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Topic: Algebra Preparation
Replies: 10   Last Post: Oct 14, 2012 1:15 PM

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kirby urner

Posts: 3,690
Registered: 11/29/05
Re: Algebra Preparation
Posted: Oct 14, 2012 12:24 PM
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On Sat, Oct 13, 2012 at 11:04 PM, Robert Hansen <> wrote:
> So your post had nothing to do with algebra preparation?
> Bob Hansen

I was reading your post about preparing your own youngster for Algebra
and I saw a list of some questions you thought would help spark the
right kind of insights.

Earlier, David Renfro had come up with a problem we also thought was
good in that way, and a little tricky in the sense that you needed to
know (a**2 - b**2) = (a + b)(a- b), but (a-b) was just 1.

I'm thinking "when does a person have the time and willingness to
imagine a future in which knowing such things could be a part of one's

You've been decrying schooling as nowadays social engineering, perhaps
too hard-bitten by the illusion of "everyone is equal" to stomach the
fact that bell curves exist and not everyone is talented or gifted in
the same way.

I'm bringing up more about that social engineering which goes way
beyond school, to television, the Internet, and the options young
people now have to find that safe study space somewhere other than
packed in a classroom.

Paul was talking about teachers being overworked in the sense of
forced to provide too many classroom hours. I've been talking about
how the best and most up to date materials are often not available to
students through classrooms. The classroom curriculum is woefully out
of date, precisely for the reason Paul mentions: the role of
"teacher" has been artificially hobbled, one might say destroyed.

What I was describing are different social roles wherein a teacher
such as myself is able to role model "continuing to learn" i.e. I
remain active in adding to my knowledge and skills by serving on
various committees and working groups.

I have an education summit coming up in March in Santa Clara.

I'm on a committee that's studying Racism and how it impacts our institutions.

I attend meetings with food logistics planners regarding that fresh
produce intercept program and all the physics involved there (clock
ticking on the veggies, temperature variables, transport issues, the
physics of cooking -- this is "home economics" but perhaps with more

Through Saturday Academy and other venues, I teach "Martian Math" and
other subjects, some with Algebra topics woven in. I reach middle and
high schoolers by this means. I was also invited to teach an entire
8th grade some Python when at Winterhaven, plus an all 6th grade
assembly on geometry.

All of which is to say, I'm role modeling a teacher of the future
perhaps in that my role is somewhat complementary to student roles
that take them out of their classrooms and give them a wider radius.
Their homework space is more like a study carrel / cubicle perhaps,
might be in a coffee shop or a CubeSpace.

I'm thinking a city like Portland or Seoul or Manila or city state
like Singapore might soon be offering different trajectories through
the day, for young people, that involve a different mix of indoor and
outdoor activities, a different kind of integration with the
surrounding society. Less age segregation, more learning Algebra in a
mix with programming, other alphanumeracy skills.

In other words, I'm suggesting that our traditional institution of
"school" may be coming unglued in some contexts, some parts of the
world. Fixing these schools from within is less a focus than
reconfiguring the average day of a student such that it remains
educational, is more educational than before. New kinds of
television, more of it made by students themselves, will be part of
the equation.

This all probably sounds unrealistic to some extent because our mental
picture of the average student suggests they're too irresponsible to
be let loose in these newly designed spaces. But on the other hand,
so much of the same infrastructure will be attractive to adults, young
and old.

Algebra (whatever that means) will percolate outward. Testing will
occur. Students will build competence in various ways. Teachers will
likewise build their portfolios. But this pattern of cramming into
buildings with lockers for hours a day, jamming into seats, listening
to these teachers, when you can get that on Youtube, may be going away
in some cases.

Our collective student body is actually "too old" for such treatment,
thanks to social media and other forces. "Going to school" should not
be taken for granted as the best path to academic success in some zip
codes, given all the other options for schooling that will emerge
(have emerged). I'm not talking "home schooling" per se, but the many
hybrids, many synergies. We'll have new kinds of teacher to go along
with these new kinds of school.


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