How much is too much math to require for high school graduation? What do you think and why?  

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While states used to generally require Algebra I and geometry, many states are moving towards requiring geometry and Algebra II, including some trigonometry, for students to graduate from high school (see the first link below for state requirements). The state with the highest math scores, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (see the NCES link below) is Massachusetts, which leaves these decisions up to local school boards. The lowest-performing state, Alabama, requires Algebra II and some trigonometry. While this is a worthwhile goal, it's very possible that many students, even though bound for four-year colleges, will not be prepared to handle this type of math in high school. As Massachusetts, the highest-performing state, allows local school boards to set standards, this might be the best policy.

It is difficult to require many students to pass Algebra II that includes trigonometry because they simply don't have the background from elementary and middle school. For example, they don't understand exponents, so they can not go on to understand logarithms. Instead, some students are better served by taking Algebra I over several years so they can truly integrate the concepts. They should also be allowed to substitute a practical math class for Algebra II if it's clear that they can't handle advanced work in algebra by senior year of high school. Many students would get more benefit from this type of class, which can involve math skills related to creating budgets, taking out loans, buying a car, etc., than by taking an Algebra II class with trigonometry that they will not use again or understand.