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Ed Wall

Posts: 845
Registered: 12/3/04
Posted: Mar 26, 2009 9:40 PM
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According to a young woman I met who wanted to become a nurse: She was accepted
at my college and because our placement test had take what we call a math
workshop. It is, perhaps, if you have had a strong first year algebra course,
developmental. If she makes it through (which is not always the case, this
young woman failed the first time (and she did do first year algebra)), then
she can take the equivalent of a first year algebra course and then
pre-calculus (where all engineering students must, at least, place). Then is
first year calculus. At least, first year calculus seems to required for all
those who go into nursing. Whether this is typical, I don't know.

In any case, if she hasn't had first year algebra, it is very unlikely that she
could brush up enough to test out of this workshop.

Ed Wall

On Mar 26, 2009, at 10:05 AM, wrote:

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2009 09:04:49 -0400
> From: David J. Rosen <>
> To:
> Subject: Re: algebra at the transition to college level
> Sender:
> Precedence: list
> Reply-To: numeracy
> Hi Tricia,
> Suppose an adult student who reads and writes well enough to do college level
> work has not had any algebra or pre algebra. This student wants to go to
> college, lets say, to become a nurse. S/he wants to "brush up" on math to do
> well on the college placement test so s/he doesn't have to take developmental
> math courses.
> Is this preparation an impossibility or can there be an intensive preparation
> for college level math, in particular alegbra, for students who are highly
> motivated?
> Others on this discussion list are welcome to answer this question, too. This
> scenario is not the exception -- it's often the rule. Many adult ed students
> --
> including many who have done okay on the GED math test -- are placed in
> beginning level college developmental math and they don't succeed, don't
> complete their college program, because they have failed in math. What should
> we be doing about this for students who are at the "transition to college"
> stage?
> David J. Rosen
> ----- Original Message ----- From: <>
> Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 8:25 AM

>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>> Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2009 17:00:40 -0400 (EDT)
>> From:
>> To:
>> Subject: Re:
>> Sender:
>> Precedence: list
>> Reply-To: numeracy
>> Hello Esther and All,
>> This article raises some serious questions about 'forced' learning. Arnold
>> Packer, who headed up the SCANS group in the 90's and is still working
>> with them, has written extensively about this issue and the ensuing
>> failures. He believes we ought to teach algebra and all higher maths
>> through practical project work that creates the need to know and the
>> context for use of mathematical tools. He asserts that if we do this, we
>> will better prepare students for work and are likely to increase interest
>> in mathematics leading to more students signing up for math courses.
>> His work is referenced in the last issue of the SABES Math Bulletin (just
>> google it) for those who are interested.
>> And, he is not alone...
>> Also, the idea that everyone is developmentally prepared to engage with
>> the abstractions of algebra is unfounded. Algebraic thinking can, and I
>> think should, be introduced at early ages and math levels. As students
>> grow accustomed to generalizing patterns, justifying responses, and
>> working with equations or 'number identities' or number sentences in ways
>> that support full understanding of the equal sign, they prepare themselves
>> for the introduction of literal symbols (in all their various forms!).
>> However, too many students are plunged into learning algebra as a
>> formalized set of rules, devoid of meaning or connection to prior
>> arithmetic learning. It's no wonder so many fail, or squeak by enough to
>> pass, swearing, "I'll never take another math class..."
>> Just some thoughts,
>> Tricia Donovan, World Education

>>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>> Date: Fri, 13 Mar 2009 11:08:05 -0400
>>> From: Esther D Leonelli <>
>>> To: ANN Numeracy List <>
>>> Subject: [EdWeek] Algebra-for-All Policy Found to Raise Rates Of Failure
>>> in
>>> Chicago (fwd)
>>> Sender:
>>> Precedence: list
>>> Reply-To: numeracy
>>> Comments on this article?
>>> ________________________________________________
>>> Esther D. Leonelli <>
>>> Moderator, Numeracy List <>
>>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>> Date: Mon, 9 Mar 2009 18:18:56 -0400
>>> From: Andrew Chen <>
>>> To:
>>> Subject: [EdWeek] Algebra-for-All Policy Found to Raise Rates Of Failure
>>> in
>>> Chicago
>>> Hi there,
>>> FYI.
>>> -Andrew
>>> =============
>>> Education Week
>>> Published Online: March 6, 2009
>>> Published in Print: March 11, 2009
>>> Algebra-for-All Policy Found to Raise Rates Of Failure in Chicago
>>> By Debra Viadero
>>> Arlington, Va.
>>> Findings from a study involving 160,000 Chicago high school students offer
>>> a
>>> cautionary tale of what can happen, in practice, when school systems
>>> require
>>> students to take algebra at a particular grade level.
>>> Buoyed by recommendations from national mathematics experts, growing
>>> numbers
>>> of districts and states, such as New York and Texas, have begun requiring
>>> students to study algebra in 9th grade. Notably, California recently moved
>>> to require the subject even earlier, in 8th grade, although the policy
>>> faces
>>> legal roadblocks.
>>> The Chicago school district was at the forefront of that movement in 1997
>>> when it instituted a mandate for 9th grade algebra as part of an overall
>>> effort to ensure that its high school students would be "college ready"
>>> upon
>>> graduation.
>>> The policy change may have yielded unintended effects, according to
>>> researchers from the Consortium on Chicago School Research, based at the
>>> University of Chicago. While algebra enrollment increased across the
>>> district, the percentages of students failing math in 9th grade also rose
>>> after the new policy took effect.
>>> By the same token, the researchers say, the change did not seem to lead to
>>> any significant test-score gains for students in math or in sizeable
>>> increases in the percentages of students who went on to take higher-level
>>> math courses later on in high school.
>>> "This policy that Chicago tried in 1997 seems to be sweeping the country
>>> now
>>> and not a lot of thought is being given to how it really affects schools,"
>>> Elaine M. Allensworth, the lead researcher on the study, said in an
>>> interview.
>>> District Responds
>>> Her co-author, Takako Nomi, presented the findings here in Virginia on
>>> March
>>> 3 at the annual meeting of the Society for Research on Educational
>>> Effectiveness, a group based in Evanston, Ill., that promotes
>>> cause-and-effect studies.
>>> "It's not surprising that you're going to see an increase in [failure]
>>> rates
>>> if you raise the instructional requirements and you don't raise the
>>> supports," said Michael Lach, the director of the school system's office
>>> of
>>> high school teaching.
>>> Over the past seven or eight years, he said, the district has tried to
>>> boost
>>> student-success rates under the policy, which remains in place. Steps
>>> include developing curricular materials introducing students to algebra
>>> concepts in grades K-8, requiring struggling 9th graders to take double
>>> periods of algebra, and providing more professional development in math to
>>> middle and high school teachers, Mr. Lach said.
>>> The consortium researchers said their findings grow out of an ongoing
>>> study
>>> of the district's across-the-board efforts to upgrade academic
>>> requirements
>>> for all students. They plan to publish a report on the effects of the
>>> double
>>> algebra periods in April.
>>> The scholars based their findings on data gathered on 11 waves of students
>>> entering 9th grade from 1994 to 2005.
>>> They compared changes within schools from cohort to cohort during a period
>>> before the policy took effect with a period several years afterward. They
>>> also compared schools that underwent the changes with those that already
>>> had
>>> an "algebra for all" policy in place.
>>> Effects Varied by Ability
>>> The researchers calculate that, for a school that saw an increase of 20
>>> percentage points in algebra enrollment due to the requirement, for
>>> example,
>>> the percentage of 9th graders failing math would increase by 3 percentage
>>> points for students in the lowest-ability quartile, 3.5 percentage points
>>> for students in the next quartile, and 8.9 percent for students in the
>>> quartile of students who were labeled to be of "average" ability.
>>> The failure rate was not appreciably higher, though, among the
>>> highest-ability students, most of whom would presumably have taken algebra
>>> anyway.
>>> "We thought the average-ability kids would be better able to handle
>>> algebra
>>> than the lowest-ability kids," said Ms. Allensworth. "But it seems to have
>>> hurt their outcomes more than the lowest-ability kids." One possible
>>> explanation, the researchers suggested, is that the lowest group had a
>>> higher failure rate before the policy took effect.
>>> The lack of test-score growth, Ms. Nomi said, may be because math classes
>>> included children with a wider range of ability levels following the
>>> change,
>>> which might have spurred some teachers to water down their teaching.
>>> Whether similar sorts of algebra mandates--or efforts to teach algebra at
>>> even younger ages-would have the same impact in other locations, however,
>>> is
>>> unclear, said Leland S. Cogan, a senior researcher at the Center for
>>> Research on Math and Science Education at Michigan State University in
>>> Lansing.
>>> "Some research suggests the longer you wait to expose students to algebra
>>> the more difficulty they have making the transition," he said.
>>> Vol. 28, Issue 24, Page 11
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