ERIC Number: ED338279
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Nov-9
Arithmetic: Prerequisite to Algebra?
Rotman, Jack W.
Drawing from research and observations at Lansing Community College (Michigan) (LCC), this paper argues that typical arithmetic courses do little to prepare students to master algebra, and proposes an alternative set of arithmetic skills as actual prerequisites to algebra. The first section offers a description of the algebra sequence at LCC, which consists of Pre-Algebra (MTH 009), Beginning Algebra (MTH 012), and Intermediate Algebra. Next, data on LCC students' arithmetic test scores and MTH 012 success rates are examined, considering the relationships among test scores, success rates, previous high school algebra, and knowledge of specific items on the arithmetic placement test and MTH 012 success. The next section summarizes a number of other research studies that examined predictor variables for and influences on success in algebra. Next, a rationale is presented for awarding algebra prerequisite status to four arithmetic skills: understanding the meaning of symbols used in arithmetic; understanding basic properties of numbers, especially fractions; using the order of operations agreement; and understanding some of the structure behind solving applications. Concluding comments indicate that the best predictors of readiness for beginning algebra are having had prior algebra, grade received in last math class; and score on a test of arithmetic skills, while warning that completion of an arithmetic course appears to offer no advantage in the study of beginning algebra for a large body of students. (JMC)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Teachers; Practitioners
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (Seattle, WA, November 1991).