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Q&A #4990

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Teaching algebra in middle school

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From: dr. funkenstein

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003103008:23:37
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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