Q&A #4990

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Teaching algebra in middle school

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From: Brian Foley

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2002021515:45:20
Subject: algebra for your brain

Interesting discussion. I like the word "all" in the original question. I hope you mean should it be general policy for all students, with lots of possibilities for exceptions. "Algebraic thinking" is a lot better term than formal Algebra. Of course students should be introduced to thinking in terms of patterns instead of "how can I be tortured with numbers and rules I don't understand this year." I like Chris Mahoney's thinking on this. Chris, are you at the Brookwood School in Georgia? I was hoping you were at the one up here in upstate New York, because you sound like a good teacher. Have any of you heard of Robert Moses's "Algebra Project?" He considers algebra a civil right, and I think he has got it right. I have taught at too many places where the kids get some feel-good hokum about math, and never were even told that it is something they could understand if they investigated how it works. Sneak in as much "thinking exercises" as you can, and just don't call it algebra. If you are teaching algebra in Florida, or anywhere else, because it "will be on the test," you may want to rethink why you teach. Brian Foley

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