Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Fowler, D. (2016, April 27). Review of The math myth and other STEM delusions, by A. Hacker. Education Review, 23.


This document is published under a Creative Commons/Open Access license.


Andrew Hacker’s new book, The Math Myth and Other STEM Delusions, is an expansion of a controversial opinion article he wrote for the New York Times in 2012. Many readers of the earlier newspaper column assumed that Hacker was “anti-mathematics” and that he wanted to abolish algebra from the school curriculum. In fact, Hacker believes there is an “inherent beauty” in mathematics. Furthermore, his objection is not to algebra, but to the arbitrary establishment of algebra as a gate-keeping requirement that blocks many avenues of educational opportunity. Hacker cites high failure rates on school exit exams, state-wide proficiency test results, community college remedial math class statistics, and other measures to show that algebra, far from being a pipeline to success, is “...a barrier [that] ends up suppressing opportunities, stifling creativity, and denying society a wealth of varied talents.” The failure rates, typically between 40 and 60%, are not the fault of school mathematics teachers, and they are not because the students were indifferent or lacking in intelligence. Hacker believes that if we could dispel the “myths and delusions” about mathematics, then students who wanted to study mathematics at advanced levels could do so, while other students could take alternative, equally rigorous but more relevant courses. He describes such a course in a final chapter of the book.