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Subject:   RE: Algebra for everyone
Author: Mathman
Date: Jun 2 2006
On Jun  1 2006, Grip wrote:
>It's your
> attitude, you either believe all students can learn mathematics or
> you don't.

It's not about attitude.  It's about understanding.  It is the fact that some
believe that there are no limits that is the cause of much frustration in the
young when they are asked to actually face those limits at one point or another,
and they all will.

The local farmer across the road will not use algebra in several lifetimes.  He
is much more concerned about how to save his pregnant cow that is having
delivery problems, or whether or not it is reasonable to tile his field for a
possibly better crop yeild.  He could care less about how to solve a quadratic
equation.  "Algebra for everyone" sounds far too much like "Nuclear physics for
dummies."

When it is necessary, by dictate, to teach algebra to those less willing than
others, then anything that works is an asset.  However, it is not an asset only
if it is different.  Like a prescription drug, a tool must be proven useful to a
majority, and there will always be those who have adverse, or unexpected
effects.

All can learn "mathematics" only in that all can learn *some* mathematics, just
as anyone can learn to play the piano, but be far from being entertaining.  Some
can learn, only in that they can perform some mechanical operations, either in
arithmetic or algebra, but they will still have little or no understanding of
"mathematics".  I once heard a young man play a popular Chopin etude.  He hit
all the right notes, few errors, ...but it wasn't music.

So, please forgive me, but I can not agree at all with the apparent intent of
your above remark as stated, which appears to set no limitations, but which do
exist in reality.  I would agree that many do not stretch far enough to realise
those true limitations, so setting lower limits for themselves, but they are
there none the less.

David.

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