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New bill would alter math requirements for Michigan high schoolers

Nearly half the students who took this year's Michigan Merit Exam tested not proficient in math and writing.
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio
Nearly half the students who took this year's Michigan Merit Exam tested not proficient in math and writing.

Michigan high school students could potentially opt out of Algebra II. That’s thanks to a proposed bill in the state Senate.

Michigan laws currently require students to take four credits of math, including Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, as well as other elective classes that can be integrated in. The proposed bill would allow students to complete the required four math credits with a course other than algebra II, including a personal finance class or basic statistics. 

Jim Ananich (D-Flint) is the state Senate minority leader and the sponsor of the bill. He was a high school teacher before coming to Lansing. He says Michigan schools don’t allow students to make choices about their future, and their own personal tastes.

“What we've done in Michigan is over-prescribed our kids' and our schools' schedules," he said. "We've tried to automate, as if basically, the students are robots, and very much, in many ways, I think tied down their ability to have any flexibility or any individualism when it comes to the individual student.”

He says algebra II wouldn’t disappear from school curriculums, but it would instead become one of a number of options that would fulfill Michigan’s four credit math requirements.

“I don’t imagine the availability going away. What it does is it’ll enhance the algebra II classes that they have now. So, people who want to be in Algebra II will be in Algebra II," Ananich said. "People who are teaching it will have students who are engaged, and are fully a part of the class, and are there because they really have an interest in math.”

Ananich anticipates the elective options would provide answers to an allegedly common question asked by students: “When am I ever going to use this in real life?”

“A really important component that’s missing right now is personal finance. That’s not the only option, but I hope some kids do choose that, because we’re seeing a lot of folks out there that, when they graduate from college sometimes, they have no understanding of credit, they have no understanding of the liability they take for themselves sometimes and they have to figure it out the hard way," he said. "I’m not saying a personal finance class will relieve all those problems, but at the very least it’ll help them have an understanding of the responsibilities that there are as an adult.” 

And sometimes, Ananich says, that student is right, and they never will use principles from Algebra II in their everyday lives.

“I think it allows you to make a choice about 'do I want to struggle through Algebra II, maybe struggle through it twice?' And, in your chosen career, you may not ever use it," he said. "It allows for students to kind of gear themselves towards what they want to do, both professionally, but also in their own personal life.”

He says the bill has received bipartisan support, and a similar bill, sponsored by Rep. Gary Howell (R-North Branch) already exists in the state House.

Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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