Teacher2Teacher Q&A #12508

Which algorithms should we still teach in high school?

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From: Alice (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Nov 19, 2003 at 10:42:56
Subject: Re: Which algorithms should we still teach in high school?

Hi Carla, I don't think we should teach any algorithms, but have kids find the patterns and reinvent them themselves. Then they see what algorithm the book shows us and compare. If you do this, you'll find that students need fewer practice problems to learn the material well! In teaching this way, I have even had students invent better algorithms than we traditionally use!!!!! This question was probably asked because calculators now do all the work for us. We should have been burned enough by the results of letting kids use calculators in grade school for things that need to be understood well before going on. I'm all for experimenting to find patterns with them, but not to leave them on desks all the time. I'm as guilty as anyone for putting calculators in before they are needed. I thought that if kids saw the answer often enough, they would learn it... but found out that if you give someone something all the time, there is no need to learn it! "They'll give it to me when its needed" the kids say... and it has dropped us to lowest in the developed coutries because of it. By the way, I do still teach finding square root by hand, in Algebra 1 when we compare rational and irrational numbers. I just don't teach it with the unweildy algorithm I learned. It's much easier to (use a calculator or not) guess and check and get as close as needed. This is not the same thing as pushing a button and getting an answer blindly, as you are understanding what you are doing rather than simply plugging in an algorithm. Hope this answers your question, and the one not asked too! -Alice, for the T2T service

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