and interests like engineering and other sciences. But like you, I, as a musician of 38 years, don't use that much advanced math skills in my work and life. I'm very glad that I had good math classes in school but with four years of required math, I too may have missed out on my Civics class and my social studies class ... and my choir and band classes.

Critical thinking is something we all need to possess and math is only one ingredient for attaining such skills. I can't help but wonder if our legislators are simply more interested in being perceived as proponents of education while not really understanding what that might entail.

A mix of math, foreign language, science, art, music and physical exercise all make for a smarter and more well rounded citizen. One that stands a better chance at seeing through the games of legislators and promises of corporate marketeers. I think we could use more well- rounded citizens like that in the old US of A.

**Terry D. Lauber***Seattle*

Great shades of the metric system fiasco. If the legislation in question were meant to prove random variables (dropouts), and goad teens by the hundreds into run screaming from high schools, this legislative form of mental torture would surely achieve its mathematical expectations.

I'm retired, and as long as you can read the numbers on your retirement checks you got it made.

I'd fight for the kids on this one. My answer to the question is no.

**Michael E. Arndt***Tacoma*

Four years of "advanced math" -- calculus and trigonometry -- makes little sense for all high school students, but four years of math has merit. The "advanced math" proposal smacks of the same knee-jerk reaction of Sputnik days when we feared we'd lose the space race. In today's era of globalization, the only mathematical consideration is the "bottom line," and business will continue to buy its talent wherever it finds it and at the lowest price.

American students who are drawn to the sciences will elect the advanced math courses. Students with non-scientific interests will follow their passion. Forcing students to struggle with advanced math when they see no application to their personal goals only increases their likelihood of failure and frustration.

However, math as a thinking tool with a definitive result should not be curtailed after the first two years of high school. Like writing and comprehensive reading, math is a discovery process. Besides teaching math to students, students need to value math in their lives. It is this appreciation of math that takes four years to absorb and not the mastery of 2 plus 2.

By offering math courses that address real world issues and interests, students may find it useful and engaging. Math can be applied to construction, to automotives, to cooking, to investments, to interest on a credit a card, and even to art and social studies. Just about everything tangible in this world can be defined mathematically.

As far as taking class time away from other disciplines, I suggest teaching each subject four times a week instead of five times a week. Students typically learn as much in four sessions as they do in five sessions, provided there's reasonable homework to reinforce what has been taught. The "extra day" would open the curriculum to two more subjects if there's faculty to support them.

**Charles Henderson***Everett*