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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Cal State University students need more writing and critical thinking, not math

Cal State L.A.
Students walk on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 2018.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As a teaching assistant at a California State University campus, I agree that many students need help to prepare for college. However, the proposal by CSU to require a fourth year of high school math or quantitative reasoning for admission targets the wrong need.

English composition and critical thinking are the most important elements of an education at this time when good communication is paramount in every field. Readying students to write clear, concise and thoughtful essays and papers, whether one page or multiple pages, will do more to further their educational and lifetime careers than another year of math.

There is more than one way to learn to think logically.

Dorothy Goulah-Pabst, Sherman Oaks

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To the editor: As co-creator of the Mobilize Introduction to Data Science (IDS) course, I was delighted to see materials from our course displayed in a front-page photo. IDS is taught in more 15 districts and has helped numerous students become college ready.

Equally important, IDS -- developed by data scientists at UCLA and instructors in the Los Angeles Unified School District -- teaches concepts and skills vital to the modern workplace, including the ability to pose questions, to collect and analyze complex data to find answers, and to think critically about the role that algorithms and data play in our lives. IDS students solve real-world problems by writing code, developing, fitting and interpreting models to interpret data, and communicating their findings.

Whether or not one believes in the necessity of a fourth year of math, I hope we can all agree that these are important skills for every student.

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Robert Gould, Los Angeles

The writer is a professor of statistics at UCLA.

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To the editor: Obtaining a higher education at Cal State may ultimately be denied to many applicants who did not complete four years of high school math. I was one of those students.

I graduated from a well-regarded public high school in 1957 having taken only two years of math -- algebra and geometry. In college, I had a double major in two non-STEM disciplines, French and English, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Illinois. I went on to a successful career as a high school French and English teacher and later taught English as a second language in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

I had a close friend who similarly had only two years of high school math and graduated with honors from UCLA. My friend then attended UCLA Law School and passed the California Bar exam the first time.

I agree that a requirement for four years of high school math will foreclose options not just for students of color and those from low-income households, but also for many other promising young people of all backgrounds.

Phyllis A. Bass, Porter Ranch


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