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Math becoming a problem for Utah students

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah students are increasingly having problems with math problems — and that's a problem for all of us.

In recent years, Utah Valley University has doubled the faculty for remedial math. At Salt Lake Community College, a spokesman says 28 percent of the student body takes remedial math. At Westminster College, they may need to start pre-algebra classes — which are usually taught in junior high school.

"To be honest, it's confusing to me," high school senior Cicilia Fehoko told KSL News.

Those responses are pretty typical in the Granger High School math class KSL News recently visited. Their teacher, Elsina Ericson, has found that her students hardly try, let alone do their assignments.

"A lot of times they'll ask, ‘Miss Ericson, why are we doing this? When are we ever going to have to do this in real life?' I mean, they ask me that all the time," Ericson said.

Part of the problem, she believes, is our society accepts that many people "just aren't good at math," and that's the ticket to get out of taking any more than bare minimum.

Colleges and universities see the consequences of these attitudes. With tight higher education budgets, they are adding remedial math classes with content students should have learned years ago.

"I ended up taking college algebra … excuse me, intermediate algebra. This is my third time," said local college student Matthew Lambourne. He was away from school for a few years and forgot what he learned.

Faculty members say it's more typical to see incoming college students who haven't applied themselves in math. "Most of it would be the traditional- age student coming out of high school, not well prepared for college math," said Liz Herrick, with Westminster College.

"That's where I really suffered," college student Adam Lambourne, "because I could do the homework and I could get by in high school. But then as it translated into college, as to whether or not I truly understand the concepts being taught, it was very evident that I didn't."

"I want to learn about math, it's just I don't get it," Fehoko said. "I'm so far behind that I don't want to ask them questions that (I) should have known."

The need for remedial math classes in colleges and universities will have impacts on all Utahns"

  • For parents and students, it means extra tuition. That student who failed three math classes has spent $9,000 on credit hours.
  • For students specifically, it means they'll take a longer to graduate, thus clogging up the system
  • For Utah taxpayers, it means subsidizing high school and college classes twice.
  • And in a global economy, it means we're falling behind. The U.S. now ranks 31st of 56 industrialized nations.



Nadine Wimmer


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