My son struggled with required math classes in both high school and college, as did I. And suspect both of us are somewhere within one standard deviation of a normal IQ. Politically-driven, nonsensical math requirements probably make me angrier than almost anything else in education right now. To think of the millions of lost classroom hours spent teaching useless skills that actually turn kids off education should make every educator angry – including math teachers.
Teaching the why of how numbers work is important, and does lay the groundwork for higher level thinking. Is algebra a waste? I would disagree because of lot of “consumer math” mentioned is a lot like algebra.