Friday, August 10, 2012

Does Algebra for All Make Sense?

When I first started teaching back in 1993 and students asked me this question, I told them that Algebra gave them more options for careers. I also said that since we were a democratic society we didn't force them into certain careers based on intelligence or test scores. It sounded good at the time and satisfied the students enough that we could get on with the day's lesson. But does Algebra for all make sense and what or how much algebra are we talking about?

Here are three main talking points:

1) Number sense is more crucial than algebra. This includes working with percents, proportions, estimation and reasonableness of answers. For example, today I bought something at my favorite store (Kohl's). I had two coupons - one was $10 off a purchase of $25 or more coupon & the other was 30% off. My purchase was $40. Which coupon would save me more? Another example, my daughter swims and we were watching the 10,000 m (aka Marathon) swim. She wanted to know how many laps this would be. Simple proportion based on knowing that 500 m is 20 laps.

2) Statistics, data and graphical representations drive so much of what we do. My husband took my cell phone away to synch it. I felt lost when I couldn't view the weather radar or find a movie time on Fandango. I keep stats on my jogs using MapMyRun on my phone. Couldn't do that either when he had my phone. Two of my favorite TED talks related to this are Hans Rosling for and Arthur Benjamin .

3) Whose Algebra are we talking about? I used to work in NJ and all students were required to take Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 to graduate. They had a Core Algebra track for students who struggled with math and often took Pre-Alg in 9th grade. At some point, colleges of Division 1 schools said they could not take athletes who had "Core" courses. They needed to take College Prep courses. So, essentially what happened was the Core classes and College Prep classes were merged. What happened? Slower students were still struggling (now more so) and college intending students weren't being challenged.

Well - that's it for my first official blog. My goal is to post once a week or so. Feel free to comment.

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