# The Issue with Watered-Down Math Courses

by Justin Skycak on

When students are not given the opportunity to learn math seriously, and are instead presented with watered-down courses and told that they’re doing a great job, they’re being set up for failure later in life when it matters most.

I love math and have built a career around it but I don’t think that everyone needs to learn it to a high level.

However, I do think that whatever math people do learn in school, they need to learn it seriously – not just “loosely comprehending some ideas.”

What is the purpose of teaching students math in school? I can think of 2 reasons:

A) so that all students can gain basic math skills necessary for basic life functions, e.g., reasoning about financial decisions

B) so that quantitatively-inclined students who aspire to math-heavy professions can capture the opportunity to build a career around something they enjoy and are good at

When math courses are watered down with students “loosely comprehending some ideas” instead of learning it seriously, we let down students in both groups.

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When we let students get by without solid skills in low-level math, many of these students go on to struggle with financial decisions and rack up a bunch of high-interest debt.

Sure, you can tell them to pay off their credit cards and avoid predatory loans with high APR.

But what about, say, the impact of the expense ratio on your retirement fund? If you put money in a fund with a 2% expense ratio and let it sit for 30 years, you’ll end up with only half the money of a equivalent fund at 0.1% expense ratio.

That’s simple math if you’re solid with percents, exponents, and compound interest. But if you’re not, then you’re easily taken advantage of.

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When we let students who aspire to math-heavy professions get by without solid skills in algebra and calculus, they get their dreams crushed when they get to college.

So many kids want to become rocket scientists, astrophysicists, bioinformaticians, machine learning engineers, mathematicians, aerospace engineers, you name it.

And when they get a good grade in their math class at school, they think they’re on track to reach these dreams.

But if their school’s math classes were watered down, then guess what happens when they try to take their entry-level college courses? They can’t handle the serious math. So they switch majors, dreams crushed.

These situations are completely avoidable. Students have over 10 years to learn serious math before college. That is plenty of time.

But when these students are not given the opportunity to learn math seriously, and are instead presented with watered-down courses and told that they’re doing a great job, they’re being set up for failure later in life when it matters most.

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