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Listening to Diane Rehm today, I heard two people discussing whether algebra should be a mandatory course for all American students (stream it).

At the time I was preparing for the installation of an auto lift in my garage. To plan for this blue-collar mechanical task I needed a little bit of trigonometry (?=arccos(90.25-x)/2/24.5, where x is the width of the car between lift points); without algebra I would never have gotten to trigonometry.

Engineers need algebra, mechanics need algebra, architects and cabinetmakers need algebra. Lawyers don't need algebra much, but we don't need more lawyers.

I wonder what the algebra doubters think today's students will be doing twenty years from now. Participating in some vaporware "knowledge economy" that has nothing to do with manipulating numbers or physical things?

America is already doing a lousy job of training people to make and fix things. Dropping the algebra requirement would be just another step down the path toward profound national mediocrity.

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