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Q&A #4990

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Teaching algebra in middle school

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From: dr. funkenstein <jp20proline@hotmail.com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003103007:23:37
Subject: Re: Re: Teaching algebra in middle school


You were wondering if the gaps would catch up to them in high school? 
Let me assure you that, yes, those gaps will catch up to them to some
degree for the majority of the kids you're thinking of.

I teach Geometry, Algebra 2, and Calculus in high school and at every
level (especially Geometry) I see the child you are referring to. 
They know that vertical angles must be congruent, and they can rattle
off the pythagorean theorem, but to apply the triangle sum theorem
(the sum of the measures of the 3 interior angles in any triangle is
180 degrees) is, for some of them, like pulling teeth; yesterday I had
one child tell me that 60 + 90 + y must equal 180, but it took her
three guesses to figure out the right answer.  Of course, before she
began the guessing game I suggested she try to set this up with paper
and pencil, but that concept seemed foreign to her because for years
she had been allowed to do all this on her calculator.  

By the way, calculators are not allowed in my Geometry class until we
truly need them in our study of Trigonometry.  Back to basics, as you
can see the "gaps" I deal with daily.  But that's another thread....

So, teach them algebra early? YES.  Be sure, though, they are well
grounded in their basic math skills - easy to do along the way to
learning algebra if you care enough to be diligent about it and hold
them to high standards.

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