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Correct Answers

By Mary O’Brien, M.D.

Quick.  Looking back on your life, who was your favorite teacher or coach?  Was it the one who let you get away with anything?  Was it the one who set standards so low you tripped over them?  Was it the person who gave you a gold star for repetitive breathing?  The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “no.”  Most of us would agree that our favorite teacher or coach was the one who inspired us to give our best and achieve more than we thought we could.

Recently, many of us were stunned when state education officials in Virginia proposed eliminating any advanced or accelerated math classes prior to the 11th grade.  They opined that such classes were “unfair” or “intimidating” to less gifted students.  Somehow they reasoned that slowing down the smarter students would make sense.  We already went through this in the 1970s.  Educational giants back then introduced the “New Math” and declared that spelling and grammar didn’t “count.”  Creativity was king.  More recently, the “woke” crowd has informed us that correct answers don’t even matter when it comes to math.  “Process” matters.  In order for our future generation to compete at the highest level, both precision and creativity matter; we need both to succeed. 

We need advanced math to send astronauts to the moon and to the international space station.  We need math to calculate a safe antibiotic dose for critically-ill patients with deteriorating renal function.  Correct answers matter.