The LA Times has posted another article about algebra. It's a typical heartwarming feel-good story, but I still highly recommend it. Here's a sample:
JOHNNY PATRELLO was a greaser. I was a dork. And yet, despite our rigidly stratified school culture, we came together in the spring of 1968 at Walt Whitman Junior High School, where I tutored Johnny in algebra...
Things looked pretty hopeless to both of us those first couple of sessions, as Johnny stumbled through algebra problems while I tried to figure out exactly what he didn't understand. Then, as we took it down to each step of each little calculation, the trouble became clear: Johnny somehow had reached ninth grade without learning the multiplication tables.
Because he was shaky on those, his long multiplication was error prone and his long division a mess. As Johnny tried to work algebraic equations, his arithmetic kept bringing up weird results. He'd figure he was on the wrong track and make up an answer...
Today's failing high school students, though plagued by more poverty and upheaval than Johnny or I ever knew, bring the same scanty skills to algebra class, according to The Times' series. They never quite grasped multiplication tables, but still they moved on to more complicated math.
Who can focus on the step-by-step logic of peeling back an equation until "x" is bared when it involves arithmetic that comes slow and slippery, always giving a different answer to the same calculation?
I think you can see where this story is going. Again, go read the whole thing.