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ERIC Number: EJ792396
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Apr-23
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0277-4232
Catching Up on Algebra
Cavanagh, Sean
Education Week, v27 n34 p25-28 Apr 2008
A popular humorist and avowed mathphobe once declared that in real life, there's no such thing as algebra. Kathie Wilson knows better. Most of the students in her 8th grade class will be thrust into algebra, the definitive course that heralds the beginning of high school mathematics, next school year. The problem: Many of them are about three years below grade level. Ms. Wilson's job is to help them quickly catch up. Every year, scores of middle and high school math teachers face the same challenge. The push to ensure that all students take introductory algebra and do so earlier has gained widespread acceptance in U.S. schools since "A Nation at Risk" advocated strengthening graduation requirements in math. That movement has been driven in recent years by rising state and local high school standards, which in turn have forced higher expectations for courses taught in middle schools. Beginning algebra is now typically being taught in the 8th rather than the 9th grade. Now, after years of raising the standards, some policymakers are moving to help thousands of middle and early high school algebra students who cannot keep up. Last year, for the first time, California state officials approved an entire set of math programs devoted specifically to "algebra readiness," or raising the skills of students likely to struggle in that subject. Similar algebra-readiness materials are being used in other states and districts around the country. The strategy Ms. Wilson is trying in her classroom uses a program aimed at rebuilding students' foundational math skills, normally taught from 2nd through 7th grade, over the course of a single academic year, while introducing the students to basic algebraic principles and language. Created by the MIND Research Institute, the program relies heavily on visual explanations of math in textbooks and computer software. The approach is meant to engage and motivate students, and build a bridge between elementary math and algebra. It is also designed to help students of different ability levels, including those with shaky English-language skills. Program developers say the visual model helps students connect different math concepts and remember them.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Grade 8; Grade 9; High Schools; Middle Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A