FILE - Detroit school

Students enter the Cass Technical High School in Detroit in this AP file photo.

High school mathematics students currently aren’t provided a wide range of options to comply with the state’s graduation requirements. Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, is seeking to expand alternatives for students seeking more practical math skills.

 “Every teacher has a student in their classroom who is always asking, ‘when will I use this in real life?’” Ananich said in a press statement. “That student has a point.”

Ananich introduced Senate Bill 496, which, if passed, would allow students to substitute a personal finance, statistics or similar math elective for Algebra II. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness.

 “Math literacy matters and we need to be setting young people up with math skills that align with their professional goals," Ananich said. "Students are being charged with learning polynomials, logarithms and the quadratic equation, but are leaving high school without a solid understanding of how to balance a checkbook, make investments or calculate basic statistics.”

Michigan students are currently required to complete Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II and a math elective in their senior year. Students failing to complete these classes cannot graduate. However, as noted by Ananich, these math requirements are often excessive and onerous for students who do not intend to use advanced math in their careers but would benefit from other math opportunities.

“If you want to be an architect or an engineer or an astronaut, we want to set you up for success,” Ananich said. “And if you want be a restaurant owner, factory line worker or the next state senator, we want to set you up for success there, too. We can, and should, update graduation requirements to better serve our students and their professional futures.”

Similar legislation was introduced last February in the House of Representatives. Introduced by Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch, House Bill 4271 would allow students to retake Algebra II or spread it out over two years.

Another alternative would allow students to “partially or fully fulfill the algebra II requirement by completing a department-approved formal career and technical education program or curriculum, such as a program or curriculum in electronics, machining, construction, welding, engineering, computer science, or renewable energy, and in that program or curriculum successfully completing the same content as the algebra II benchmarks assessed on the department-prescribed state high school assessment, as determined by the department.” 

HB 4271 was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means last May by Howell, a former school board president. Howell said he was deeply involved in vocational education, and witnessed the “stumbling block” Algebra II presented students. He noted that he witnessed on many occasions Algebra II “thwarting students’ ability to attain their education and career goals.”  

“The bill passed the Education Committee by a 12-1 vote,” Howell told The Center Square. “Besides tremendous bipartisan support, I was surprised to hear how many math and science teachers supported it. It’s those instructors who see the frustration of students who struggle through advanced courses rather than learning about financial education, interest rates, mortgages and student loans.”

He added: “Algebra II is the biggest impediment for students whose career choices only require more practical mathematic applications.”

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.