Date: Oct 15, 2005 1:51 AM
Author: Brian Harvey
Subject: Re: Other Foundations of Math secondary teachers?

Guess who <notreally.here@here.com> writes:

> However, I'd not

>easily accept algebra as a viable option to more, and hopefully more

>appropriate application. It's simply too abstract, and kids having

>difficulty with numbers that they can see will have more difficulty

>with algebra that they will never use in several lifetimes. More

>exciting for the teacher, perhaps, but murder for them. Even kids

>with moderate difficulty have more difficulty with algebra than

>arithmetic. For all of the fact that *we* can see the connection,

>they by and large can not.

Well, my own kid may be a counterexample. I adopted Heath at age 12;

by then he'd had a long history of school failure. Part of the reason

is that the one learning disability all the psychologists agree he has

is in short-term memory, which they say is what you need to learn the

number facts. So he came to me convinced he hates math. The schools

here put him through more and more arithmetic -- although some of it was

arithmetic with fractions, which they considered an appropriate advance

for a kid who can't multiply integers -- including, most shamefully, a

class they *called* "algebra" in which he did more remedial arithmetic.

Finally, just last year, he got his first glimpse of actual algebra, and

came home to tell me, with great surprise, that he actually enjoyed it,

"because it's logical." Meaning that you can actually figure out the

answer instead of having to remember it.

Sadly, he's now 18, impatient to get on with his life, and unlikely to

spend the time to develop any real love for the subject. Still, he

encourages me in my view that you don't need arithmetic skill to do

algebra.

I'm not saying that *every* kid who can't do arithmetic will be rescued

by algebra. Most, alas, will just go through life hating math. But

a few will be rescued, and nobody will be hurt, by the exposure to actual

mathematics.

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