This all came to my mind after reading Ramanathan's article in The Washington Post. Ramanathan is a professor emeritus of math, statistics, and computer science, at the University of Illinois. He contends that although a lot of effort and money has been put into making math seem essential to every child's and adult's daily life, it is not, as compared to history, politics, or music. Further, the article contends that no one should feel obligated to love math, any more than anyone is obligated to love grammar, or composition. He contends that there is no evidence that all the money spent has actually helped student math achievement.
There really are a number of different issues that Ramanathan is attacking. They include:
- Should every person love math any more than grammar or whatever else that is perhaps boring and pedantic to some?
- Has the money spent on improving math education been spent effectively?
- Is math really as essential to every child's and adult's daily life as politics or history?
- Given the answers to the previous questions, should extra effort or money be spent into improving math education and to improve students' math achievement?
The last question is, insofar as education is publicly funded (it is, more of less, in Canada. I am aware the writer is talking about the USA), a matter of public policy. So we have to put our public policy hat on before continuing, because it makes a difference in how the question is answered.
The difference is this: when it comes to public policy, the answer to the first three questions are irrelevant to the fourth.