Monday, July 21, 2008

8th Grade Algebra

Here's a column about 8th grade algebra with which I can mostly concur.

The firestorm over California's decision to require all eighth-grade students to take Algebra 1 provides a remarkably good overview of much of what is wrong with the state of math education in the country today: The focus is in the wrong place, and the real problems remain unaddressed...

Whether we teach Algebra 1 in eighth grade or ninth grade, it won't do much good if the students don't remember (or never learned) what they were taught before. My work has led me to believe the skills learned in fifth grade are indispensable for success in Algebra 1, and too many students are progressing through the system without having mastered those. We should be asking why students are arriving in Algebra 1 unprepared, whenever they get there.

5th grade math standards for California can be found here on page 20 of the booklet, which is page 29/79 of the PDF document. The above author's anecdote about the elementary-teacher-to-be was mortifying; I continue to believe that Liping Ma's Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics should be required reading in every elementary teacher preparation program.


Fritz J. said...

Excellent column by Prof. Dorff. Mathematics is more than simply arriving at a correct answer. In my opinion it is mostly about teaching the student to understand what it is he is attempting to accomplish and teaching him the necessary skills to reason his way to a solution. The critical thinking skills learned in the study of mathematics will aid a student in his other subjects and throughout his life.

carol said...

I think the students' impatience with the conceptual part is due to lack of real confidence manipulating numbers. e.g. working with fractions...Kid will say oh yeah I understand the concept - but can they do the work? Especially given how much a student forgets over the summer!

Nothing replaces basic memorization and drill IMO, unless you're talking math genius and I don't think that's the subject here. Students need to know that math is something they can do and does not take a genius.

hepsmom said...

Preach on, brother! Georgia is undergoing the same type of standards change. I have no problem with our new integrated math. I, actually, think it's a GREAT idea. But, with students still not knowing math facts nor having number sense.

I find that with my students, they have seen fractions so much they confuse familiarity with knowledge.