The President Doesn’t Want Anyone To Be Better At Math Than Him

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[pullquote]By falling in line with other states, California is abandoning its push for all eighth-graders to take algebra.

Last month, the State Board of Education unanimously shifted away from a 15-year policy of expecting eighth-graders to take Algebra I. The state will allow them to take either Algebra I or an alternate course that includes some algebra. New state standardized tests will focus on the alternate course — the same one adopted by most states under the Common Core curriculum being rolled out across the nation.

The change is controversial because success in Algebra I is the single best predictor of college graduation.[/pullquote]

From the February 4 San Jose Mercury-News:

Yes, you read that correctly.  President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have decided algebra is too tough for eighth-graders.  Apparently the president doesn’t want anyone to be better at math than him. And this is a recommendation requirement of their Common Core curriculum. (If you really believe this is just a recommendation, you haven’t spent much time trying to work with the federal government, specifically the department of education.)

The President’s Math

For those who don’t remember President Obama’s infamous interview with Jay Leno, here’s a link to the transcript.  And here’s the relevant excerpt:

Jay Leno, reading question from viewer: “When you help your daughters with their homework, is there a a subject you struggle with?”

President Obama: “Well, the math stuff I was fine with up until about seventh grade. But Malia is now a freshman in high school and — I’m pretty lost. You know, it’s tough. Fortunately, they’re great students on their own and if something doesn’t work, I’ll call over to the Department of Energy and see if they have a physicist to come over.”‘

But don’t take my word for it.  I know the link above goes to and many of you simply won’t believe that source.  For your edification, here’s a link to a video of the full interview (hosted on my blog’s server, don’t worry about that):

The View From a University

I am semi-retired from California State University, East Bay.  Prospective students are “required” to know algebra to be admitted to any of the California State University campuses.  I can assure you that some graduates of CSUEB cannot solve even the simplest algebra problem.  Why not?  The entire CSU funding system is based on enrollment.  One more student means a few more dollars in a university’s budget.  One fewer student means fewer dollars.  Administrators in this system have every incentive to keep students on campus.  Eventually those students graduate.  If they can’t do algebra, there are plenty of majors where they can still get a degree.

Who Needs Algebra

Today even manufacturing jobs require algebra.  Do a quick search on the string “manufacturing math” and you’ll find courses, online classes, tutorials, textbooks, and a host of other resources.  NPR recently ran a major story on this subject.  Can’t do algebra?  Practice this phrase: “You want fries with that?”


The dumbing down of the U.S. population apparently will continue under the current administration.  I weep for my country.

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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.