CUNY's got math problem: Report shows many freshmen from city HS fail at basic algebra
BY Joel Schectman and Rachel Monahan
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Thursday, November 12th 2009, 4:00 AM
Giancarli for News
Students Francesca Hernandez, left, and Tamara Martinez, working in the lobby of CUNY: Hunter College, at Lexington Ave.
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More city kids are graduating from high school, but that doesn't mean they can do college math.
Basic algebra involving fractions and decimals stumped a group of City University of New York freshmen - suggesting city schools aren't preparing them, a CUNY report shows.
"These results are shocking," said City College Prof. Stanley Ocken, who co-wrote the report on CUNY kids' skills. "They show that a disturbing proportion of New York City high school graduates lack basic skills."
During their first math class at one of CUNY's four-year colleges, 90% of 200 students tested couldn't solve a simple algebra problem, the report by the CUNY Council of Math Chairs found. Only a third could convert a fraction into a decimal.
The lack of math skills means the CUNY students - nearly 70% of which come from city schools - could struggle to keep up with peers, fail classes or even drop out, the professors charged.
The council submitted its report in September 2008 to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein with a plea to work with city schools.
"We didn't hear anything until this past June," said Lehman College professor and math chairman Robert Feinerman, noting there was a discussion about working together at the time. "But that whole thing seems to have petered out."
CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein countered that he and Klein joined forces several years ago to "tackle the problem head on.... At the senior colleges, we've seen massive improvement," he said.
City Education Department spokesman David Cantor said the agency had been working to improve standards even before the professors' report.
"We had already moved to action," he said.
Still, several Hunter College freshmen approached yesterday had trouble figuring out some of the problems.
"I just did this earlier. Now I forgot it again," Jennifer Fortune, 18, who graduated from Brooklyn's Edward R. Murrow High School, said when asked to answer one of the questions. "I was only required to take two years of math in high school, but I forgot a lot of it."
John Jay College sophomore Ahmed Elshafaie, 19, who graduated from Long Island City High School, said he avoids math classes.
"I don't want to ruin my GPA," he said. "High school standards were really low."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2009/11/12/2009-11-12_cunys_got_math_problem_many_freshmen_from_city_ hs_fail_at_basic_algebra.html#ixzz0Wf5wpxLR